Saturday, November 30, 2013

NNWM Results

Here it is, the end of National Novel Writing Month for 2013, closer to my goal with 13,000 words added to my draft novel, yet short of my expectations to write at least a thousand words a day. Face it, Les, you lack discipline to dedicate yourself to writing, all of writing, and nothing but writing. You get caught up in too many other things. Drat it! Oh, well, I have to say I think the many small changes made in sentence structure and plot have added to a better draft. I am studying a course from The Great Courses catalog entitled "Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft" by Professor Brooks Landon, University of Iowa.  UI is renown for their Master of Fine Arts program in Writing. I am learning a great deal about cumulative sentences, modifiers, phrases and syntax. Guess I slept through these jewels of wisdom during college English.

Participating in NNWM was an educational experience. It is helping propel me toward my goal of finishing my draft novel in 2014. Here is another section of the draft:

Mother was mean. She had become meaner since Daddy left. She gave Virginia old purses to play with, and then sent her into the soda fountain and hamburger places to get napkins and sugar packets which she hid in the purse. They would take the napkins home and use them for toilet paper. The paper was tiny but not as rough as the catalogs Mother kept by the toilet to wipe with. They used the sugar on oat meal.

Mother made her cut off all the lights at night, insisting they not waste electricity. They ate the same thing every day– oatmeal or cream-of-wheat for breakfast, cornbread or home-made bread (not that good store bought bread), powdered milk and eggs which she couldn’t stand, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, vegetables from the garden…there was no meat except when Mother sent EJ to get soup bones and made vegetable soup. Then there would be slivers of fatty meat. Grandma said they would kill a hog when it got cold but that was forever away. 

She wished Daddy would come home. Things would be better then. Maybe she could get a real haircut instead of having Aunt Tillie cut her hair there in the kitchen. She was tired of looking like someone put a bowl over her head and cut her hair evenly around that bowl, even though that is what Aunt Tillie did. Maybe he would buy her peddle-pushers and shoes that fit – more than one pair - and more dresses. Maybe she would have a different dress for each day of the week! Last year she wore one pair of shoes all year and alternated her three good dresses. At least this year she had shoes from Kathy. Mother wadded up newspaper and stuffed them into the toes so she could wear them. They would last a couple of years according to what Mother said. Two years wearing the same shoes? Virginia couldn’t imagine it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Half through NNWM and making some progress, although more limited than what I envisioned...too hard to resist working in garden when weather turns good, family gatherings, unpacking boxes and hanging pictures as we ready for holiday guests. Re-discovered that despite my best efforts to just write without pause I find myself editing, deleting entire pages to add new ones, and inserting brief sentences to clarify points made. Plus, sorta stuck with moving plot forward I know what I want to say, but plot flow is sometimes baffling. Still, am 6,000 more words than when I began so all is good.


Deputy Sheriff Harvey Watson was halfway through dinner when the dispatcher called. This was not the first time he’d received a domestic disturbance call regarding the Leevy’s, or the first run-in Euel had with the law.

He met Euel Leevy nine years ago when he was brought to the county jail for speeding and driving drunk. That was the summer of ’47. Harvey remembered because he had just joined the Williams County Sheriff’s Department as the Jailer. Whether by Fate or by Circumstance, Euel shared a cell that night with Otie Gandy, a town drunk arrested for being a public nuisance when his wife, Nellie, refused to pick him up and take him home.  The fact that the Leevy’s and the Gandy’s were to later become neighbors pushed any of the townsfolk toward the Fate side of the equation.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Plodding On

Progress continues, but not in the form of word count...research on the impact of alcohol on families and the time period (right now 1955 -59). Discovered that Public Welfare from the government was restricted to white women whose husbands had either abandoned the family, were absent, or dead. About a third of those who applied for welfare got it, as decided by the country public welfare administrator as best I can tell. Here's a sample of my draft:

“So, you’ve been married over 11 years,” Mrs. Gertis scowled as she reviewed one of the forms. “You’d think that you would have saved enough money by now to get you through this rough spot.”
            Alma said nothing.
            “Didn’t I read in the paper your husband was arrested for drinking awhile back? Is that where your money goes? Alcohol?”
            Alma’s face turned red and she clutched Sarah Rose who was sitting in her lap so hard that the baby squealed.
            “You know the paper doesn’t always get things right, Mrs. Gertis. When you run a business sometimes you get blamed for customer’s actions.
            “You know if you get approved for government aid that you can’t work. This program is for white women who stay at home with their children because their husbands can’t work or are absent.”
            “Yes, ma’am, I read that.”
            “You know I will be checking your home to see that it is a suitable place to raise your children?”
            Alma nodded and clutched Sarah Rose closer to her breast.
            “I’d better now find you are working on the side.”
            The Public Welfare Officer glanced at the Marriage Certificate and took up the stack of birth certificates.
            “These are your children?”
            “Yes, ma’am. There was another but she died.”
            “Five children?
            “Some women just don’t know when to stop, do they? I understand the Negroes and the Mexicans having so many children.” Her voice faded as she wrinkled her nose. “They don’t know better…but a white woman….”
            The small office became very quiet. The two youngest girls sensed something was amiss and stopped squirming.
            “Do your children all have the same father?”


Monday, November 4, 2013

Novel Progress

My writing habits need re-evaluated. I bought a timer, set it for 45 minutes to write, then take a 15 minute break, repeat....made it through only 3 sessions and was too mentally tired to complete. But because I knew what I wanted to write I made good progress -- 1900 words one day; 1300 another. However, I am still researching and plotting, so not every day is as productive. Then there is editing the previous work which also takes time. And working out or mowing...or garden work....or unpacking boxes and hanging pictures...and the NAP...don't forget the afternoon nap (didn't take one today). Oh well, finished reading "Families of Alcoholics" by Anne Mari Nuechterlein and got some good ideas. So ends Day 4 and we press on....

The Army stripped him of his identification and gave him a new one. He learned to take orders, the familiar ritual of inspections, roll call, pay call, meals, rank, and ritual. He got his sex education from training films about venereal diseases and from buddies in his unit. He never said he was a virgin, but they knew and on their first night of leave after advanced training he was set up with an easy date who had to show him the basics about copulation. He was embarrassed, enthralled, and self-conscious, all at the same time.

Friday, November 1, 2013

National Novel Writing Month

November 1st each year heralds National Novel Writing Month. The goal: complete the draft of one's novel during November. This is my first year to join my fellow novelists in efforts to complete the draft of my next novel. In all fairness, I have about 29,683 words already in progress. Today I wrote 1900 or so words, most of those from ideas already in progress. If I can write 2,000 words a day in November I can finish the draft with 90,000 which is a little longer than most editors want for a modern novel. So, we're's the first paragraph:

Until Euel Leevy joined the Army he never drank, smoked, cursed or experienced sex. He was Momma’s perfect little boy, much to the chagrin of his brothers. He learned all these things in the Army. And, he learned to gamble. And kill people. And bury his nightmares in a bottle of alcohol.