NaNo 2010 - Countdown to November

November, for me, has meant 30 days of intense writing in an attempt to begin and finish at least a 50,000 word novel. Now, for some, there's a shrug and a 'what's so hard about that?' Well, what is so hard about that? Imagine, if you will, thirty intense writing days of your brain working full speed creatively. Imagine, if you will, thirty exhausting days of putting words on the screen in an attempt to fulfill a goal. Imagine, if you will, how you cannot go backward and edit what you did at the beginning when your middle sags or your ending stinks. That's NaNo. That's the challenge I've taken on since 2005 and the challenge I've completed every year. This year presents my toughest challenge yet. A romance. A romance with two main characters and a town out of control. The reader will link this particular novel with another look at the South. However, I will say from the outset. I would never, ever, attempt to repeat the grand novel Harper Lee did. My look at the south reveals the pond scum lying just below the surface. This examination of Southern lives shows those who consider themselves elite and their condemnation of one of their own when she dares step out of the mold, as they define the mold. But getting to this point has meant many hours, days, weeks, and months of slogging through research and examining my own hometown and the towns in close proximity. My once blind view of these towns is now seeing the elitism that still rules the south but the color line is not as defined. The have's still lord over the have not's. But the have not's are as likely to be as whitebread as their neighbors of other ancestry. The have's are as likely to cross these lines, too. I've even taken on the church aspect in Southern lives. Folks down here live for church. Religion to them is a precious thing. Friendships end if one believer knowingly or unknowingly disparages the beliefs of another. Vicious counter-attacks ensue, with each side certain they are right. The sad part of all this can be summed up in a response in another blog I participate in after a well-publicized trial earlier this year: "When I hear about Georgia now, the music from Deliverance comes to mind.

Why is this sad? Because this person is only seeing the contempt for those without by those with money, status, and political connections to those whom these people would step all over. This person, from a northeastern state will never have the chance to get to know the people I do, the families who struggle to survive but will give their all to a neighbor in trouble, even a neighbor they really don't like. This northeasterner will never experience the warmth that comes from everyone waving as they drive or walk past. Small towns tend to hide their dirty laundry but when it's exposed, setting a cat among the pigeons seems like a minor breeze. However, there are very good elements about living in a small Southern town, elements I hope to bring out in this work which I fear may wring me out more than any other has. The good elements of having people who care even if they don't know you, people who'll stand for you in times of trouble, and mostly the much vaunted but not much in evidence of a village raising a child. Southern children know from the time they can leave their yards to visit their neighbors, mess up and half the town will call your parents before you get home. The other half will visit and during a pleasant chat happen to mention that little Johnny or Suzie was seen throwing whatever at their friend or riding their bike through traffic in a reckless manner. Nowhere else I've lived in this world have communities acted in this way. From the west coast to Europe, there is no community as tightly aligned as those in the South. So, while Dogwood Winter will examine the pond scum and their rule over all, it will also define what is best about the South, from grits to red eye gravy, from dogwood trees blooming in the spring to the parades along Main Street with the fire department leading the way, the high school band marching proudly, and the kids waving from homemade floats to those lining the streets. I'll try to show beneath the elitism using their money, or money they believe is theirs to spend, there is an element of home and family I have never seen anywhere else in this world.

Can I do 50,000 words in 30 days. Oh, I think I'll actually reach that amount in the first week. Finishing this novel is the big thing. Because I believe it will come in at more than 350,000 words. Then, over the next year, I'll have to start the long, arduous process of REVISION. But that's another story for another time. For now, finishing the outline of Dogwood Winter and setting up a schedule so I can accomplish the impossible, keep up with my other projects, and shuttle my teen in the HS marching band to and from his practices and games will more than keep me on the edge all month. That's not counting the holidays and two birthdays!

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