A mind of her own


I have heard writers say that sometimes the story “writes itself”.

‘Sure,’ I always thought when I heard this kind of comment, ‘sure it writes itself’.  I’d shake my head and scoff when I heard writers, authors, real published story teller types talking about how sometimes the story would go in a direction that they hadn’t intended.

‘Oh, brother,’ I always thought to myself. ‘How pretentious is that? The rest of us are slaving over every word, and Little Miss Novel Writer is telling us that her characters do all the heavy lifting and all she has to do is type.’

This stuff always sounded remarkably self-congratulatory and elitist to me. I was pretty damn sure that nothing like that would ever happen to me.

Then I started the ol’ NaNoWriMo challenge.  You know, the one where you can’t stop to think, you just have to WRITE as if your butt is on fire and you’re trying to outrun the flames.

And guess what has happened to me twice now?


My main character, the woman in the photo above, decided not to go into the restaurant I intended to send her to. Instead, she walked into a little general store that she found on the same street.  She met some people, had a good conversation, drank some coffee and walked back out the door.

What the hell?

Where did those people come from? Where did that store come from?

I don’t understand it, but it happened.

I felt like I was “spirit writing” or something.  I felt like Annie, the character, was running the show.  She didn’t want to go into the little breakfast place I had in mind. She apparently liked the look of the general store that I didn’t even know was there.


The same thing happened a couple of days later, too.  I wrote a chapter where Annie was lost, driving around a small town in Maine.  I thought she’d stumble on a little Inn and spend the night, but then she drove past a grocery store. She decided to go in for directions, and she met a young man in there who gave her the directions to his Aunt’s B&B.  I didn’t think him up, but there he was.  She liked him. I did, too!

I think he might be appearing later on in the story, but I’m not sure. I mean, I am clearly not the one in charge!

What a strange and awesome experience! (Even if I do sound pretentious…..!)

I knew I couldn’t stay away


I know I said that I’d be too busy writing to write…..but here I am anyway.

It’s been a strange couple of days. The wind is howling, the sky has been slate gray. Rain poured down on us all day yesterday, and the world seemed dark and threatening.

I set myself to writing yesterday morning. I have made my NaNoWriMo commitment, and I intend to get that story written. I can’t get myself to use the word “novel” because that sounds so official and so serious.  But I do intend to get this story out of my head and onto the page. So I wrote and wrote and wrote, most of yesterday and into a part of today.

And I got to a place in my story where the protagonist (main character? narrator? woman who is sort of me, but not really me?) went through a very sad time.  And I wrote it all down, and created her words and her reactions. And found myself in tears.

“What the heck?” I asked myself, already starting to think like a novelist, “Why am I crying from my own words?” I didn’t know what to think. I was slightly impressed with myself for having brought me to tears, but slightly embarrassed to be sniffling over my own ideas.

So I closed the laptop and started to cook, which is my usual comfort activity.  One batch of pumpkin-apple soup, one tray of roasted vegetables and one pile of cranberry scones later, I decided to head for the hot tub.  Football is on, and Paul is watching.  I have marinating veal chops to go under the broiler at half time.

I wrapped in my robe and stepped out onto the windy deck, listening to the trees as they bent and groaned in the gale.  I sank into the hot water, letting the jets sooth my aching back and shoulders.  I thought about my story, and about the woman who is both me and the product of my mind. I looked into the darkening sky.

And I saw a huge black bird, wings spread wide, soaring on the thermal drafts above.  He was as black as onyx, his wings gleaming as he flew.  He crested the rooftop, and the setting sun suddenly hit him from below.  Suddenly, he was pure gold. He turned, riding the winds, and the golden wave of sunlight moved over him, from head to tail.

I have seen a million crows, a million times, in my wooded yard.  They have always looked sinister and sly, and they have always made me shiver.

This bird, though, shining with golden light, was absolutely breathtaking.  I cried out so loudly at his beauty that Paul came to the door to see what was wrong. I pointed out the golden bird, soaring high above us.

After he drifted off, settling with his outstretched golden wings onto a branch in the woods behind me, I thought again about my story. I thought about every event in every book, like every event in our lives. They can all be either sinister and dark or shining and golden, depending on our point of view.

I’ll never look at a crow in quite the same way again.

And maybe my view of my sad and struggling “lead character” will evolve in the next day or two as well.

Who knows?