I’m now two days into November and so two days into my new novel for National Novel Writing Month. So far I’m off to a strange but delicious start: I’ve had a very clear vision for this novel for about four years now, so at the outset of this project I set myself up a relatively detailed outline. Then I upped the page count (NaNoWriMo requires about 175 pages, but I was shooting for 210) and divided it as well as the word count by the 30 days of November, and then I synchronized the whole thing to my outline so I’d know not only how many words I should write each day (1,667) but also where I should be on my outline each day. Strangely, I’ve already fallen a handful of pages behind my outline, yet I’m more than a thousand words ahead on my word count. Conclusion: This is going to be a longer novel than I’d planned, and I might wind up completing NaNoWriMo without having finished the novel.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
For those friends and scattered readers who might follow this blog but aren’t participating in NaNoWriMo, I’m going to post periodic updates here. Today I’m also posting the synopsis and the two excerpts I’ve included on my NaNoWriMo page, so I’ll keep the rest of this short and simply report that I’ve hit 4,500 words so far. I wrote about two hours yesterday and another two and a half today, so I’m averaging 1,000 words an hour, which is good for me. Of course, I spent another four hours yesterday and another two or so today doing background research (I am writing an historical novel, after all), so when you factor in that time I’m probably running slower than some of my fellow NaNo-ers. Still, I’m happy with my progress and I’m still getting work done on other fiction as well, so everything’s rolling along smoothly so far.
And now, the synopsis and excerpts.
During the Civil War, a mother and her son’s wife eke a living out of the Louisiana bayou by robbing the bodies of passing soldiers. Sometimes they kill the soldiers first. Into this comes a neighbor deserted from his regiment and hiding in the reed brakes where they live; he brings news of the son’s/husband’s death. Now both women enter a silent, unacknowledged war of lust and jealously trying to possess the runaway hermit.
For the excerpts, I’ve simply pasted here the first paragraph I wrote on each day of writing. I can’t keep this up or my “excerpt” will wind up book-length itself, but this should give you the gist of where I’m headed:
from day 1:
For days on end the only sound in the reed brake was the wind in the rushes. There would be other sounds for those who knew how to discern them, the soft crash of a gator slipping from the prairie grass into the muck and water, the rustle of ducks breaking for the sky or the dip of a heron beak as it fished the shallows. But all kept quiet enough that by day few sounds were louder than the sighing of the reeds, and at night the baritone croak of the frogs was cheerless and departed. The two women listened anyway, silent and languid themselves in their meager chores, and when at last they’d catch out of the hot breeze the long-off reports of canonshot or riflefire, they would set aside their baskets of wash and reel in the crawfish traps and the few lines they’d laid, and they would gather their one musket with its fixed bayonet and a long stiff cane they’d sharpened and wrapped with a grip, and they would crawl out into the marsh to lie in wait.
from day 2:
They took almost half an hour to drag the men to the forgotten well in the marsh by a long abandoned homestead where now remained only the well and a packed foundation they alone would recognize. They dragged their pairs of legs to the low stone wall of the well and propped the naked ankles atop the rim. With such a ramp created from the dead legs they bent and rolled the third man like a log up the bodies until his rump hung over the lip and they pushed so he bent in the middle and fell into the well. Echoing up from the maw came a wet crunch of various limbs when he landed in the deep below, the bodies down there already risen past the water line. A cloud of gnats ascended to behold them that had disturbed the deep, and with the gnats came a stench of swollen meat and festered gases like the reek of hell itself. They paid the not gnats nor the stench any heed, bent already to the second body and hauling it up by the shoulders. The girl held the man steady while the old woman shifted the legs until the knees caught and held the rim. They together they lifted his back and pitched him headlong into the well. They did the same for the last body, and the cloud of gnats followed in a descending vortex like a school a fish chasing a proffered meal. The women did not notice; they returned to the trampled and bloodstained clearing to collect their piles. They stuffed what they could into the haversack then slung the straps of the sack over two of the rifles like poles for a spit. The old woman hung the third rifle crossways over her shoulder , the strap bisecting her pendulous breasts, then both women bent and rested the rifle-ends on their shoulders to raise the haversack slung between them. The girl in the lead and carrying the musket and cane pike while the old woman steadied their load. Neither had said one word the entire time, all their deeds by habit unspoken.