2019 wasn’t meant to be a winning year for NaNoWriMo. I signed up this year for one purpose – distraction. I didn’t want to face the fact that my writing mentor-neighbor-friend would die before Thanksgiving. She questioned my decision to sign up for this challenge, insisting that I was avoiding the publication of my memoir, the memoir that she had finished editing a couple of months ago. “Just publish the damn thing,” she said about the 9th of November. Instead, I went home and added more than 2400 words to the NaNoWriMo project.
Things turned for the worst the next day. My friend began to fail. Suddenly bedridden, she looked out her window at the autumn leaves. “Do you remember the story ‘The Last Leaf’ by O. Henry?” She asked. When I admitted I had no recollection, she offered a brief synopsis. I followed the gaze of her eyes to see only a handful of leaves on the branch outside her window and asked if she was watching for the last leaf to fall. She smiled and closed her eyes.
The next few visits were painfully silent as that one last leaf swayed in the wind. On the 21st day of November the final leaf drifted slowly to the earth as my friend took her last breath.
My takeaway here is not about not finishing the novel. It’s about making the right choices for each moment. Time is precious and I was blessed with the time to sit at my friend’s bedside during those final days. Sad as it is, she died with peace, grace and dignity – just the way she lived her life.
First, the rules: One must write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, an average of 1,667 words each day.
My rules: Forget everything you know about POV, character development, including five senses in every scene, dialogue, punctuation and what your middle grade English teacher taught you. Just write. Have fun.
My result: All of my characters have multiple personalities, they love to dye their hair and own a rainbow of contact lenses, their scars (physical and mental) move across or up and down their bodies, it’s 90 degrees one day and snowing the next, none of the characters eat but they drink a lot of coffee, no one wears clothes, one of them marries his sister, one dies but appears perfectly healthy in the next chapter and not one of them resembles me or anyone else in my family. One more thing: I forgot to Save the Cat.