So…I thought I’d do something SO OUT OF CHARACTER that (if I were reading about myself in a novel) I’d declare the protagonist inconsistent and throw the book across the room.
Yes, after seeing this amazingly inspirational post by Sara Zarr, I thought I’d…
…share an unrevised excerpt from my NaNo WIP.
Why? Because I don’t want to be afraid of all the FAIL that goes into creating the eventual WIN, and I don’t want you all to be afraid either.
You may recall I’m working on two books right now, hoping for a combined word count of 50K at the end, and I thought I’d drop in an excerpt from my secondary WIP (the badly titled Purely Platonic).
It’s a YA contemporary–something I enjoy reading but have never written before.
It’s also in present tense–something I enjoy reading but usually suck at writing.
It’s also in A FIRST DRAFT state–something I would never, ever, under any circumstance share with anyone…yet here I am, sharing it with you.
Basically, this is just on REALLY BIG life lesson for me as I try to learn to let go of my fears and perfectionism.
80s-music-obsessed Freddie and comic-book-geek Simon have been BFFs since…well, forever. Freddie has always gotten Simon’s intense way of viewing the world, and in return, he’s understood her obsessive organizing (even the stupid label maker she insists on always carrying).
Sure, Freddie and Simon are always together, but it is 100%, purely platonic.
Until Simon spends the summer in France, that is. When he comes back with a new wardrobe, hairstyle, and confidence, Freddie’s left scratching her head and wondering why it all sucks so much. Why should she care if he’s dating the most popular girl in school? If maybe she has this new, uncontrollable urge to kiss him? He’s still just Simon—100%, purely platonic, right?
Except that he’s drifting further and further away from her…
Now, if Freddie doesn’t start looking beyond the labels she wraps herself in, she’ll lose not only her best friend, but the guy she might just be in love with.
Okay, my hands are shaking…but LET’S DO THIS.
To: Simon Girard (firstname.lastname@example.org) July 17 11:51:08 AM
From: Frederica Geller (email@example.com)
TODD AND LARA BROKE UP! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!! Apparently she met some new guy over summer break, and she DUMPED HIM.
Dumped Todd, not the new guy. I don’t care about the new guy.
Wish you were here to scream with me. Not that you ever do any sort of screaming…but you could watch me scream and tell me to calm down. BECAUSE RIGHT NOW I HAVE NO ONE TO TELL ME TO CALM DOWN, SIMON. Dharma is screaming with me, and at this rate, our vocal chords will be rendered useless in t-minus twenty minutes.
I am SO going to talk to Todd in homeroom on the first day of school. JUST WATCH. This year, it’s gonna happen.
Miss you! AND WRITE BACK, DAMMIT!
If I had to name five things in this world that I couldn’t live without—like, literally, my life would stop functioning if they were to suddenly vanish—the list would look something like this:
- Chapstick (preferably mint-flavored)
- My mom
- 80s music (of the angst-filled pop variety)
- Coffee (black)
- Simon Girard (my best friend for six years)
If I could have a number six, it’d be Todd Friedman, but I’d have to specify “staring at Todd Friedman in class”. I mean, since I’ve never actually had Todd IN my life, then I know I’m perfectly capable of living withOUT him.
The other five, though? Life as I know it would end.
And yes, I realize how cheesy it is to have my mom on the list, aside from the fact that she birthed me, she also keeps me fed, listens when I need it, and is all around pretty cool—as far as moms go.
I totally get that not everyone is blessed with an easy-going, space-providing, non-judgmental mom. And normally, I totally appreciate having her in my life (I mean, she’s on the list, right?), but at this exact moment in time, I pretty much want to glue her mouth shut and lock her in a basement.
“It’s just one night,” she pleads, dropping onto a stool at the coffee bar, where I work. “You get a little gussied up, recite some lines, and then you’re done.”
“A little gussied up?” I yank a wet rag off the dark wood counter. “Going to prom is ‘gussying up’, Mom. Attending a wedding is ‘gussying up’. Putting on a fishnets, hooker boots, and a pink wig could even be qualified as ‘gussying up’, but I don’t think anyone in the history of the universe has ever considered dressing as a lumberjack’s wife and heaving an ax ‘gussying up’.”
“You don’t have to heave an ax,” she mutters. “That’s optional. But fine.” She slaps her hands on the counter. “Be an ungrateful daughter. Clearly you are too good for your dear old mom, and Steve and I will just have to start making babies to—”
“—compensate for your stubbornness.” She flashes her eyebrows and waits for me to cave as I always do.
