Thursday, February 03, 2011

National Novel Writing Month: Dispatches From My Living Room #8

Dispatch #8: The Neverending Story
--by Hanje Richards

Back at the end of November, I finished the National Novel Writing Month challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I collapsed when it was over. It was tiring, and my subject matter was emotionally draining. However, I did not put it away permanently. I have continued to edit my manuscript, which in all fairness, I must tell you quickly morphed from a novel to a memoir.

Early on in my thought process, I was going to totally fictionalize the events of my life and that it would indeed be a novel. I even had a twist for an ending which would have taken it far from the truth of my life. I pondered all of this, even as I wrote. But I ultimately decided that what I needed to write —wanted to write — was memoir, and so that is where the NaNoWriMo challenge eventually took me.

Last Saturday I was having lunch with some people who have been very supportive of this writing adventure of mine. They were asking me about the writing process. Was it different from what I expected? Was it emotionally harder than I expected? They were asking me great, insightful questions and all of a sudden I realized that I had only written half of what I needed to write to make the story complete.

My book, with a working title of Nature Vs. Nurture is a memoir of the first 27 years of my life. The subtitle, as I currently see it is: A Memoir of My Addictions. My friends and I realized as we talked that I had only told half of the story. I told my story up to the point where I entered treatment and with some sort of general comments about treatment and beyond I ended my story. But although I talked about getting sober I didn’t talk about my recovery, which I had assumed was part of another story, but I was suddenly awakened to the idea that the whole story needs to be told together.

So, I am thinking about how to structure the challenge of the second 50,000 words, without the support of the NaNoWriMo organization. I will let you know as I figure it out.

In the meantime, I have been reading Part One of my manuscript out loud. I have completed the first third, and am making corrections and changes as I go along.

I have come to the conclusion that writing the 50,000 words was the easy part. Honing them, making them readable and understandable, that is the hard part. It is also hard because there is no way for me to explain what I have done, what I am doing. It is easy to say I have written 1,500 words today. Everyone understands what that means. It is not so easy to talk about the editing process, from the spelling and grammatical and typing errors that I keep discovering, to the words that I thought said what I meant, but upon reflection, say nothing of the kind.

I am constantly thinking of things that I need to add to the first half of the book. I think of these things before falling asleep, or while driving or while walking around the track. I am rarely, if ever, prepared with something to jot the idea on or with, and even if I have the tools, it is not easy to write while driving, walking or sleeping. Thoughts, ideas, descriptions, things that I know will make the whole thing better, slip through the synapses unrecorded all the time, and I only hope I will be lucky enough to recapture them.

So, here I am two months after the end of the contest, thinking I have a lot more to do. But I am still excited about telling the story, so I am willing to continue both the editing process on the existing 50,000 words, and the additional task of creating another 50,000 words. Part One and Part Two. I was 27 years old when I got clean and sober. I have now been clean and sober for more than 27 years.