Wednesday, December 7, 2011

WWII, Pearl Harbor, and Sacrifice

It’s tough not to reflect on December 7th, 1941, and what it meant to the United States. 

Currently, my work in progress is about a thirteen-year-old boy and his life during the London Blitz.  I won’t go into detail, but writing the book has required a heftier-than-usual research load, which I absolutely love.  This time in history completely captivates me.

The late Thirties and early Forties must have been a strange time to live in.  This morning, I’ve been thumbing through my AMERICAN HERITAGE PICTURE HISTORY OF WORLD WAR II.  If there is a common theme across the borders and oceans, I think it would be sacrifice. 

As an American, December 7th, 1941 meant a call for greater sacrifice.  The nation, possibly for the last time, set aside political, class, racial, and religious differences to band together and meet the call of duty.  Certainly, that is a romantic view of what happened, but for the most part, it is also an accurate view.

Still, it would take a few more years for the USA to get involved in Europe.  By 1941, England was on its own.  They had already weathered the Blitz but danger still surrounded them.  Europe was Hitler’s to do with what he pleased and he had begun to look east.  To Russia.

I think of my grandfathers during days like December 7th.  One, Edward Floyd Lemox, landed on Normandy, only to be shelled by a mortar and spend the majority of his war in a London hospital.  The other, however, had a distinctly different experience. 

Lt. Lyman Cleveland Duncan was a B-17 pilot in the 463rd Bomb Group, 775 Bomb Squadron.  He flew over fifty missions out of Foggia, Italy and received among his many medals, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.  That's him in the picture, top row, furthest to the right.

His war, like may others, was a long, harrowing experience, filled with nightmare stories such as the time his navigator lost his head from a direct hit to the nose of their airplane by flak from a German 88 anti-aircraft gun. 

Sacrifice.  That is what they all shared in those days. 

So today, if you’ve got a spare moment, perhaps you can reflect on what those brave men, women, and children sacrificed so that the better parts of our humanity were not outcome by the worst.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo: A Retrospective

A day or so before the start of November, I happened to trip across a post about the upcoming NaNoWriMo or, for those who don’t know what it is, National Novel Writing Month.  Writers participate, writing every day in hopes of reaching fifty thousand words in thirty days.  Now, that ain’t a novel (a middle grade children’s book, maybe) but it is a damn good start on one. 

Typically, this sort of thing I don’t get into.  Good or bad, I’m sort of set in my ways as a writer.  I try to write every day, but I don’t always.  And sometimes, I’ll sit and crank out 10k at a time in creative bursts. 

NaNo was one of those things as a writer that the NASCAR race at Talladega was for me living in Alabama: something I always heard about after the fact but didn’t have any desire to participate in.  (I neither care for NASCAR, nor being told how and when to write.)

This year, though, I caught sight of the competition, (or whatever it is) early on a blog.  I figured, what the hell.  With THE REVELATION SAGA awaiting its fate and a YA Civil War revenge story simmering, I decided participation might be a good opportunity to jump into something new. 

So, off I went.

I had a nice start, wrapping up about 10k in half as many days a that amount should take.  I spent some time on research, some time on outlining.  And then I realized I was telling the story from the wrong perspective. 

One of the rules to NaNo is never erase a word.  Here is where I start to diverge from this whole thing.  These rules.   There is something to be said about keeping continuity, quality, and art in mind while you write.  Sometimes those horrible bits need to be removed, lest they spread like cancer to the good parts.  Bad writing is infectious. 

I’m not saying you should edit every bit, but I find that writing a novel requires a reread of some passages, especially if tones and themes are being bookended or mirrored elsewhere.  The better written those passages are, the better the new stuff tends to be. 

Keep in mind that I like my first draft to be as strong as possible.  That doesn’t mean it’s not shit.  It likely is, but at a minimum the story should be structurally sound .  Not perfect, but sound.  It should survive plot and character scrutiny.  A first draft is like the bones of an athlete.  The muscle tone, training, and talent are built and cultivated in the later drafts.

Of course, there is no judging panel ready to crack your knuckles with a ruler.  So, pissing on the rules, I decided to continue in the spirit of NaNoWriMo. 

My final word count is 36,387.  Not too bad, considering I was only able to write for a little over half of the 30 days.   With a pregnant wife, both families in town for Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and football season winding down, that’s all I was willing to spare.

The important thing is, what I’ve written has me excited. There is momentum.  And it’s likely something that I would still be procrastinating about if NaNo hadn’t prodded me into the draft. Mind you, it’s still a mess, but a workable one.