Friday, November 02, 2007

Day Two

So far I'm doing okay with the multiple disciplines. I knew the NaBloPoMo would be the easiest part, and yes, by Jove, it is. I found out the hotel in Chicago has complimentary wireless internet, so no worries even when we're out of town.

Although the goal is to write about 1700 words each day, I'm pretty happy with the 498 I wrote yesterday, especially considering that at 6:45 p.m., I was still kind of stumped. But the treadmill (another 5K!) provided me a moment to think and I got an opening sentence and a few other ideas about the novel's structure. The longest fiction I've ever written was 12 pages, typed, double-spaced, so the structure part is important.

The book is based on (inspired by?) a collection of letters that my mom's cousin transcribed. The letters are from the 19th century, mostly the Civil War era, and represent one side of communication with an ancestor of mine.

The first letter I read (they're in a binder, not in chronological order, and the binder is bulging, so this letter had fallen out of the rings) was from a stranger, a woman who volunteered at a makeshift hospital for Confederate soldiers, writing to a fallen soldier's mother to notify her that her son has died and was buried. In the letter she mentions cutting a lock of his hair to include in the letter. Her letter is long (the transcription is two and a half single-spaced pages), detailed, and beautifully written. But, as I read and re-read it, I noticed something. She really doesn't say much. She leaves a lot out. Was that intentional? Or was there not much to say? His injuries were bad from the get-go, so maybe he mostly just lay there, dying, for six weeks. I haven't decided exactly where I'm taking him, if he's really going to be part of her story.

So, at this point, Emily, a woman who is not my relative, is the star of the story. But I see the mother, Elizabeth, my great-great-going for a while-aunt? (my mom will surely help with this; she and the transcriber of the letters are the genealogists of the family) being the other star.

One complaint to my ancestors: too many Elizabeths. Very confusing. No offense to the Elizabeths out there, but good lord, I think every little girl in that family for fifteen years was named Elizabeth. It's almost like a bar bet. Two of these cousins correspond: Bessie and Lizzie. (The side of correspondence I have on those two is hilarious and impressively snarky....they would have loved MamaPopTalk.)

So I've started off a little behind on the novel writing, but I have a pretty free weekend coming up, and once I get a better grip on which letters belong to whom, and which Elizabeth is the mother, things should move a little faster.

Oh, and it would probably be clever for me to go to Port Gibson at some point. It looks to be about three hours away. Not this weekend, but maybe the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Maybe the treadmill will help again tomorrow.

3 comments:

Trish K said...

Good for you on both the writing and 5K. The letters sound fascinating!! My husband is a civil war buff.

Kristabella said...

That sounds really interesting! We can read it for the MamaPop Talk Book Club. :)

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