Week three was a hard week for me. As you can tell by my NaNo calendar widget, it didn’t exactly go as well as it should have. I mentioned last week that I thought it would be difficult because of having to pick up my daughter from daycare again, but that ended up being not as big of a deal as something else I should have been prepared for: the 30,000-word wall. With that short introduction, here is the good, the bad, and the excerpt.
I managed to write something every single day. Even when I didn’t feel like it. Even when I felt completely out of ideas. I still put my butt in a chair and my fingers on a keyboard every day without fail. With the help of one of my wonderful CPs, some side reading, and re-reading the beginning of the story, I got past my 30,000-word wall and kept writing. After about 33,000 words, it got easier again.
I’m sure you know where this is going. I ended last week with 27,092 words. By Sunday, I was at 29,000 words and I. Was. Stuck. I’d written my way into the climax (unsurprisingly, because I always write sparse first drafts) and I hated what I’d written. I thought it was terrible and I knew it wasn’t the direction the story needed to take. Unfortunately, because endings are one of my biggest weaknesses, I had no idea what the right direction was. My total word count for the week was only 6,300.
In this excerpt, Hayleigh and Treyton have just gotten a ride with a family of six, the parents and four adopted children, all of whom have or will have cancer and will die before their fifteenth birthdays. They’re obviously in a fairly rickety van...
There is a loud dinging noise coming from the front seat.
“Oh, heavens,” says Mr. Miller.
“Check engine again?” Margot says. “But we just did that!”
“I’m afraid this might be the end of the road for us.”
We haven’t even been in the car for twenty minutes. I mean, it’s twenty minutes of driving that probably saved us three hours of walking, but still.
Mr. Miller pulls over and everyone gets out of the car. Away from all the gear that cramped them, I see how skinny Elizabeth and Henry are. Both of them have their hair buzzed short, and I can see Elizabeth’s eyebrows are just starting to grow back in. I sit down beside her while Mr. Miller pulls out his cell phone, looking for service. “How long do you have?” I ask her.
“Until I’m twelve. Two more years.”
“Are you scared?”
“No. Last time I almost died and I remember how everyone around me in the hospital room was sad, but I was just kind of…floating. Like, I was ready to move on. But it wasn’t my time yet. I’m still here. How long do you have?”
“I don’t know,” I tell her. It feels nice. Better than saying a couple of hours.
“Why don’t you know?”
“The doctor screwed up. I outlived my expiration date already.”
She looks up at me, large brown eyes pensive. “What’s it like? Not knowing when you’re going to die? Is it like you’ll live forever?”
I shake my head. “It’s more like you’re worried every moment that you’ll die next. The scariest thing I had to do was reach the end of my expiration date and keep living.” She’s so young. Hardly older than Leilani. She doesn’t need to know that I’m still in the middle of the scariest thing I’ve ever had to do.
“I hope that doesn’t happen to me,” she says.
I smile and squeeze her shoulders. “I do. And I bet your siblings do, too. Where do you fall?”
“Second. Henry only has six months.”
“Can you imagine how awesome it would be for Margot and Elias if you got to keep living?”
She smiles. “Yeah, that would be pretty awesome. Maybe I’ll ask them that. If I’m in the hospital. Not to just give up on me.”
“Please do. I promise you it will be worth it.”
“Not get here until tomorrow?” Mr. Miller shouts into his phone. “But I need someone today! Do you know of anyone—”
Next to him, Mrs. Miller has her own phone out, frantically pressing buttons. At first I think she’s playing some kind of game, but she says, “Have you tried Kenai’s Best Auto yet, dear? They have a good rating on Yelp.”
“Yes, Rebecca. I have. They’re the ones who can’t get here until tomorrow. Think of someone else!”
“Big Joe’s?” she says, more meek.
“What’s the number?” Mr. Miller calms down and types the number into his own phone. Margot and Henry play hopscotch through the path on the side.
Hayleigh and Elias are deep in conversation nearby. I wonder why we don’t leave. Neither of us seems to feel inclined to. Despite the parents arguing, the dynamic is nice. Strong. It’s wonderful to see kids slated to die so young who still have lives to live. Whose parents don’t just leave them alone to do their own thing.
I leave Elizabeth and join Hayleigh and Elias. “Don’t worry,” Hayleigh is saying. “I lost a brother earlier this year. It’s hard, but you’ll do great. You have your two sisters, and I bet they’ll take great care of you.” I’m glad to see Hayleigh lying just like I did.
“Yes,” he says. He must be about six. “But they’re girls.”
Hayleigh looks at him, smirking. “So am I, you know. And you did a good job talking to me. I bet you Elizabeth and Margot would love to listen to you.”
“Sometimes they’re good listeners,” he admits. “But sometimes they think I’m annoying. Because I’m the littlest.”
I squat down in front of him. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I have the best kid sister probably in the whole universe. And sometimes I think she’s annoying. But sometimes she thinks I’m annoying, too. Do you ever think your sisters are annoying?”
“Yes! But when I think it I’m right!”
Hayleigh and I laugh and our eyes meet over the top of his head. When they lock, it’s like magnets. I can’t look away even if I want to. “Why are we staying?” I ask her.
“We don’t have to.”
“I know. I don’t know what we should do. We could keep heading home, but…”
She nods, understanding my unfinished thought. “It’s the most fun I’ve had all day, too.”
“I’m taking that as an insult,” I say.