One Thousand Words on My Novel

This is my forty seventh post. I’m impressed with myself. I think I’ve skipped seven days, but even so that’s 40,000 words after tonight. I wonder how many words in the average novel. More than 40,000 since it’s 1000 words is less than two pages, so I’ve written less than eighty pages. That sounds less impressive.

I think writing every day has been helpful, but I’m starting to feel limited in my fiction writing by the 1000 word requirement. I feel like sometimes 1000 words isn’t enough to introduce a character and have a complete plot. Last week’s story about the library, for example. I got into the character’s mother being sick and then wasn’t able to fully explore why she slept in the library, or how the books affected her dreams. Maybe I’ll try writing a story over two posts. There’s nothing in my (self-imposed) rules against that.

I’ve been thinking about the idea I have for my novel more. I mentioned it early on, but haven’t written about it since. Since I’m writing 1000 words a day, maybe I should explore the idea. Do some character development, write parts of chapters, etc.

So here’s the overall plot idea. The book is about two girls / women. The first part focuses on a teenage girl in the 1930’s. Her name is Audrey and she’s smart, beautiful, athletic, popular and ambitious. She has a group of close girlfriends she hangs out with and she is their unofficial leader. She also has a boyfriend, Howard, but she doesn’t want to get married and have babies like her friends do. She wants to go to college and do something with her life. And she does go to college, but when Howard leaves her (or dies, I can’t decide which) she reacts more typically than she’d like. Grieving, she rebounds into a relationship with Walt, a friend from high school and a young man who has been interested in her for a long time. Then she discovers that she is pregnant with Walt’s child. She quits school, marries Walt and lives (what she considers) a very ordinary and disappointing life.

This section of the book is a fictionalized version of my grandmother’s adolescence. She was in fact popular, smart and athletic. And she did go to Secretarial College. According to her senior scrapbook, she wanted to work in the New Hampshire State House. She also had a steady boyfriend in high school. But after she graduated from college, she returned home, became pregnant with my mom and married my grandfather, whom she had known since elementary school. What happened to her high school sweetheart? Why did she not find a job after college? She’s no longer alive so I can’t ask her. Neither my mother nor her sister know the details of that time in my grandmother’s life. That’s what this part of the book explores. And by the way, I’m not saying that my grandmother’s life was ordinary or that she was dissatisfied. That’s fiction.

The other part of the book is about Amanda, Audrey’s granddaughter. Audrey’s daughter Eleanor married an alcoholic and divorced him shortly after Amanda was born. He comes in and out of Amanda’s life and isn’t a particularly good father. Eleanor is a good mom, but she has to work the night shift. Amanda stays with Audrey and Walt while her mother is working. On her way home after work one night, Eleanor is in a car accident and dies. Amanda is ten. Amanda’s father is automatically granted custody, but Audrey convinces him that Amanda would be better off with her, so he lets her stay with her grandmother. Audrey raises Amanda to be a strong, successful and independent woman, accomplishing all the things that Audrey regrets not accomplishing in her life.

At this point in the book, Audrey is my mom, not my grandmother. She’s an incredible woman who does anything she can for her daughter (granddaughter in the book) and works hard her entire life. My mom worked on Friday nights sometimes and I remember being at my grandparent’s house when someone called to say that my mom had been in a car accident on the way home. She was fine, although the car wasn’t, but that part of the story is my idea of what my life might have been like if she hadn’t been fine. Living with my father would have been the worst thing that could have happened to me. I know I would have ended up a completely different person if he had raised me. I like to think that my grandmother would have stepped up, but I don’t know. Luckily, Amanda was raised by her grandmother and never wanted for love and encouragement. That’s what my mom provided (and still provides) for me.

I see the end of the book being at the end of Audrey’s life. She has spent her entire adulthood feeling like a failure. She didn’t accomplish what she wanted to, she didn’t end up with the man she loved, she doesn’t think she amounted to anything. But to Amanda, her grandmother was her savior and life support. Amanda sees Audrey as a wonderful, kind, loving, intelligent, strong woman. And as Audrey dies, she finally sees herself the way Amanda sees her.

It probably sounds gushy and overly sentimental, but that’s my idea. Now I just have to write it. The problem is that I don’t know how to start. When I direct a play, I’m very focused on character development. I do acting exercises with the cast so we can figure out what the characters are all about together. Is that what I do with these characters? Answer 101 questions about them until I know them inside and out? Or do I just start writing scenes? Do I write them in order or as they come to me? I don’t have any answers, but I think I’m going to attempt to write about Amanda and Audrey in the days to come. Guess we’ll see what happens!

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