Lockdown: A pirate looks at 50 (thousand words)

I intended not to stay in bed all Saturday morning, scheduling myself for an afternoon nap if I needed one. So I got up around eleven, I think, to read the news and do some puzzles. I think there was a nap but I honestly don’t remember. The day passed idly, quietly, and quickly.

I watched my Blu-Ray of A Simple Favor, that Paul Feig film with Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, and Henry Golding. I reviewed it here. I had it in my Amazon cart for months and one day it came down in price to about a third the box office price, so I pulled the trigger a month or so ago.

I only saw the film a couple of years ago but Saturday almost felt like it was the first time. I remembered a couple of details and a couple of surprises, but the general arc of the story felt new. I appreciated that, and look forward to a few more screenings. This disc has a ton of extras, including three commentary tracks. I’m about a third of the way into the Paul Feig commentary, but of course the one I really want to get to is the Kendrick-Lively commentary.

I had a few chores to take care of, easy ones but time-consuming, including straining my turkey broth and putting it in storage containers. I don’t have a freezer for the broth, so I’m going to have to use it this week. Turkey stuff doesn’t last as long in the fridge as you’d think.

Did some personal writing as I watched the evening news, then met with the NaNoWriMo Skype to try and close the loop of my story. It was difficult. I don’t know how to wite the climax of a mystery, and I was kind of a wimp. I finally declared a word war, just to try and power my way through, and although it’s messy as heck and will need major, major revision, the story does break through the climax, so Sunday night and Monday night I just have to wrap it up. I’m expecting the resolution to be much easier than the climax.

My problem is that a climax in a mystery like this needs to have some action, and action is really my weakest thing. I’m a lot like Kevin Smith: I’d much rather write about people hanging out and conversing. It’s too bad it just doesn’t work at the apex of the narrative mystery arc.

Another problem: My character is a forty-something-year-old teacher, a small geeky woman who plays video games and listens to heavy metal. I absolutely do not want the climax to involve someone else coming to her rescue, but she’s no Kinsey Milhone. Kinsey is a former cop, so she was trained in hand-to-hand, and of course she carries a gun. Her series is hard-boiled. Cozy mysteries are soft-boiled (I didn’t make this terminology up; that’s what they call them), so there isn’t supposed to be much shooting for violence. Violenct acts occur away from the narrative.

If I’m going to write a female heroine in this story, as I am determined to do, I have to make her the agent of her success, but if I want to make it believable, she has to use her brains and somehow overcome the person threatening her life.

I’m not smart enough to think of a way for her to do it.

But I wrote something involving a pair of scissors and not too much personal injury. Terribly, I then had her running away to escape while the police move in. This doesn’t satisfy me. I need her to actually have the situation mostly under control by the time the police arrive.

In Pitch Perfect 3, Fat Amy is trained in hand-to-hand combat, but in addition to out-fighting her opponent, she also throws a handful of wasabi powder in his face. I need something like that. And then maybe a hit on the head with a heavy object.

Too cliche? Maybe.

I actually have another idea involving some bonsai wire, and I thought I was going to write that, but in the frenzy of getting words on the page, the bad guy forces himself on the heroine and she plays along, making out with him before she uses the scissors. I couldn’t think of a way for her to get the bonsai wire around his throat while they’re in the kissing position. I’ll work it out. I think the bonsai wire is really my best bet here, and not as cliche in this genre.

Oh, you know what might make more sense? Those super flexible saws on wires. I just Google “finger saw” and it took me to what I wanted: wire saw. That would totally be appropriate for the setting.

See? Journaling helps with all kinds of different thought activities.

Now I kind of can’t wait to do a revision. In January.

This is from Piers Anthony’s 2008 NaNoWriMo pep talk:

Here’s a secret: fictive text doesn’t necessary flow easily. Most of the time it’s more like cutting a highway through a mountain. You just have to keep working with your pick, chipping away at the rock, making slow progress. It may not be pretty at first. Prettiness doesn’t come until later, at the polishing stage, which is outside your month. You just have to get it done by brute force if necessary. So maybe your ongoing story isn’t very original. That’s okay, for this. Just get it done. Originality can be more in the eye of the reader than in any objective assessment.

You can make it from a standing start, even from a foolish daydream when you should have been paying attention to the Pep Talk. You will want to try for a bit more quality, of course, and maybe a spot of realism. Garner an Idea, assemble some Characters, find a suitable place to start, and turn them loose in your imagination. Now go home and start your engines!

His pep talk is actually not nearly as inspiring as the others I looked at that night, but for a time in the 80s he had to be the most prolific writer of speculative ficion in the world, publishing three novels a year, almost all best-sellers. He always had one novel in the first-drafting phase, one in revision, and one in proofs, so every four months, a new Piers Anthony novel.

Yes, of course he sacrificed quality for quantity, as almost any of his fans will tell you, and the beginnings of his series were always great, with subsequent novels in every series not as good as the ones before. But his good stuff is great, and I would happily publish four bad novels if it meant two very good ones as well.

He uses the same metaphor Katherine Paterson uses in her pep talk. The slab of stone. Let these words on this date be a reminder to me that when NaNoWriMo organizers ask me, the esteemed and favorite novelist of teens and middle-aged female math teachers alike, to write a pep talk, I will use the Great Pacific Garbage Patch metaphor.

Breakfast was cold pizza. A very late lunch was turkey sliders. A very late dinner was the last of the cold pizza. In between I had a few clementines, a small square of lemongrass chocolate, an impromptu cocktail with Maker’s Mark, vanilla extract, simple syrup, and bitters with lots of ice, and a few sips of turkey broth, which came out wondefully.

I texted Ali to remind her to check out Ted Lasso, which led to a long conversation about why and how, but she watched the first episode for free and then binged the rest. I’m happy I’ve gotten at least one person hooked on it.

I also texted Penny a reminder and haven’t heard back. I got one text from Crush Girl responding to something I said a few days before. She’s bee a little quiet this weekend. I’m hoping it means she’s having a blast.

I’m having a good weekend but I may take a few days of vacation leading up to Christmas. Just don’t really feel like working my butt off as this crappy year ends.

Leave a comment if you need more connection in the crappy days of this crappy pandemic. Don’t be alone.

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