I met Emily initially online during one of the National Novel Writing Months we both did. Can’t remember which one. But she stepped into the breech today, so to speak, stepped up to the plate, and all those clichés, so may I introduce someone I think is a terrific writer: Emily Montgomery.
Hello. My name is Emily Montgomery and I’m an introvert.
Not unusual for a writer, is it?
I love books and writing. I decided I wanted to write my own, because there were characters who kept telling me their stories and wouldn’t quiet down until I put them on paper. I don’t even have a website yet. I don’t blog (this is my first blog post ever); I hate Facebook, and Twitter overwhelms me. I do have an editor interested in my unfinished manuscript, which means now I have to finish it.
I was named after Emily Brontë, only I decided I wasn’t going to die young of consumption. It was a romantic idea when I was about thirteen, but life is much too interesting to leave it until I’m old and ready. I used to fantasize I was Emily of the New Moon series written by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
I’m an unpublished writer without a website or a contract, so what am I doing on A Biblio Paradise?
Funny story, that.
I’m visiting Devon Ellington, who runs this blog. The person who was scheduled to post today backed out yesterday. I was here on the Cape visiting Devon, on an impulse.
I never do anything on impulse.
Devon and I met during National Novel Writing Month. A friend of mine got tired of listening to me say I wanted to write a book “someday” and signed me up. I saw, on one of the forums, that Devon had something called “30 Tips for 30 Days” where she emailed a tip every day during Nano. I asked to be on the list. It gave me motivation, especially on days when I thought I couldn’t face a blank page.
National Novel Writing Month demands that a writer create 50,000 words over 30 days, in November. I figured that would force me to write every day.
I wrote every day.
The problem is, I am a slow writer. I learned the most I can write is 500 words on any given day. It doesn’t matter if I write for one hour or eight hours. 500 words is it for me. I have a confession: there was one day where I wrote 497 words, and I added three adverbs to make 500.
I’ve cut them since, I promise.
But 500 words a day times 30 days equals 15,000 words. That’s 35,000 words short of the goal.
I figured Devon would never speak to me again, because, on a good day, it seems like she writes a bazillion words. I know her minimum is 1000 words. From there, it’s until she falls over from exhaustion. During Nano, it’s usually around 2500, because she likes to be done by Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, I struggled to hit 500 words for the day while stirring gravy.
But she did speak to me again. In fact, at a post-Nano event at a bar, when I was standing in the doorway wondering why I was there, someone smiled at me across the room, waved, and said, “Pull up a chair and join us.”
It was Devon.
I hardly spoke all night, but I listened a lot. We were an ever-growing table of writers, who wrote in different genres, read a lot, and had opinions. So many opinions! I felt I’d found home, even if I didn’t have a lot to contribute.
I love words. I love characters. I almost wrote that I love “people,” but that’s only true if I don’t have to deal with too many of them all at once. But words have power. I don’t believe “sticks and stone may hurt my bones, but words can never harm me.” I believe that words are more powerful than sticks and stones. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can tear my soul.
Nano taught me that I also love the writing. I don’t care about “having written” as much as I love to sit down, every day, and write out the stories that play in my head. I love the words themselves; I also love what’s between them, under them, around them. I love the writing.
Words can also help me create the world as I wish it would be. The better world I believe we are capable of creating, if we stop making the easiest choices and letting other people make decisions for us. We need to be engaged every minute of every day, even when it scares us. Especially when it scares us. We must both bear witness and become architects of a better history, not a repeated history.
Devon and I kept in touch. A few months ago, I asked if she would give me an opinion on a handful of chapters I’ve worked and reworked. She said yes. I spent the time from sending them to hearing from her in a state of constant nausea.
Her response was, “I don’t know what the hell this is, but I really like it. Call it literary fiction and you’ll cover the bases.” Considering she didn’t like what I’d worked on that first Nano, I figured she meant it. With her encouragement, I submitted to a couple of editors who were willing to look at partials. Most said no, but one editor said she liked it, and now I have to finish it, within a reasonable time frame. If it goes under contract (there or elsewhere), I will have to write another book. Even at 15,000 words a month, I can write a book in a year, if I show up every day and write. Eventually, I’ll have to have things like a website and maybe even social media accounts.
Why put myself through it? Because I love my characters and my story. I love the “what if?” and then “if then.” I love the process of discovery. People are interesting. The world is interesting, even when it breaks your heart.
Virginia Woolf stated she understood the world by writing about it (I’m paraphrasing). That’s how I feel.
I’m spending a few days in Boston. I took the bus down to Cape Cod to visit Devon. We were sitting on the deck, enjoying a glass of wine and some snacks, talking about books, when an email came through; there was a problem with the post that was supposed to go up on this site today.
Devon said I should write it (once she finished swearing). So here I am.
Maybe there’s hope for me yet. This post is over a 1000 words, and it only took me a couple of hours. But, no matter what, I will show up at the page and do the best I can. Every day.
Emily Montgomery is a writer. In the foreseeable future, she will have a website, and, with craft, persistence,and luck, a published novel.