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(c) Arike van de Water 2007-2009





NaNoWriMo 2005

This was my first attempt at writing prose of any length. The advantage of doing it during NaNoWriMo was that I didn't have to worry about quality. As a beginner, the thought was very reassuring. I wrote. I loved it, it felt like a small warm glow in my chest during what used to be a dreary month. I hated it, because it didn't live up to my expectations. It was flawed. Just because it didn't have to have quality, my secret thought went, didn't mean it shouldn't be perfect.

The reason I'm rambling, instead of summarising the plot, is that there is no plot. This story has a girl, Joanne, who visits her parents' house. It has a man, Simon, who wakes up, stranger in a town, and talks to Joanne. From that point onward it meanders between description and metaphorical descriptions of Joanne's lot in life and grief over her parents' death. Also the weather.

The great lesson of the book was how hard it was to put together sentences in English when really, I wasn't fluent and I couldn't properly hear the language in my head. I had the amazing luck that, by this time, my parents had moved to America and I was to pay them a lengthy visit. By 2006, I still couldn't write, but writing badly in fluent English was easy.

I did make a discovery that forever decided my fate as a writer, good, bad, amateur or otherwise: Simon. He taught me that if I let them, characters will come alive and blaze on the page, and walk and talk. In his case, he decided he hated mornings and needed coffee, and could not get out of bed gracefully. Out of the 12,000 words, it's the most vivid scene.

Excerpt

On the other side of town, a buzzer went off.

The shrill sound was shortly followed by a groan, a grunt as the occupant of the bed next to the buzzer leaned over to press the snooze button, and a protesting creak from the bed as he plumped down again. It was peaceful again for all of five minutes, before the buzzer went off again. This time, an arm clumsily clutched at the pillow, pulled it from under a sleepy head and tried to swat with it at the buzzer. After three tries, the buzzer fell to the floor with a clatter and dutifully went on buzzing. The arm, pillow in hand, tried a few more ineffective swats at the thing, before giving up and dropping the pillow to the floor.

A groan later, two hairy legs extended from under the bedcover, extracting a yelp from the head that was still on the bed where the pillow had been before when two feet hit cold stones.

Three seconds later, the man was standing on a carpet in the middle of the room. He stared muzzily at the buzzer, that was still making a racket. Unfortunately, it was also out of arm's reach from where he was standing. He scratched his head, contemplating his predicament.

When enough brain cells had started working, he looked around in search of his slippers. Spotting them by the wardrobe, he put them on before walking over to the buzzer, pushing the off button and putting it more or less back on the bedside table.

He stumbled around his room, putting his dressing gown on somewhere along the way, and left the bed room. He only smacked into the door once before remembering to open it before exiting.

The kitchen was quite simple and white. The cupboard doors were wood, with stainless steel handles, the kitchen top was stainless steel as well. There wasn't much noteworthy to see, except for one item, that stood proudly in the middle, between a small white water boiler and a fruit basket with a few wrinkled apples. A Senseo coffee machine sat elegantly out of place amongst kitchenware at least ten years its senior. A fresh pad had already been put in last night, along with a clean mug and water in the reservoir.

Heavy footsteps could be heard coming down the stairs. The man stumbled into the kitchen, went straight for the machine, and pressed the button. the machine started rumbling, cooking the water while the button blinked on and off. It stopped blinking, and the man, who had stood staring at the machine while it was busy, pressed the right button. With a sound as if someone pretended to be farting, the coffee started pouring into the mug. Silence. Leaning agains the kitchen top with one hand, the man picked up the mug in the other and greedily drank down the coffee. He put down the mug with a satisfied sigh, and stumbled up the stairs.

Ten minutes later, at half past twelve, a fully dressed and fully awake Simon de Boer came down the stairs again, taking two steps at the time. He went directly for the coat rack, grabbed his leather jacket, stepped into his shoes without bothering to tie the shoe laces, and was out the house.

He twisted cheerfully through the streets towards the old cobbled square in the middle of town, past the church that had let out half an hour ago. On his way, he greeted a few people, who only stared at him before turning away. He was a stranger, and therefore not accepted. On top of that, he didn't even go to church. His indecency, not having a guilty conscience, was one of the favourite subjects of the local gossip mongers, no doubt. He didn't worry about it overmuch, he had a colleague to visit today.