NaNoFeed: Sex, Violence and Other Tests of Character

So tonight I made the experiment of coming home and writing for a bit before I turned in for the night. I ended up doing a variety of things, including starting a Twitter account, and exchanging tweets with a buddy… what a brave new world, that has such tech in it.

Oh yes, and I’m not Jamesian on Twitter. Nobody is.

Meanwhile, I returned to my NaNo novel, The Necromancer and the Barbarian: A Love Story. I realized why things had been going so slowly, or more slowly than I thought they ought to go. In the past four days, I’ve written four deaths: Elsa’s mother, a Chernobyl downwinder who died of cancer; the little barbarian’s mother, who died of some unspecified fever; the little barbarian himself, who was apparently drugged and then drowned in the bog (I’m steering a middle course between two of the proposed endgames for Windeby I); an unknown woman murdered in Iron-Age-sacrifice-fashion by a contemporary serial killer.

Writing this sort of thing means leaving out more than you put it. The first draft of the next movement:

With the warming of spring, something had floated to the surface… well, it hadn’t been well-planted in the first place, or someone had blundered.

It was rather horrific for the hikers who found it. There was nothing left of the face but bone, and that was how it found its way to Elsa’s workbench.

She took a deep breath and exhaled.

The skull looked back from its stand.

She shivered, remembering the last of Little Bird. Well, his people had known what they were about; for whatever reason, they had not wanted him seen again, and they left nothing to chance.

Whereas the person or persons unknown who had left this sacrifice in the bog had blundered. The gashed throat and broken neck and staved-in skull (the back of the head) were all quite authentic, but the staking had been muffed, for whatever reason. The body had been drifting in the water, and what else was clear: the hair had not decomposed on the one side, but had been sheared to the skull.

Elsa stared at it, and tried not to think too much. This one would almost certainly have unfinished business, and she needed to be calm and attentive.

She began the work of placing the depth-markers, and put out of her mind the picture of the naked white form spiraling gently on the water, in a field of reflected sky.

In the course of drafting an artist’s statement, I once quipped that my Holy Trinity as a writer was sex, death and money. This story has number 2 in copious quantity, will shortly get a touch of number 1, with number 3 quietly lurking in the background all the while. All three of those subjects cut to the bone, and require ruthless simplicity… which is to say, lots of draft and lots of cutting.

But even in first draft, it’s rough going. Remember in all things thine last end.


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1 Response to NaNoFeed: Sex, Violence and Other Tests of Character

  1. Sue says:

    I admire that your “drafts” are in full sentences. I wrote a story between yesterday and today – not even 2,000 words for my weekly blogging group. My drafts are notes and words mish mashed about the pages, lest I forget any of the brilliant ideas. Eventually they get formed into sentences, paragraphs a beginning middle and end. Turned out to be one of my better works. But I can’t “draft” sentences and complete thoughts.

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