I have a very vivid memory from my junior year in college. I had just finished a four month internship in Puebla, Mexico. I was living in a small village a couple hours south of Mexico City and ten minutes from the base of an active volcano. The population of the village was mostly indigenous and very, very short. I was like a giant among them.
Oft times as I walked to one of my appointments a little boy named Predo, who lived along my path, would yell, "Mira! Ya viene La Grandota!" (Look! Here comes the Giant Woman!) I know... it was very flattering to hear everyday. Little Prdo would then proceed to run up behind me, grab both straps of my backpack, plant his heels in the dirt, lean back and 'surf' behind me while all the other little kids laughed hysterically. I, of course, played along everyday, happy to be of service as the one woman, town freakshow.
None of the houses (including the one I lived in) had a phone, so I would trek to the village plaza (giving Predo the requisite backpack ride) a couple times a week to call my parents and let them know how I was doing.
The particular phone call I remember so well happened to be the night before I was coming home. I was reminding my dad what time my plane would be landing in Phoenix and he said, "Your mom isn't going to be able to come with me. She's sick." Now I knew my mother had been worried sick about me the entire time I had been gone, so I was a bit surprised by this statement. "What kind of sick?" I asked, suddenly afraid that I was about to hear something devastating over the phone. "Pregnant sick" came the reply.
After a few seconds of stunned silence, I began to cry, mostly from happiness, but there was a bit of added gusto in my weeping from pent up exhaustion. That night I was, as usual, the town spectacle, adding to my title and becoming La Grandota Llorona (The Weeping Giant Woman).
My little brother was born about six months later, the tail end of six children, twenty-one years my junior. He has become the unexpected character in my family's life. Not only because of the age difference, but because of his personality. He is like a little whirlwind of life in my parents household, keeping them from growing old to fast and keeping all his older siblings in stitches from his constant silly antics. I can't imagine our family's life without him.
I've decided that the best things in life are mostly unexpected, and don't usually come at convenient times. As I look back over the past several years I can see so many things that have brought me to where I am today. Sometimes I cried when they happened. Sometimes I felt overwhelmed or afraid, but in the end they enriched my life beyond my comprehension. I think of my desire not to get married in college (I did). I think of the day my husband decided to close his business and go back to school, or the day we decided to pursue adoption, or the day I felt so discouraged that I had to sit down and write until I felt better (I haven't stopped writing since, but I do feel better). All these moments in my life were unexpected, full of overwhelming emotion but also full of hope and possibilities.
So now as I face the thought of moving to a new place, across the country, away from everyone and everything I know, I think about the events and characters that are about to come into my life. I would be lying if I said that I don't feel a bit of trepidation, but then all I have to do is look at my son, my husband, my little brother and remember that the three best things in my life came along at times or in ways that were completely unexpected.
How long does it actually take to write a novel? I'm not just talking about the time to sit down and write a first draft from beginning to end. I'm talking about the time spent writing an outline or jotting down notes and the time spent editing and revising and editing and revising again. I wonder how long it really takes.
I've been trying to figure this out for my own writing. And it's kind of hard to do. My first book took a year to write, but I was learning a lot during that year and probably wrote twice as many words as actually ended up in the book. My second book will probably take about five months to draft, but then I imagine I will spend another month or two editing. And I'm sure I'll probably edit a few more times in the future. I'm not a super speedy writer like many of you are, but I'm also not the type to spend my entire life on a single masterpiece. I think my average will end up being about nine months for one completed,edited novel, with some overlap between novels.
What kind of writer are you? I've noticed many of you write books in a matter of a few weeks. I'm curious, do you spend a lot of time editing them after? Are they pretty well developed at that point? Do you set them aside and come back to them? Do you find that you have to cut a lot, or do you add to them? What's your personal writing strategy and timeline?
I seem to have the opposite problem right now. I think I may be making one of my characters a little too likeable, and I wonder if it's going to make my readers fall in love with the wrong guy. I just can't seem to help but write him the way he comes to me, and he is a very charismatic man! It's getting to the point where I wonder if his flaws are big enough or bad enough to counteract his appeal. I often ask myself, are my readers going to be able to switch their loyalty to the true love interest? I hope so, because I really don't want to water down this character. He's just so good at being bad.
I suppose literature and movies are full of villains we adore. One of my personal favorites is the Phantom, especially as played by Gerard Butler. Have you ever fallen for your antagonist? Who do you love to hate?
P.S. This post has absolutely nothing to do with writing. I'm not even going to try and draw an analogy. But if you would like to feel free.
Just look how happy we are and note the location.
I'm amazed as I look at my current word count that it's gone up at all over the past week. I've only written a couple thousand words, but I've been totally preoccupied with our upcoming relocation so I guess that's not too bad.
I'm getting really overwhelmed at the thought of getting our house ready to rent out and finding another one to move into. Fortunately, we're using a property management company for our house, but I still have to go through and do touch up paint and major cleaning and organizing.
And as far as the moving goes, I've been told that if I have a drawer full of trash in my house (Do I have any of those? Of course I do. They're called junk drawers for a reason!) then the movers will pack up the trash and cart it across the country and dump it back into a drawer on the other end. That fact combined with the weight limit that we have to stick to, has turned me into a professional de-junker. I am filling up garbage cans right and left!
I also have to sell my car (we only want to drive one across the country). Which, considering it's getting pretty old, isn't the saddest thing in the world, but I do love my Honda, and it only has 120,000 miles on it. It was a great car to get us through grad school, and I'm feeling a bit sentimental about it. Weird, I know. Who doesn't want a new car right?
Then there's the fact that we've been feeling really strongly that would should finish up the paperwork for a second adoption. I've been working on it bit by bit over the past year, but all of the sudden I have this desire to hurry and finish it! Last time that happened was the same time Benjamin's birth mother became pregnant with him, so I'm thinking maybe there's a baby out there that needs to come to our home. That's, of course, very exciting, but the timing is a bit crazy!
The result of all this is that my writing is suffering a bit. Oh well. Living life is more important than writing about it, right? But man I sure do miss my long writing days... I think I'm going to have to resort to late nights or early mornings pretty soon. And I do love sleep, but I miss the writing more.