“Here's the kind of writer I want to be: a better writer today than I was yesterday.
John Vorhaus

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Day Two: Noodling Around Behind the Check-out Counter
Wed 2011-11-02 22:58:12 (single post)
  • 3,798 words (if poetry, lines) long

Did I mention I have no idea where this year's novel draft is going? Also I'm having acute attacks of "Why am I writing yet another new first draft? Why am I not seriously editing an existing draft? Why am I not trying to get a book published yet?"

  1. Because it's November.
  2. Because it's November.
  3. Because ... I've wasted a lot of non-Novembers up to now.

The question of wasting no more non-Novembers will have to wait until December. For now... it's November. And I have this story to create out of pure nothingness.

So I'm trying to take the advice I am preparing to give to the whole Boulder region come Week 2: When in doubt as to which option to choose, choose them both. Write the scene both ways. Write continuations to both scenes. All the words count toward your 50K, and they also (by some mysterious alchemical process) count toward your figuring things out. Because, as I discovered last year, you don't know what you're going to write until you've written it and read it.

So since I didn't know whether to continue with the vampire dress storyline or cut out to the shop keeper telling her story, I did both. And I suppose tomorrow it'll be continuing the vampire dress plot or starting a new magic-item-leads-to-adventure/disaster plot. Depends on what's in my head at that time.

Here's the shop keeper on choices, responsibility, and free will, and at some tiresome length too:

Believe me when I tell you there is nothing I could have done. And don't you tut-tut at me like that -- I'm far too old to put up with such clucking from my own parents, let alone random people who walk into my shop. And, trust me, you've got nothing on my father. At least, I think so. It's been so long; my memories of home and hearth are foggy. I think I had a father. Once. In any case, if I did have, you weren't in his league.

But no, listen. I am under certain constraints. Anyone who can pay my price may buy what they will; I am not allowed to interfere. I cannot interfere. The thing about stories is, characters have to have agency, right? What's the use of a story in which no one has a choice and no one stands a chance? Even you, even you have a choice. You paid my price, and so you get my words. Did you think those were for sale? No. Everything has a price tag, everything is stamped with its particular UPC. Trust me, you can pay it. And you want to. Look, don't worry about it -- it will become clear to you later. You will have no regrets. Well, I wouldn't, were I you.

But that's the paradox, isn't it? In order to allow His creations free will, God, Who can do anything, cannot choose what we would have Him choose. If it makes you feel better, perhaps it is better said that He must not. And I am no God. I am less powerful. The choices I cannot make -- to refuse the sale, to hide the dress, to chase poor Martha out of the shop or simply lock the door after she disappeared into the dressing room -- I really can't make them. I owe my livelihood and my existence to -- a contract, say. Call it a contract. I, the undersigned, waive my ability to interfere in my customers' choices; in return, I get many hundreds of thousands of years of life in an infinite multitude of multiverses and an inventory that takes care of itself. And absolutely no responsibility for those things I cannot control: no moral responsibility for my customers' selections, no liability for the disasters they may incur, no obligation to accept returned merchandise.

The most I can do, as you have seen, is offer my wares without asking for money, and throw in word or two of advice. Not for free -- nothing, as I have been at pains to tell you, is for free. We bartered, did Cathy and I. I gave a thing if she accepted the duty to use it. I asked for her willingness and gave a thing in return. Oh, it was nothing said in words, but the exchange happened nonetheless.

The shop takes care of my needs and it exacts my obedience to the clauses of our contract. If that bothers you so much, go out yourself and do something about it. Martha's still out there. That poor boy may not be her last conquest. Go make yourself useful and stop scolding me.

Or go across the street and buy me a coffee. Even that will be useful. Pay you back when you return. What else am I going to do with money?

Oh, make your choice already. You have choices, isn't that enough for you? Why must you flaunt what you have that I do not by dithering? Choose, and go.

Don't look to me to make this easy.

Day One: The Vampire Dress Dream, Scene One
Tue 2011-11-01 01:44:59 (single post)
  • 2,358 words (if poetry, lines) long

Later on this afternoon (meaning Tuesday, November 1), I'll blog about WFC. (I mean it. Really!) (The reading went very well, by the way -- but more details on this and other weekend activities later.) Right now it's time to admit that I'm doing NaNoWriMo again and post an excerpt from today's writing to the blog.

Why, yes it's only 1:30 AM Mountain Daylight Time. The inaugural midnight write-in is a Boulder tradition! And I'm pretty pleased with myself for logging over 2000 words by 1:15 even with having got up around 12:40 to refill the electric kettle (from a water fountain, using a paper cup as intermediary transport; it takes about 3 full pours to fill the kettle). And it doesn't seem to matter that it's a Monday night; I think we've got as many people in the St. Julien lobby as we did last year when Halloween fell on a weekend.

I have very little idea where this novel is going. At some point I decided that since my dreams handed me about 95% of a complete short story the other day, I should start with that story. When I got done with it, I figured, I'd either know what happens next or I'd search my dream journals for another juicy one.

As it turns out, I'm pretty much done storyfying the content of the dream, which goes something like this...

I'm in an elegant dress and accessory shop, and I'm staring hopelessly at a slinky black dress, knowing I could never wear something like that, I'm too short and my butt's too big and my boobs are too small... and this gaggle of girls near me who each would be perfect in a sexy dress like that just make me feel really small. Then I say what the hell, I try it on. It fits me perfectly. And I am supremely confident, I know I'm beautiful and sexy, and also, as it turns out when a teenage boy walks into the shop, I'm now a vampire. I totally seduce him, and then I drink blood from the vein inside his elbow, and he's absolutely OK with th"is. The shopkeeper gives me such a disapproving stare when I go to buy the dress, though. Oh, and then there's this lacy choker collar I'm thinking of buying too.

...and I'm thinking the main character of the novel isn't the woman with low self-esteem and a non-Hollywood-compatible figure, no, it's the shopkeeper. And the shop is one of those little magic shops that just appear and disappear without warning, remaining around just long enough to sell you some object that turns your life inside-out without your consent. I imagine the shopkeeper saying, "I'm not the one in the stories. I just start the stories." But she can't have a novel about her without that becoming less and less true as the pages wear on.

Today's scene was mostly through the eyes of my dream point-of-view character. At least, until the dress vamps her. Then it goes sort of omniscent. Look, it's a rough draft, that's the point of NaNoWriMo, deal with it. The following excerpt? Not prettied up at all. Just a few paragraphs from the raw output.

The dress said, Try me on.

Of course it didn't. Dresses can't speak. So it had to have been Martha's own mind throwing out the words in technicolor and surround sound in the theater of her mind. Try it on. Nevertheless, she answered aloud: "No."

Go ahead.

"No!"

Motion from the main store. The clerk's voice -- Martha hadn't heard the clerk's voice yet, but it had to be her, the shop door hadn't jangled again -- "Is anything wrong in there, sweetie?"

"No," Martha said again, louder, relieved to have a reason to shout the word. She let the sound's natural ambiguity cover both the clerk's question and the dress's command, which was just how cowardly Martha was externalizing her own temptation so she didn't have to own it, of course. "No," she told herself and the dress, and watched her hand stroke the midnight silk.

There, and that's my Day One NaNoBlogging duty done. More after I clear out of the hotel, give people rides home, go to sleep, and wake up very late in the morning or later still.

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