But I am not caving this time. I am not going to humiliate myself in front the entire town by dressing up in 18th century frontier clothes, singing traditional logging tunes, and pretending to be a lumberjack’s wife.
And by “pretend” I mean holding hands, sharing whispered words of support, and putting on a real convincing show for all the tourists.
And the high school—did I mention the high school? Yeah, every student at Haver High comes to the pageant before the big fundraising lumberjack ball so they can laugh uproariously and swig the whiskey they stole from their dads’ liquor cabinets.
Yeah, if I agree to this, then I can just go ahead and whip out my label maker, print out a big sticker that says “SINGLE FOR LIFE”, and plaster it on my forehead.
“You can partner with Jonathon,” Mom says, interrupting my images of life-long shame.
I rub at a black stain on the counter—a stain I know won’t budge—and refuse to meet her eyes.
“He’s only a few years older than you,” she adds. “And he’s pretty cute.”
“Cute?” My nostrils flare. “Mom, he thinks ‘salvicate’ is a word.”
She winces. “It’s almost a word. Salivate, salvicate—to-may-to, to-mah-to.”
“Don’t make excuses.” I stop scrubbing. “Even if he were using the right word, that wouldn’t change the fact that he discusses his salivary glands with far more regularity than is generally considered acceptable.”
“What if I could find you a good lumberjack partner? Like Simon—what if he agreed to do it?”
“Simon would never agree to do it, Mom.”
“I bet he would. When does get back from France? I’ll call him up and invite him.”
“I dunno when he gets back.” I fling the rag back on the counter and stalk to the coffee grinder. “But I can promise you he won’t agree. We’re already big enough losers. We don’t need the added stigma of tree-chopping and flannel, thanks.”
“He’d do it if you asked him.”
“And I would never ask him.” I grab the bag of Brazil yellow bourbon beans from the shelf.
“Fine. What if your partner was Todd Friedman?”
“Todd Friedman?” I spin around and fix my eyes on Mom. “Are you serious? Why would the local god of all things hot and appealing in this world ever agree to be in the Lumberjack Pageant?”
“You never know. You could always ask him—“
“Oh my gosh, listen to you. As if I would ever have the guts to ask him to do anything.”
“Well, he’s a broken-hearted bachelor now,” Mom says, her voice taking on extra coating of syrup. “Maybe logging songs and axes are exactly what he needs.”
Groaning, I twist back around and pour half the bag of beans in the grinder. “We are done talking about this. Tell Steve the answer is ‘no’, just like it was last year and the year before that.”
She scowls. “Fine. But I’m not feeding, clothing, or providing for you anymore.”
“Then I’ll call Mrs. Engle at social services.”
She grins triumphantly. “And you know what she’ll say? She’ll say you’re crazy because she’s doing the Lumberjack Pageant.”
I stick out my tongue.
Mom sticks out hers. Then she twirls around, and heads for the door, calling, “Dinner’s at eight, Freddie! I’ll be sure to leave the light on so you can watch us eat from the street.”
I snort and wait for the telltale “ding” that means Mom has abandoned ship before switching the grinder on and reveling in the churning crunch of perfectly roasted coffee beans.
I inhale deeply. After two summers of working at Stomping Grounds, I’ve grown dependent on that smell. Science may argue that the caffeine is just wreaking havoc on my nervous system, but for me, nothing soothes like freshly ground beans or a pot of hot coffee.
And chapstick. We can’t forget the chapstick.
Or the Pet Shop Boys at max volume.
Oh, and Simon…his dorky glasses and lazy half-smile—man, I can’t wait for him to get home. Dharma is sick of me gushing about the newly-single-broken-hearted Todd, and I’m sick of hearing about her latest crush (some tourist dude named Jeff, who uses way too much gel in his pseudo-surfer-blond hair.).
I’ve known Simon since the summer before seventh grade—since the day my Mom and I moved in next door to the Girards. Even after I met Dharma at drama camp and she became my best girlfriend, I still spent more time with Simon. And even after a Simon’s family moved to the outskirts of town (a whole, whopping ten minute walk away), I still spent almost every afternoon with him. In fact, this summer was the longest time I’d ever gone in my life without seeing his dark hair and even darker eyes.
Yep, it’s been almost three months, and now I’m ready for him to come home.
And you know what else? I hope he never bails for months—even weeks—at a time again. Ever again.
Because Simon Girard is #5 on the list, and I can’t live without him.