#IWSG: The NaNoWriMo Curse

a woman with eyeglasses writing on white paper under a light

Good morning! It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day! let’s get into today’s question, shall we?


November 2 question: November is National Novel Writing Month. Have you ever participated? If not, why not?


Ugh!

NaNoWriMo has been the bane of my existence for nearly a decade now. Why? Because I keep trying…and failing miserably. And even as the mere thought of participating in NaNoWriMo this year triggers violent regurgitations from the pit of my insecure writer’s stomach, the deranged masochist writer in me dares me to take the plunge once again.

Continue reading “#IWSG: The NaNoWriMo Curse”

I’ve Won NaNoWriMo So Many Times

I have a confession to make. I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo this year. Not officially, at least.

You see, I was going to, I even spent an entire month planning for it– drafting outlines, creating character sketches, brainstorming backstory and plot points—but when November came around, I got very busy.

Story of my life, right?

If I could sum 2017 in one word, it would be “overcommitted.” I was doing too many things, and it all culminated in one month which, though not the shortest month of the year, definitely feels like it when you have to write 1,667 words a day amid 10,000 other things on your to-do list!

Although the last thing I wanted to do was procrastinate on writing yet another novel, I had to think realistically. How much stress would this add on me—to find time to write, do everything else, and still get to bed at a decent hour? Was it worth it, knowing that I likely wouldn’t finish, or even make it past the 10,000 word mark?

So I said no to NaNoWriMo, at least for this year. But one of my main goals for 2018 is to be less busy and not take on more than I can bear so that I can dedicate more time to my writing. So there’s always the possibility that I may try again . . . if I can take the pressure.

But I won’t wallow in self-pity over another NaNoWriMo project left unfinished (or in this case unstarted), because there have been so many times when I’ve won NaNoWriMo. No I haven’t quite made it to the 50,000 words written in one month feat, but I’ve come pretty darn close!

First, I deserve a pat on the back for completing the A to Z Challenge three years in a row! A lot of bloggers can’t say the same. My first A to Z Challenge in 2015 introduced you to my novella, Love Poetry, which I hope to finally complete in 2018. I have 23,914 words of planning material for Lost Boy, the novel I had hoped to write in November, and that doesn’t even include the flashbacks I wrote as part of Short Story a Day May, a challenge which in total came to 451 words shy of 25,000. And my longest project yet is 26 Husbands–26 Unusual Deaths, my 2016 A to Z Challenge novella, clocking in at over 30,000 words! How’s that for Camp NaNoWriMo!

And while I’m basking in my NaNoWriMo successes, let’s talk about what I did write in November. Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans! Yes, I know I said I had completed the story earlier this year . . . I lied. The truth is I spent a few slow days in May writing three more chapters. But the rest came this November, as I wrote one chapter a day, adding to what I had left unfinished back in 2016.

So you see, I didn’t totally abandon NaNoWriMo after all! And don’t you worry; I still plan on finishing Countdown. A recent bout with procrastination, along with Thanksgiving travel (and, you know, being with family), kept me from finishing the story in November as I had originally planned, but that’s all going to work out in the end, because I stopped at Day 24. You know what that means. The story originally meant for Christmas (last year) will finally be concluded this Christmas! Next week, I’m giving you the final seven chapters of Countdown (Monday through Sunday), so if you want to catch up on the story, read it from the beginning here!

By the way, Countdown currently sits at around 27,800 words, which means when I close this year with the final chapter on December 31, it will be my longest completed project to date! Just the boost of confidence I need going into 2018 with the hope of finishing (and possibly publishing) even more projects. Whether they are products of NaNoWriMo, or my own writing victories.

I’m just so happy to say I did it!

—Nortina

“Morning Run” — An Excerpt from Love Poetry

Whitmore pulls the comforter to his chin, and she snatches her hand back as he rolls over to face the wall, stretching his feet to the end of the bed before drawing them back into the fetal position. Jessica lies stiff until his breathing returns to a steady rhythm, and then she dashes out of the bed, sprints toward the window where her little friend has long since flown away, and the room feels deafeningly silent, as if it’s not yet morning, as if the sun hasn’t risen, as if she is back in last night and Whitmore is still breathing down her neck, pressuring her to sleep with him, refusing to take no for an answer, already in the process of laying his claim.

She spins around and watches Whitmore’s chest rise and fall. She looks down at her breasts, goosebumps rising under the spinning ceiling fan above her. Suddenly the room feels too small and Whitmore too close. It’s the last place she wants to be when he finally does wake up, standing at the foot of the bed, fully naked, nipples harden from the chill in the air.

She bends over the dresser, feeling exposed, quickly puts on a pair of sweats, tames her breasts with a bra, throws on the first t-shirt she sees, Wrightsville Beach splayed across the chest. She reaches under her bed for the worn pumas, the only tennis shoes she owns, and steps into them, no thought about socks. She creeps out the door, closing it behind her, down the hall a little faster now, picking up pace, as she grabs the keys and her phone off the kitchen counter, where she left them last night, on her way out front door.

By the time she reaches the stairway she’s running. And when she gets to the bottom, she’s sprinting through the parking lot, dodging Whitmore’s Sonata, parked crookedly in the space reserved for her. She continues to the sidewalk that forms a semicircle around the back of the next building in her complex, turns to run parallel to the road for a quarter of a mile, before veering off into the scenic greenway leading into the heart of town. She runs the whole time and doesn’t stop until she can no longer see her apartment jetting out above the trees when she turns to look over her shoulder.

When she stops, she wants to collapse. She plants her hands on her knees, puts her face between her legs and gulps in sharp inhales of breath. Her heart is breaking through her chest, her lungs on fire, she’s never run like this before. In fact, she can’t remember ever having to run, except in required gym class in high school, and twice she tripped over her own feet, and dove face first into the hardwood floor, sliding across the court, the high squeak echoing in her ear as her skin on her cheeks tore.

How pathetic is she that’s she’s let Whitmore run her out of her own damn apartment? She looks back, then takes off again, a bench in sight. When she gets there, the thought crosses her mind that teenagers could have had sex here, homeless men could have masturbated here—the trees surrounding them, extensive branches heavy with leaves overhead to cover their secrets—bugs crawling in and out of the cracks, bird droppings in hidden places. But she’s too tired to care. So  she falls onto the bench, spreads her legs, throws her head over the back, waiting for all of her feeling to come back to her.

When a real jogger passes by, she folds into faux stretches, but the woman barely notices, eyes on the path, ears plugged in. Maybe that’s what Jessica needs to relax herself too. She takes out her phone and turns on the FM radio station app. She finds herself tuning to 107.1. The sound is fuzzy coming in, because she doesn’t have headphones to work as an antenna, but she turns the volume up, holds the phone to her ear, and lies back on the bench, listening to the croons of Shawn Mendez push through the static, and the soulful melancholic cries of Sam Smith, and when she begins to drift, a familiar name comes to her ear.

“Good morning, good morning, Triad! You’re listening to 107.1 the B.E.A.T. The time is 10:21 AM. I’m your boy, D.J. Ronnie G, and I’m here with our host . . .”

Jessica perks up when she hears his voice, low and nonchalant like last night, slightly muffled from his lips being too close to the microphone. Like a drum roll, he mumbles, “The Girlfriend Whisperer.”

Bruce.

© Nortina Simmons

“Asking All Them Questions” — An Excerpt from Love Poetry

“I was with Alex.” She said it without thinking, surprising herself at how naturally the lie flowed from her lips. Technically, Alex was the reason she was out with Bruce, and she was with her earlier that day, so it wasn’t a total lie, but she still felt guilty for trying to deceive him. Maybe she was more like Layla than she wanted to admit. She spun around, took three steps to her right toward the kitchen, and flung the Styrofoam to-go box in the trash. Her rumbling stomach filled the silence between them, but she wouldn’t touch that lumpy mush that place had the audacity to call authentic risotto. She absently opened the refrigerator and considered the leftover Chinese food from two nights ago, but remembering that Whitmore was still there, promptly shut it, turned around and drummed her fingers on the edge of the island counter.  

“Dressed like that?” Whitmore pointed at the dress under her cardigan. He stared at her—she hated when he stared—his eyes shifting back and forth as the scenarios played out. He analyzed everything—her dress, the style of her hair, the light makeup on her face, the gait in her walk, the sway in her hips, anything to indicate she was anywhere other than where she had said. 

“We were going through her closet,” Jessica said. “This is hers.”  

“And you went to eat like that?”  

“Yes.” She kept her answer short. Any further explanation would cloud the lie. With less information for him to over-analyze, maybe he would believe her.  

His eyes were on the trashcan now, the smell of lobster rising from the lemon-scented bag. It wasn’t fresh; that’s why it looked like rubber. She would have to take it to the dumpster before her whole floor started to smell like a fish market. She wondered if Whitmore would take it out for her, on his way out the door, to his car, and back to his own apartment.  

But now Whitmore was next to her behind the counter. Whitmore was only a breath taller than Jessica, but despite having such short legs, he moved quickly. Before she could react, he clasped her face in his hands and pulled her in for a long, drawn out kiss, until her lips were almost raw. He pulled her hard, putting tension on her neck and she tried to break away. But he wouldn’t let go for anything, as if he were afraid he would lose her for good if he did. He pressured his nose into hers, making it harder to breath. She opened her mouth for air and received his tongue instead, pushing deep inside until their teeth knocked, and the saliva dripped from his glands onto her bottom lip. He backed her into the stove, peeled the cardigan off her shoulders, and feeling how naked she was underneath, he stepped back and further examined her. 

“Why did Alex give you that?” 

“Good question.” Without letting him speak, she took him by the wrist and dragged him down the hallway. He would keep asking questions until she gave him what he wanted. This was their routine now. Whitmore’s persistent prodding, his insecurities and suspicions mounting with each evasive answer she gave until finally she caved, frustrated with always having to explain herself, desperate to do anything to shut him up…

© Nortina Simmons

 

A is for Attached

A prequel of Whitmore’s last relationship before he met Jessica. Originally posted for the A to Z Challenge April 1, 2015.


It was New Year’s Eve, and Whitmore was sitting up in a cold hotel bed with a bottle of flat champagne next to him, calling his girlfriend Layla for the fifteenth straight time.

The ball had already dropped, lights and confetti exploding around the illuminated numbers, 2014. All of the televised parties and concerts had gone off the air an hour ago. He was watching MTV count down the best music videos of 2013. He cupped his crotch, and hoped the half-naked women dancing across the television screen would ease the tension in his groin.

His pants were half way down when he heard a knock on the door. It was Layla.

“Where the hell have you been?”

Layla brushed by him and sat on the bed. She had a slight limp in her gait. She took her phone from her purse and began to scroll through the missed calls. “If I don’t answer after the first time, or the second time, or the third, or the goddamn twenty-third, why do you continue calling!”

Whitmore slammed the door. “We had plans, Layla. We were going to spend New Year’s together here.”

“At some shoddy hotel, drinking cheap-ass wine.” She flicked the bottle onto the floor. It rolled underneath the bed.

“Champagne,” Whitmore corrected.

“Whatever.” Layla stood and ran her fingers through her hair. “It’s freaking New Year’s, Whitmore. I don’t wanna stay cooped up inside. I want to go out. Party. Take some shots. Bring in the new year with my friends.”

Whitmore cocked his head to the side. “So you don’t want to spend time with me? You don’t love me?”

“Why do you always go from one extreme to the next, Whitmore? You can come with, or you can hang with your friends.” There was a sarcastic tone in her voice. She curled her lip and snickered. They both knew his only friend was his girlfriend, much to the vexation of Layla. “I mean, I just feel like you always wanna keep me to yourself. I do have a life.”

Whitmore scratched the stubble on his chin and folded his arms across his chest. “So why is your shirt inside out? Why are your pants unbuttoned? Why is your belt only through two loops? Why do you smell like Old Spice?” he asked circling, inspecting her.

“What are you getting at?”

“Who you been with?”

Layla picked up her purse and walked to the door. “If I’m gonna get interrogated, I’m leaving.”

She was gone before he could protest. He found himself alone on the bed once again watching raunchy music videos and contemplating masturbation. He shuffled out of his pants and boxers.

He was losing Layla. He could feel her slowly pulling away. He saw how she’d flirted with the waiter on their last date. Just the night before, he’d found pictures of men naked from the waist down in her phone. She’d been texting someone named Roc for the past month. She had one foot out the door, and he needed to act quickly to ensure that she would stay with him forever.

The idea came to him as he spilled onto the white bed sheets and fell limp. No more pulling out while they made love. He would get her pregnant.

—Nortina