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Let it All Hang Out November 1, 2009

Posted by monty in books.
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novel writing

So today marks the beginning of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I haven’t backed down.  Just to catch everyone up – especially if you’re too lazy to scroll down two days to this post – I’m writing a 50,000-word novel, but I’m cheating just a bit.  The rules state that you have to start from scratch.  I’m not.  I’ll still be writing my 50,000 words, but I’m going to start roughly 15,000 words into a draft of something I began over two years ago, and which people keep telling me they’d like me to finish.  NaNoWriMo gives me the excuse to finish it, and the definite timeline to make it seem manageable.

As I said two days ago, my intent is to post the novel here as I write it.  It breaks down to 1,666.66666667 words a day, so that’s what I’ll be aiming for, rain or shine, in between meetings and classes and running and paper-grading and movie-watching and whatever else I’ve got going on.  That’s roughly four double-spaced pages a day, which is entirely doable.

I’m going to hedge just a wee little bit, though.  For people who are interested in seeing how this little adventure plays out, I’m going to post the first 38 pages of the draft, one section at a time, for roughly the next week.  This will serve three purposes: 1) It’ll give the uninitiated a chance to read what I’ve written so far and get acquainted with the characters, 2) It’ll give people who haven’t read it in a while a chance to refresh their memories, and 3) It’ll give me a chance to figure out if my new writing is complete and utter shit before I post it here.  It’s entirely possible that if the new stuff doesn’t work out, I’ll bail before I waste too much time on something that’s clearly not going anywhere.  I figure I’ll know after a week (or several days, at least) if it’s worth plowing ahead, so posting the beginning will, most importantly, give me the chance to work out the kinks before posting all-new stuff.

Got it?

Okay, then.  What follows is the first few pages of the draft I wrote in 2007.  Enjoy.

*****

Garrett’s garage always smelled like Christmas.  No matter what the time of year – even in the trough of summer, when the days in Southwestern Ohio stood still in the shimmering 90-degree heat, tar bubbles percolating along the seams in the driveway, the humidity so thick it seemed as though you could suck water out of the air with a straw – the garage smelled like pine needles.  It was a bizarre phenomenon owing to the fact that for a period of three or four days in January, this is where the Christmas tree would be stored.  Eventually Garrett’s dad would don his heavy workman’s gloves and drag it into the woods behind the house.  But until he had mentally prepared himself for the task, for the knowledge that he would have to cut his holiday temporarily short and drag himself out of the La-Z-Boy and away from the television, the tree would be propped up in a corner of the garage, shedding needles and pungency at the same rate.  Ten years of this had made the Walkers’ garage smell like a pine forest, and as Garrett stepped from the house into the oil-stained garage on this April afternoon, he couldn’t help but think of gingerbread and tinsel and the droning voice of the pastor at the Christmas Eve service marking his annual dialogue with God.

He liked the garage because of its smell, but also because of its acoustics.  The cement floor, the wood paneling, the boxes that lined one wall – all these things helped deaden and flatten any sound uttered in the room, even when both cars were gone and it seemed like there should have been an echo.  Even better, no noise seeped into this space from the outside.  In the house, even with the windows closed, you could always hear chirping birds or cars speeding past or senile Mr. Guest mowing the same strip of lawn over and over again until the ratcheting cough of his lawnmower became so commonplace it faded into the background like the ticking of a clock.  The garage, on the other hand, was virtually soundproof.  And Garrett wanted – needed – the garage to be flat and soundproof for his experiment to pay off.

He had a small cassette recorder set up in one corner of the garage, and a larger recorder – the kind his mom, thinking it made her hip, referred to as a ghetto blaster – set up in the opposite corner, armed with a blank cassette.  He had chosen the small recorder because the sound wasn’t great; it was tinny, all high-end treble, and even in the best circumstances the music it played might as well have been blaring from an old car with blown speakers.  If he had planned everything correctly, and he thought he had, this would work, and work well.

It never occurred to him that he was being dishonest.  Or maybe it did, briefly, but for Garrett, insecurity trumped dishonesty any day of the week.  All that mattered at that point in time was achieving a recording that was as pristinely corrupted as possible.

He approached the ghetto blaster.  Took a deep breath.  Pressed “Play” and “Record” simultaneously with the index and middle fingers of his right hand.  A red light appeared on the face of the ghetto blaster; a faint whirring emerged from its mechanical depths.

Garrett padded in his athletic socks to the second tape recorder, silently counting in his head, marking the progress of the blank cassette spinning away behind him.  He reached the recorder at the same time he reached “five.”

Showtime.

He laughed loudly, projecting his voice over his shoulder toward the ghetto blaster’s small, largely ineffectual microphone.

“Are we ready to do this, guys?  Okay.  One, two, three, four!”

He pressed “Play” on the small cassette recorder.  He had painstakingly cued up The Smiths’ second album to exactly three seconds before the beginning of the first song on the second side; the music – tremeloed guitar oscillating between left and right speakers – immediately filled the silence of the pine-scented garage, to be captured on the blank cassette cranking away in the opposite corner of the room.

*****

Current listening:

Sons this

Sons & Daughters – This Gift

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