Well, it’s officially official. I am a National Novel Writing Month champion!
Yesterday, November 28th at about 7:00pm, I finished writing and clocked in at 50,050 words, sick of the sight of my main character, her name, and her annoying habits. One day later, though, I have to admit something. I miss her and her lack of personality a little bit. I even found myself missing the weight of the heavy laptop I schlepped around town all month. And I most definitely miss drinking cafe au laits with my writing posse, distracting ourselves with word clouds on wordle.net and catching each other on Facebook when we really should have been writing. Good times. But, alas, I’ve always been the sentimental type. I’ll eventually get over it.
While the novel as a whole is entirely too bad to share, what with it’s cringe-worthy romantic encounters and complete lack of character development, the experience in itself was highly enjoyable.
And I learned an important lesson about fiction writing.
It makes me re-think my whole identity as a reader. How easy is it for us to soak up a novel in, what, two days? When in reality, the writer has poured hours upon months upon years into those 200 pages. And then has had someone sit down and pick it apart. If “Spanish Ham” even sees the light of a bedside table, it will look absolutely nothing like it does now. It might not even be called “Spanish Ham,” but something atrocious like “An American in Valencia” or “Love in the time of Oranges.” Yikes.
Even though in the end I have done this only for myself (can you believe NaNoWriMo doesn’t give monetary prizes for crossing the finish line!?), I have decided to share a small snippet. A bad snippet, but a snippet it is.
And you better believe I edited this excerpt at least fourteen times before posting it here, and it’s still bad. Considering it took me about 24 hours to revise 800 words, don’t be expecting to read more anytime soon.
(My main character has gone to a soccer game alone because her BF is out of town and she wanted to gain some “life perspective” by experiencing it on her own.)
And there she was, at 7:30, in the vomitory seat where the previous night she had sworn that this was going to be therapeutic. As she looked at the empty seat next to her, she wondered if she shouldn’t have just called Paco to see if she could give his ticket to one of her friends. But which one of her leftie-indie-hippie friends would have taken her up on that offer? She did, however, half expect one of Gabi’s other crazy family members to appear on the spot.
But kickoff came and went, and still no seat filler. She looked down at the field. Nothing exciting going on. A lot of back and forth. Five, ten minutes passed. She looked around her in the stands. A group of boys in their late teens shouting into their cell phones about some party on Friday. A group of middle-aged men. A little girl with her dad. Ugh, maybe this was not the ideal place to come to any life conclusions. The little girl next to her started making head motions towards her, apparently intrigued by this light-haired fair-skinned lady who was on her own and very out of place. Entertainment, Farrah thought, and asked her the first thing that came to her mind.
“Do you like watching the soccer?” was all she could come up with.
The girl looked at her dad, who was too busy making violent arm gestures towards the field to notice his daughter eyeing him for assistance.
“You know,” Farrah continued, “When I was your age, my dad used to take me to see football.” The girl played with her Valencia scarf, but Farrah sensed she was listening. “I used to love it, all the shouting and the jumping up and down. What do you think of it?”
The girl hesitated. “It’s alright,” she whispered, “My brother normally comes, but he is in trouble, so my dad brought me.” Her last statement was in a braver tone of voice, more confident.
Farrah was only thinking about the unfairness of it all. Why does the brother get to go and not her? Typical.
“I have an idea,” Farrah was scheming. “What’s your name?”
“Carmen,” she stated.
“Good, Carmen. Listen. You have to show your dad that you love coming here, that way he’ll bring you all the time. Not just when your brother can’t come. Football is not just for boys, you know.”
“But I don’t really like all of the shouting,” she admitted.
“Well, you’ll see, you’ll see how it’s actually very exciting,” Farrah slipped in, more for herself than for Carmen.
At that moment, Valencia’s forward took a shot on goal, high over the left side of the cage, sending everyone to their feet. Farrah let out an enormous groan, Carmen holding both arms high in the air while her dad yelled “FUCKING SHIT!” She looked over to Farrah as if to say, “What do you expect me to do about this guy?”
As Farrah turned away to giggle, her foreigner radar honed in on a blue-jeaned Americano approaching. Oh god, he’s coming over to this empty seat, she thought.
“Excuse me, is this seat taken?” He asked in perfectly American English. Dammit. Yes, yes it’s taken. Go away, if I wanted to meet Americans, I would still be living in America. No, don’t be like that. Be nice, Farrah.
“No, it’s not,” she finally squeaked out, careful not to be speaking too loudly in English, so as to not lose face with Carmen.
He sat down. She turned back to her only other hope for salvation, but Carmen was involved in some kind of cell phone-texting scheme with her dad.
“Whose seat is this?” the stranger asked, and Farrah noticed a neutral accent, most likely from the central part of the homeland, perhaps Colorado or even one of the Dakotas.
Extremely hesitant and not wanting to get sucked into the same old Ex-Pat conversation, Farrah brusquely stated, “It belongs to a friend who is out of town.” And she hoped that would, by some miracle, stop the conversation.
“Do you live here?” He continued.
Sigh. “Yes, for many years now.” She said, sounding arrogant to anyone but herself.
“Oh, I see. Yeah, I’ve been here for a bit, you know, traveling around and all of that. My name is James.” He slipped in that last part as if she had actually asked.
“Ah! Like Farrah Fawcett! Nice!” James said, in the same way that the Spaniards would say, “Oh, like farra! Let’s go out for some farra!” Which would, of course, make Farrah feel the opposite of wanting to have a crazy party. But she forced out a smile, which clearly invited him to continue the interrogation.
“How is it that you have been here for so long, Farrah Fawcett?”
So, there you have a piece of “Spanish Ham.” Pretty hammy, huh?
Now, for your further enjoyment: A wordle.net word cloud that represents the top 500 words used in my novel. The more a word is used, the bigger it gets: