Monday, March 1, 2010


I'm in a weird mood this weekend. It's hormonal, but that doesn't make it any less real. Just ask the husband. And I realize it's no longer the weekend, but my conception of days is different than those working the 9-5 with the house and the 2.5 kids and the dog and cat. In my mind, it's still the weekend.

Anyway, an old project is on my mind, has been for about a week. In actuality, the project never really leaves my mind.

I'd never heard of NaNoWriMo until about 9:45pm, October 31, 2008. I saw a mention of it in a friend's status on Facebook and was intrigued. I followed the links and officially signed up at 10:01pm. I didn't have an idea, of course, since I'd had no clue about it.

The next day at work I told the other tech Dan about it. I'd brought a notebook to record any ideas I got.
This is what I wrote:

"Tom Quillian asked about you today at church," the sweet, high-pitched voice of my only Aunt Julie informed me over the buzz and crackle of her Walmart cellphone. It was just after noon; she would be in the kitchen fixing gravy for the Sunday pot roast, Baptist-best dress covered with the floral apron I'd given her five years ago.

I don't know where it came from, but that sentence, that cobbling together of words poured out into an idea, a story that gripped not only me, but everyone I let read my work. I didn't win NaNo that year; I did my best and ended around 38k. It was the most I'd ever written. 

The protagonist's name is Lily St. Martin. 
My co-workers still ask me about once a month, "When are you going to finish Lily?" 
Everyone calls the story Lily, even me, even though it has a working title. 

I've never really been a rebellious person. I've always been smart, and I've always been stubborn, and I've always done things my way. And they've always worked out. I grew up in the South in a very religious family. When I left home for college, I stopped going to church and didn't apologize for it. I wasn't rebelling, I was just doing what felt right for me. I was taking the opportunity to act on my feelings.

I'm not going to talk about religion, don't worry. I'm still talking about Lily.
Lily isn't about me, even though some might question.
Despite the religious aspects, I had a good childhood. My parents were supportive and loving. Still are, even though we still butt heads about religion.

Getting this apartment is exciting, but once the initial glow faded, the fear starts kicking in. I'm moving closer to my parents. I've been living about 1:15 away from them for 4 years now; when we move, they'll only be about 20 minutes away.
The fear about the inevitable religion question comes up again.

Whenever I start feeling this way, I always think about Lily.
In some ways, Lily is my darkest feelings. In other ways, Lily is my feelings on hope and renewal.

Lily is semi-stream of consciousness, and Lily often flows best when I'm buzzed (and drunk).
Lily isn't based on anything I've experienced, except in the broadest of terms. She goes to college at the same college I went to, lives in the same town I lived in during college, of course. She's from a rural community, like me. She was raised in a religious household.

The similarities end there.
Lily's story is very dark in many places, but it ends with light, with hope. My boss, one of the people at work who read the story, told me, "I can't wait to see Lily finally find happiness."
I can't either.

I think about Lily all the time, because I'm not finished writing her story.
In many ways, I feel like it's the one story I'm supposed to write. It sounds strange, but it's almost like a biography.
I've never been one of those people who has characters talk to them. I get strong ideas about stories, but I'm more visual. I see scenes like movies, see the setting, see the conflict, see the climax. I don't have conversations with characters.
But Lily.
Lily shares part of my mind. If I see something or experience something, Lily does too. And Lily processes it differently than I do, of course. We have completely different backgrounds.

I realize this makes me sound a little schizo, but that's not I mean it. Lily doesn't talk to me--she lives in me.

That's kinda creepy, huh?

Anyway, I'm thinking about Lily a lot the last few days.
I have the manuscript open most of the day.
I've read through a lot of it.
There's even a scene I'm going to use for the Drunk at First Sight Blogfest.
I haven't started typing quite yet.
I did make some notes in my sketchbook (because I like the weight of the paper for idea processing.)

Here's my one-sentence plot summary, in the barest of senses: Lily St. Martin gives up her dream fellowship and returns home to take care of her mentally ill uncle after her aunt's sudden death.

Sounds boring as hell, huh?

Do you ever use epigraphs for your novels? I never have, but one of my good friends uses one for every book he's written, and I'm always impressed with how fitting they are.
I thought an epigraph would be fitting for Lily's story, and the epigraph I chose is from the song that I feel most encompasses the story.

The epigraph is this:

“I said yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah
You'll never make a saint of me.” 

And the song is this:

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Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sounds like finishing Lily would be therapeutic for you.

Hope you do okay living that close to your parents. My parents are kinda cool, so sometimes I wish they weren't several states away.

Anonymous said...

I'm working on my own Lily story, so it doesn't sound creepy at all. I had to laugh at the reference to being hormonal. That's the time I work on mine. :) Writing that story is a spiritual journey for me.

Kimberly Franklin said...

I think Lily's story sounds very interesting. Keep writing!

My characters talk to me, sometimes. But I always see my scenes play out like movie scenes. I guess I'm just a visual person. Which could be why I'm constantly searching hot boy pictures for my MCs. Maybe?

Good luck with Lily!

Tiffany Neal said...

I'd love to see more of Lily. And, you're talking to other writers here. You are not crazy! Now, go talk to your co-workers, like I so foolishly have done, about hearing voices or character living in you, then you may get a different response!

Good luck and write Lily!!

DL Hammons said...

It really sounds like Lily is fighting to come out and needs your help to make that happen. Why are you putting it off? Listen to her!

Summer Frey said...

She's crazy, man. Crazy.
But I appreciate all the encouragement. Maybe I'll post more about Lily tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

The 'Lily' thing doesn't sound at all creepy to me! All we writers are crazy. ;)

Congrats on 38k - and on not letting go.

Love the epigraph idea.


corra's writing room

from the desk of a writer

Unknown said...

Keep writing!!! Not creepy at all!

kah said...

Bits of ourselves come through in most of our writing. I say keep at it. Lily will be great because you're putting your heart and soul into it.

Hannah said...

That's not creepy at all. That's actually how all my characters are born, ideas crawl into my brain and lay eggs. Those eggs become all my characters. Ewww, now I don't want to go to sleep for fear of things crawling in my ears.

I say keep at it and try your best to finish Lily. They say the things closest to our hear are the hardest write.

Unknown said...

Lily's story sounds like a must-write. You're so in tune with her, and like you said, writing her story will be cathardic for you in many ways. I'm a little like you and Lily, too. I grew up in a strict religious family. I went to Catholic school until my demands to go to "normal" school were finally heard. I'm a spiritual person, and in my way of looking at things, religion is just too earthbound.

Anyways, I believe Lily IS speaking to you. She's whispering, "Work on my on my story..." And that, Summer, is a beautiful, magical thing.

How about this snow?? It's so pretty out my window right now! (10:15 am, Tues morn.)

((hugs)) Nicole

Luna said...

This makes perfect sense to me. I can relate to the feeling that this is the story you are meant to write. That's how I feel about my current WIP which began with an idea five years ago. I hope you find your way back to writing Lily's story.

Good luck with your move! Will you be able to have pets at this apartment?

Oh, yeah. My characters never speak to me either. Maybe they don't like me...;)