Jumped into NaNoWriMo with both feet and fingers flying. Past years its taken a week or so for me to really get into the rhythm of writing a set amount each day and then pushing that amount higher in a race with myself. This year I set myself a minimum of at least 2000 words a day. So far I’ve exceeded that every day. Not by much, yet, but that pace is enough for me.
I’ve made a few changes in my daily routine to give me more flying fingers time – getting up ten minutes earlier, reading less, shorter morning walks – because the walks are actually thinking time I won’t cut them too short – plus they are ideal for my experiment in brain balancing with binaural beats.
I opted not to go back and read any of the first part of the novel that I wrote last year. I pulled up my cast list because names had been forgotten. I have some major ‘set pieces’ to work on – the miners’ march that gets fired on by militia, the miners forced back to work at gun point, mine cave in, and my female protagonist’s transformation into the antagonist. Man, oh, man does she suffer before she gets redemption.
On top of which my male protagonists will come to learn that their innocent affection isn’t seen as innocent by some & also they’ll realize it’s deeper than affection. I’d say there’s at least 60,000 words in all that – of which the flying fingers have caged over 12,000.
Coal Dusters Sample
(55,000 words already written, set in Cape Breton, mid-1920’s, Birk 19 – Lillian – 21 – exiled by Boston family )
Lillian was disappointed to hear that the strike was over. She had found helping the children with with schooling was rewarding and even though that would continue she knew that the extra time she had been able to give to the non-parish miners would end.
She had started the afternoon sessions of basic reading and writing with the adult miners partly as a show of community involvement to her uncle. [Her uncle is the parish priest]. Not that she expected his approval or wanted to be back in his good graces but she had to prove to him that she was good for more than just washing his dishes.
Teaching the younger miners who had been forced out of school and into the mines at an early age was to her an ideal way of being useful. It also gave her the opportunity to get closer to Birk. She’d even given him and his sisters, Maddy and Sal, more private time.
“You’re doing well Birk.’ Lillian couldn’t get him to look her in the eyes for more than a few seconds.
“Too bad you had to start working at such an age.”
“That’s how its done here. Schoolin’s fine for them who expect to make more of themselves. I’m happy to be bring … well, when I was working, happy to bring something home to keep the family fed. You understand.”
“Yes.” Lillian was getting a greater insight into the lives of the families in New Castleton. When she arrived she had been kept from the reality of their lives by the reality of hers.
It was clear to her that she had been protected from so much of what was going outside of her home by her family’s position in Boston. Even here she was distanced from most of it by her uncle’s position. An ordinary Catholic girl wouldn’t dare be seen in Mudside [one area of New Castleton is known as Mudside because it has unpaved streets] let alone the priest’s niece. Sure she had some glimpses of the hardships the miners in the parish lived under but until now she had felt more like an observer, someone who was only visiting. News of her death had certainly changed that. She was really here. [To fully disown her, her family claimed she had died of influenza in Cape Breton. Full backstory in last year’s NaNo]
“Your penmanship has improved Birk.” She passed the page back to Birk. “Soon you’ll be as good as me. Won’t he Maddy?”
“Oh, yes, Miss.’ Maddy beamed up at Lillian.
Lillian enjoyed the way Birk’s face reddened at her praise. That meant she was making progress. When she had offered to help him with his schooling privately he had refused. So she had included his two sisters. She’d come by their house and sit in the tiny living-room with them and encourage them. She was keenly aware how Birk’s grooming had improved much faster than his penmanship.
“There’s a fresh pot tea,’ Birk’s mother came into the parlour.
Lillian knew that Mrs. MacDonnell was responsible for making sure her brood was presentable for these visits. But she was rarely left alone with Birk for long. Even if he accompanied her home one or both of this sisters would tag along.
“This is what a family must be like,” she said as they walked along one evening. His sister Sal between them holding each of their hands.
“Family?” Birk mumbled.
“Someone who didn’t know us might think we were husband and wife out for a stroll with our daughter.” Lillian wanted to tell him to walk taller and not to talk at his feet. Over the past couple of weeks she had come to see him as more than her revenge but as someone she could like. Though the thought of his hairy arms against her whiteness made her cringe.
“Ah, I see.” Birk nodded. “But those that know would nev’r think such a thing. A good mic … I mean Catholic woman like yerself and a mudder like me could never be together.”
“You’ve never thought of starting a family of your own?”
“I got one now.”
“I mean like your bother George.”
“Nah. Ma knew he’d settle down soon as he was able. The oldest gets wed but the younger stays to help with things. Hard enough to make ends meet with what we bring home when we is working.”
“Surely you’ve had a girlfriend. Some lass you were sweet on?” Lillian was determined to find a way into Birk’s mind. Over the past weeks she had found him taciturn to the point of silence most of the time. At first she though it was because he wasn’t intelligent but he was. He was merely shy and unused to any kind of female attention from any one other than his mother or sisters.
“Can’t say as I have. Never seems to be enough time for stuff that that when we’re working. Besides …. ”
“What?” Lillian made sure she made eye contact with him.
“It’s not fittin’ to bother … women with untoward attention. It’s not seemly. Our mother says that no God fearing woman wants that sort of attention from a man. And them that does aren’t worth a pinch of salt.”
“Salt!” Lillian contained her laughter. “But how do you think families happen, Birk?”
“That’s not right talk in front of my sister.”
“Sorry.” Lillian hoped she hadn’t pushed him too hard. It was useless for her to compare him to her own brothers or the men she had grown up around in Boston. They had educations. Sometimes Birk acted and spoke like he was the same age as his sisters and not an adult.
“I was thinking it must be pretty lonely though for you?”
“Ma’am it’s only been since Clancy been gone that I had a bed to call my own. There are time’s I longs to be alone.”
They stopped at the corner down from the O’Dowell’s where she was now staying.
“I want to thank you ma’am for taking the time to teach my sisters and me.”
“Oh Miss! You’ll still come even though the strike’s over.” Sal let go of Birk’s hand to squeeze Lillian’s with both of them.
“I might. Too bad you can’t come to St. Agatha’s but it’s just for the Catholic children.”
“We’re back to work tomorrow.”
“You don’t sound too pleased.”
“Who’s pleased!” Birk spat on the street. “Two dead and soldier’s lined up to force us back. They can afford to feed those army fuckers, sorry to swear ma’am, and let our child’n starve.”
(for more, see my posts in November 2012)