The No I'm Wri-ing

I’m a participant in this year’s , or NaNoWriMo, which challenges people to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.

I’ve been “writing” a novel in my head for six years, with several starts that have been abandoned. I’ve been teaching novels and telling people how to write them and giving advice on my friends’ novels for years. Years of talking about writing novels. Now I’m writing one.

NaNoWriMo is easy to hate. In the midst of more writers in the world than readers to read their work, why should we encourage this production of writing for writing’s sake? What good novel was ever expurgated in this way, in 30 days?

All I know is that I moved in here August and since then I haven’t really written anything. I’ve done some revising. I wrote for a blog a review of my own contribution to Mud Luscious Press’s stamp stories project, which I’ll probably link to if it ever gets posted. I’ve written here. But I haven’t written “real” writing while worrying about writing “real” writing.

Now I’m writing, averaging about 2,000 words a day. My novel is easy, about a divorced couple living separate lives in the wake of their son’s suicide. He’s an adjunct professor of English. She works in an arts nonprofit in D.C. Their son committed suicide shortly after he came out as gay. It’s familiar material, and it’s not groundbreaking, and so I’m able to produce and keep control over things. I’m able to write utter sucked-up shit and let it stay that way because I have an assignment to produce 50,000 words before November 30th, and I can then take the rest of my life to make it better if I want to. And I may want to.

Here’s what I mean, from today’s output:

It was a conversation they hadn’t had, the wedding ceremony. They’d picked a general date—Octoberish—and she thought they’d agreed on something small and easy, but on thinking about it she couldn’t quite remember what they’d agreed on. She should have been listening to the toast, she knew, but this began to press on her. Paul had proposed April third and had been laid off from Gordon Associates on April thirteenth, which gave them ten days between celebration and disaster to make any sort of plans and promises to each other.


What if Paul wanted something large. He had many, many college friends he still kept in middling touch with online. They’d all have to be invited, she imagined. They’d all have to stand next to him at the altar. L- had no one to ask, had lost so many friends in the divorce, not out of any kind of malice but because married couples want to spend time with other married couples. It was a kind of reminder to everyone that they’d made the right decision in ending whatever string of bedmates they’d been working to collect.


Maybe they could have a separate ceremony and a reception later, something grand at the house so as not to have to rent any tacky hall. Surely the Watts got their wedding fever placated by Terry and Mouser’s affair three years ago, which from what little Paul had said about it sounded like a blow-out connubial explosion. Fountains and ice sculptures and bands and candy buffets and every dumb thing she’d seen on every television show. She reached for Paul’s hand—why hadn’t he thought to take hers?—and squeezed it, hoping to transmit some sensibility this way, to get him on her small-wedding wavelength.


The room cried out “Cheers!” and Jenna chanted “Kiss! Kiss!” until Paul leaned down and planted one right on her, bending her backward like that poor woman accosted in New York City after the war, the one made famous by some anonymous soldier’s horniness.

No one’s got Pulitzer on the line, but this is my book, finally. I’ll fill the rest in later.

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