Today, November 30, is the last day of National Novel Writing Month and I have not completed my novel, not even close. Although I didn’t officially register for the event this year, I did make the commitment to write a novel of at least 55,000 words during the month of November. Thirty days later, here I am, still in labor. No end in sight.
“Ok, let’s examine the situation here,” my nurse says. “Spread your legs, hon, let me have a look.”
Me, panting. “Wait, nurse; I feel a contraction coming on!”
Nurse feels my abdomen and looks at the fetal monitor at the bedside. Then, when the gripping pain has passed, reaches up into my nether parts and frowns. “You’re only dilated to 3 centimeters.” Shakes head. “You’ve got a way to go, girl. Probably won’t happen by the end of my shift.”
Well that’s encouraging. Not.
“Let’s be honest. Did you even start the novel, hon? ”
Yes! Absolutely! My water broke and I experienced an encouraging warm flood of words as I rushed to the keyboard to capture them.
“Mmm. That’s nice. But how many words did you actually write this month?
“Ten thousand one hundred and seventeen. Somehow it looks like more when it’s spelled out like that. I don’t know, maybe I didn’t devote enough time to the project? But there were circumstances beyond my control. (There are no good excuses, saith Mr. Yealy, my sixth grade teacher, who also proclaimed the only certainty in life was death and taxes.) Actually, I should be working on it still, right this minute, it’s not yet midnight, there is still time. But I’m discouraged. Do I still have to go through with it? Can’t you sedate me? To hell with this natural shit, OK, I AM BEGGING FOR A C-SECTION! MAKE IT STOP!
“Dream on, sister. No Caesarian deliveries for you. Now look at me, Look. At. Me. Good. Now breathe with me, breathe through the pain, come on hon, you can do this, I got your back!”
I want to throw my keyboard at her. Obviously there is only one way out for me. I need to finish writing the damn story. Nothing to do but keep writing. Keep breathing. Keep tapping out the words. If only I could have a wee glass of wine?
Satisfied my vital signs are stable and there are no signs of fetal distress, the nurse leaves and from the adjoining room I soon hear the sounds of activity. “Dad, stand right over here if you will. “Atta girl, push now, push push push!” Grunts, pants, and the clinking of stainless steel instruments on a tray. OMG, somebody is delivering right now! A baby is being born! A thousand babies are being born and thousands of writers all over the world are completing their manuscripts tonight, champagne corks are popping! It’s a boy! It’s a girl! Good job, mom! Congratulations, Dad!
But no one is celebrating in my room. My husband has left for another coffee break, or maybe he’s at happy hour with his friends, he’s given up on me, surely. I stifle a sniffle, feeling very sorry for myself. I have failed. Then nurse comes back, hands on hips.
“OK, buck up woman! No pity parties allowed. Time to ask yourself some hard questions.”
Another sniffle. “OK. Like what?”
“Like, what have you learned about writing these past thirty days?”
I haven’t a clue. I search my tired brain. “That’ it’s OK not to produce? I mean, sometimes the demands of everyday life seem to suck away all my creative energy. Some days, especially this month, it was all I could do to hunker in my life raft and wait for the storm to pass.”
Nurse checks her watch and examines her nails.
“I’ve also learned that one reason why I write fiction is to exert control and order over somebody else’s life, since my own life seems to be ungoverned. But even my fictional characters have minds of their own. My plots get waylaid, blown out of the water constantly, wrecking my outline all to hell but resulting in a much more interesting story. When I’m writing I’m discovering. It hurts to write but I feel more alive when I do.
“Yeah, whatever. So, what is the point of National Novel Writing Month?”
Uh, to get your story out of your head and onto the page? To deliver a baby, however imperfect, even if it has a face only a mother could love?
Nurse smiles sweetly. “You’ve had the power to finish your novel all along, Dorothy. Just tap your ruby slippers together three times and push out that child.”
Oh, hell, that’s a mixed metaphor. But hey, I’ve got my second wind now. Let’s do this thing! Nurse, start the pitocin drip and stand by! I feel another contraction coming on…
Congratulations to all the 2014 NaNoWriMo participants!
The first draft of my 2007 NaNoWriMo novel, Looking for Redfeather, was delivered in 30 days — but took six more years to rewrite, edit, and publish.