I completed NaNoWriMo on the 24th. My official word count at the time was a shade over 54,000 words. I had to take three days off in Week Two. My personal goal was 60,000 words, the length I’d estimated I Love You & Other Lies. I’d met the story’s narrator nearly thirty years ago. He lay dormant for most of those years, but not quietly: He’d infiltrated my dreams, daydreams and idle moments, demanding to have his stories put on paper.
The narrator is Darryll Bob, half native and half something else. He’s still fifteen after all these years and pushier in my world than his. Since I started writing again in 2003, I’ve been writing his stories. A few are finished, or would be if I let them alone. Three of them have one awards: “How Mosquito Got His Name”, “T.H.E. King”, and “Mavis Brown,” which was also nominated for the Journey Prize and a Western Magazine Award. Two others – “One Day at Recess” and “Two Dogs Sniffing” – were finalists in the Okanagan Short Story contest.
Altogether, there are thirteen short stories, a novella, and two novels, including this year’s NanoWriMo effort. Aside from one story and I love You, all of these stories have at least one complete draft. Many of them have been revised multiple times. I fully expect to have the first draft ofI love You complete before Christmas 2013. Over the course of the contest, I revised the total word count a few times. What I’d thought was going to be a slim 60,000 word story, grew to an estimated 77,000–80,000 words, but it now looks like it may be closer to 90,000. Who knew?
Until recently, I feared I would have no stories left after completing the Darryll cycle. But whoever is in charge of giving us stories has given me many more stories, and new narrators. One, call him Joe, is an aged, reformed drunk who like to read. He’s fun to write, and a little unpredictable. The first Joe story, “The Fine Art of Frying Eggs” won the 2013 John Kenneth Galbraith Literary Award. Winning this award has helped bolster my confidence.
I was fortunate to get George Bowering as my blue pencil editor at the 2013 Word on the Lake festival. He liked what he read, and told me I had the chops. From one of Canada’s foremost writers, this was high praise and really helped my confidence. (For the most part, I’d thought my earlier successes to be pure fluke.) Pairing that praise with Stephen King’s On Writing, has motivated me to write as many as 3,000 words a day, occasionally more, such as the day I wrote first drafts of four stories. I’m not looking at I love You, critically or otherwise for somewhere between three–six months. That’s when I’ll polish it and get it ready to shop to publishers.
I Love You & Other Lies was my second NaNoWriMo success (in terms of reaching the 50,000 word mark), and also the second Darryll Bob novel. The first was Home Waltz, written in 2008. After sitting in the drawer for almost six years, I’m well into the rewrite. My reader said the first half of the story was as good or better than a lot of the stuff out there. The second half was weak: It had become a lame farce. In January, I will finish the second draft of Home Waltz. Perhaps both of my NaNoWriMo novels will be ready for publishers in 2014. I’m glad I took on the thirty day novel writing contest. If nothing else, I have become a stronger writer, and far less afraid of long stories as I once was. Thank you, NaNoWriMo.