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Coffee for WriMos: Day Three

Take risks.

Why not? This isn’t your hair we’re talking about. It’s your imagination. If you dye your hair purple, you might regret it tomorrow. But if your character spews purple prose, so what? You can fix that. If you give him purple hair, maybe you’ll discover the meaning of it in a day or two. If not, change it to a somber mouse-brown. Or glistening silver. Or flaming red. Take risks with your imagination. NaNoWriMo is about writing. Rewriting follows so take risks now.

Thought for Day Two:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ~Ernest Hemingway

If you are going to bleed, show some blood on the paper. Risks aren’t just about getting hurt, they also help us solve problems and imagine possibilities beyond what is accepted or understood. Don’t be afraid to write. Don’t be afraid that it’s implausible or sloppy. Take a risk and write what needs to come out of your veins.

Be the entrepreneur of your imagination.

Not to be a hypocrite, I’m going to tell you what I’m risking. I’m risking my story by taking on three POVs. Why? Because I think this is a story that needs to be told from three different perspectives. What am I risking? That readers won’t feel engaged, that the plots will tangle, that no elixir will be offered in the end. Today, I’m going for it! I can always pull back when I revise, I can always rewrite with one point of view or two. Today, I take the risk and offer my third character perspective.

Excerpt from Rock Creek WIP. NaNoWriMo Day Three: 1,809 words (here’s a few):

Hunk nickered as they drew closer to the small cabin and barn that Pa built not far from the Old Military Road. It was called Jones Territory, but it was a part of greater Nebraska. Nancy Jane didn’t understand why Kansas Territory was always bleeding, but no one bled here among the ravines and hills. Pa said Nebraska was more peaceful and that folks weren’t uppity. There were always wagon trains kicking up dust when the season for settling began. Mormons pushed cartwheels headed for some promised desert. Nancy Jane wondered why God would lead people to the barren salt-flats. Jones Territory with its sand cranes, summer bluebells, red ferns and endless grass seemed more promising. Desert sounded too close to the brimstone one pastor yelled about when he passed through. Fire and brimstone, he shouted. Something that befell those not right proper. Pa called him a moral fussbudget. William just shook his head and laughed.

Pa was sitting at the bench of the cabin, his head in his hands, wispy long strands of faded red teased over his thick fingers. What looked like a letter was wrinkled in one hand and held to his head as if it were a rag pressing a wound. Nancy Jane slid off of Hunk. “I got us supper, Pa.”

Joseph Holmes looked up at his daughter with red-rimmed eyes. His wisps of hair looked like disturbed pond reeds. He held out the letter to Nancy Jane. “Look here.”

Nancy Jane looked at the looping lines like inked embroidery and couldn’t make any sense of it. She had no schooling and even though Mrs. Bacon tried to teach Nancy Jane how to spell her own name, the letter was cryptic beyond her. “Pa, I can’t read this.”

“The freighter out of St. Jo pulled off the road to bring it to us. He said it contained the announcement of William’s death.”

Nancy Jane dropped the quail. “William? Our William?”

“Our William. Killed by ruffians. Don’t know about them other boys.”

Nancy Jane looked at the paper with its scrawling ink. It made no sense to her no matter how hard she squinted and tried to find meaning. “Maybe the freighter was wrong, Pa.”

“He walked up to me with his hat in hand and if you know old Bart, you’d know he rarely takes off that hat to show his shiny head that looks nothing like that greasy beard of his. It’s got to be the gospel. Death comes too quickly to this family. I swear I heard…”

“Don’t you say it, Pa! I won’t have you talking about any prairie winds sounding like banshees. We’ll wait for better news or wait for someone to come along and read us this letter.”

Joseph nodded and Nancy Jane clenched her fists. She picked up the quail, tossed them to the bench and went about unsaddling Hunk. After she fed him and the milk cow, she furiously plucked the feathers of the quail. She cursed, realizing she hadn’t started the wood-fire. Inside the cabin was cold and her toes longed for something warmer than the sod floor. She cursed again realizing she wasn’t going to get any new boots.



  1. Annecdotist says:

    This is the line that particularly grabbed me in today’s instalment:
    If you give him purple hair, maybe you’ll discover the meaning of it in a day or two.
    This is one of the things I so love about writing, and why I can’t be an all-out planner, it’s so wonderful how some of the problems resolve themselves as we get deeper into our stories (although many don’t, and new ones do crop up). I’m risking writing in a lighter tone for my project, although the subject itself is pretty grim, so likely to take a fair bit of juggling to hit the right note.
    Like you, I’m interweaving three characters – my initial plan was to write from beginning to end in one voice (a third of the novel being a more manageable target for me in one month) but I’m finding already that I need to know what the others are thinking and doing to move forward.
    But you’ve intrigued me, Charli, with your choice of point of view characters! Reading this I thought of course, she needs three she has three protagonists. But Nancy Jane? Another new one, I wonder what difference she will make, and I love the idea that she’s illiterate, makes hers an already interesting point of view.
    Thanks for the coffee, better get on!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Yes, Anne, that’s one of the things I love about writing–discovery. It’s where the pantsers have the edge! I try to balance planning so it feeds discovery instead of squashing it.

      Oh, I like that risk you are taking! A light tone with a grim subject sounds like something a master chef can cook up.

      Nancy J. Holmes is found in the Jones Territory 1860 census living with Joseph Holmes and a 2-year old baby boy named William Holmes. I’m making a huge leap by saying it is Jane Wellman. Jane was the common law wife of the station manager Horace Wellman, and her father was Joseph Holmes. I think she’ll be an interesting character!

      Write on, Anne!

    • Yes, Anne! That is one of the things I love about writing, too. And also why I cannot be a full-on outlining, planning sort of writer. Our characters do tend to surprise us. Something we feel isn’t working can sometimes give us a headache just to be a turning point that takes the story in the most wonderful, unexpected direction. (This is why I never delete “rubbish”, I just cut and paste it into another document.)

      • Charli Mills says:

        I cut and paste into other documents, too! I was so glad, too, because when I was doing my final revision I recalled a scene that I deleted that would now work. Found it! Planning is a mental tool for me–I stick to planning lightly. That’s why I like the storyboard–it’s so changeable, but helps me manage all the material. I’d smugly say, “great minds…” but then again, there are other great minds I admire who are total planners. It takes us all!

      • Sherri says:

        Love reading this thread, thanks Anne, Sarah and Charli! Hope ou don’t me butting in, but just to add my two cents worth that I learnt the hard way about deleting ‘rubbish’, thinking I wouldn’t need it. Now I save it – thank goodness for cut and paste. Best invention since sliced bread is all I can say 😉

      • Charli Mills says:

        Oh, yes, Sherri, I love cut and paste. You never know…one day rubbish, one day treasure!

  2. You are a wonder and I’m enjoy reading your updates. <3

  3. Hey! I resemble that remark! 😉 (Love my purple hair…)

    Nice word count. Great story. Thanks for sharing and keep it up!

  4. Sherri says:

    This really captured me Charli, the introduction of Nancy and now having read her history in your reply to Anne. Fascinating. Love that you’re taking risks…you know I’m right there with you as you inspire me to do the same. Wonderful 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      We think so much about what we’re going to write, but then it unfolds as we do. There are so many quotes of advice to writers, “write…and nothing more.” It really is a journey and it feels like writers are on a pilgrimage together, sharing this journey that means something different to each of us. I rather like the idea that we are a modern manifestation of the Canterbury Tales. We are all risking something to be here, and we can inspire each other. You are wonderful encouragement!

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