An Alarming Turn

So, one fun thing about doing NaNoWriMo is the instant community of writers writing. Normally when I’m around other currently-writing writers, how ever well we get along otherwise, there’s this sort of furtive, shoulder-hunching tension in which we size each other up. Pleasedon’taskmeaboutmywriting/pleaseacknowledgethatmyworkisamazing. Cringing in expectation of the fist which might actually turn out to be a high five. That sort of thing. It’s exhausting. But during NaNoWriMo, there’s none of that pretense. You don’t have to be a good writer, you just have to be fast. My region is number four in word count WORLDWIDE right now, but I can’t think of any great Maryland writers aside from Poe, can you? It’s so liberating being able to kick my inner editor in the teeth for a little bit, though I know I’ll pay for it when I go back to revise. But at least the thing will be done.


One fun thing my local NaNoWriMo community turned up on facebook on Saturday was this style analyzer. I ran the novel I’m currently writing through it and found out I am writing in the style of H.P. Lovecraft. Since it’s a Mormon fiction novel about faith and challenges and unity and charity and all that jazz, this is somewhat alarming. I joked on facebook, “And suddenly, this became a VERY different kind of novel.” Tentacle jokes aside, it’s alarming because Lovecraft’s style is not one I’d normally aspire to. My familiarity with his work is extremely limited, but his style seems to dance around the point rather than coming right to it. So if this is an accurate reflection of my work– well, my terrible first drafts at least– I’m going to need to exercise my red pen a little more ruthlessly in the future. (For what it’s worth, I ran a piece of mine that is farther along in the editorial process through the analyzer, and it came up with George Orwell. I don’t particularly enjoy Orwell, but he does have an admirably tidy style of writing. So that’s encouraging at least.) Want to find your literary twin? Cut and paste something longer than a tweet here. Let me know what you find out!

Here’s an excerpt from something I’ve written since we last talked. It’s more like a character sketch than a novel, but hey.  SFD, people. Revision is for December. Here ya go:

“Stefanie spent a lot of time on her treadmill. You might say she had a relationship with it. She cleaned it every day with a special cleaner. Her five children were not permitted to touch it under any circumstances. If a treadmill-related emergency were to occur, they were to call 911 and continue avoiding touching it at all costs. (Stefanie held emergency drills during Family Home Evening each month. They reviewed fire, theft, flood, first aid, earthquake—yes, in Iowa, you never know—and treadmill disasters.) The children had to share rooms, including the twins, who doubled up in a crib in the master bedroom, but the treadmill had its own space. The treadmill’s room was furnished with an overhead light, a mirror, a yoga mat, and a minifridge stocked with bottled water, which she knew was wasteful, but she permitted herself this one indulgence anyway. She had fitted it with a special tray, turning it into a kind of walking desk. She knew it was unusual, but, as she was given to saying, “This flab won’t fight itself.”

Stefanie was 36 and had exactly as many children as would fit comfortably in a minivan. She dressed well but never paid full price. Her pantry was well-stocked, as were the food storage shelves lining one wall of her basement, the contents of which she rotated regularly. Dust was afraid of her home, and avoided being seen there are all costs. Veritable pogroms against other forms of dirt and grime were conducted daily. Though she had a child in the midst of potty-training and the twins were not even a year old, her home smelled consistently of either lavender or vanilla, depending on location and time of year. And to top it all off, she had, since high school, worn a size two. She could still fit into her wedding dress, though she never bragged about it. She was proud of herself for not bragging. She never bragged, even though her husband was a successful venture capitalist and her children were widely acknowledged scholar-athletes—even the preschooler. “Success speaks for itself,” she said to her children.



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