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Girl in the Red Parka: Getting Through the First 1000 Words

Updated on November 21, 2019
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Jen Chichester is a writer and editor with a penchant for the mysterious and macabre.

I'm gonna be brutally honest. I'm struggling.

Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

I found out a few weeks ago I have a condition called Chiari Malformation. Basically, my brain is sitting too low in my skull. I was probably born with it, and it has gotten worse over time. It has taken much of my quality of life away. And it has for sure impacted my writing.

For me, focusing on one task is brutal. It's hard for me to sit here, in front of the computer, pain thrusting its way from the base of my skull all around my head and down into my shoulders. The constant ringing in my ears has to be drowned out by the constant blowing of a fan or calm music (preferably Llewellyn).

And... Nothing comes. When I go to write, I feel like I just have nothing.

I know this is supposed to be NaNoWriMo, and it seems like every writer is getting a word count that is higher than mine.

And that got me thinking...

NaNo Guilt

NaNoWriMo guilt is real. I think we all feel it. When we fall short of our intended word count for the day, the week, the month, we blame and ridicule ourselves for not doing enough.

The truth is... NaNo is about writing. Just the act of writing. Of getting into the habit of writing. Letting this habit extend beyond the month of November.

It's not about how much you write or how flawlessly you write it. It's about letting your story come out. Period. End of story. (Yes, I'm gonna throw some puns at you today.)

Apparently, my muse decided that, a few nights ago, the story of a girl in a red parka needed to emerge from the bowels of my sagging brain.

Who is the Girl in the Red Parka?

Meet Jo. She's a touch anti-social. (Understatement of the year, she says.) She also likes to control her own narrative, despite me writing it in third-person omniscient. Jo is that quiet chick in the back of the room that nobody pays attention to. (I like it that way.)

She works a (boring-ass) desk job during the day but hates the 9-5 desk junkie life. She would rather be roaming around the woods with a camera in her hand, capturing every fleeting moment that stirs those Wordsworthian "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" inside her. (How poetic.)

Jo is the only character whose head I'm in so far. I'm not really sure how much head-hopping I want to do, even though it seems like head-hopping is becoming standard form for thriller novels. (Ya don't say.)

So, where am I at? Where do I go?

The First 1K Words

In the first 1,000 words, I bring Jo into the woods. (You didn't bring me there. I went on my own accord.) The setting: Michigan. Time of the year: A very chilly late September. The plot: I... I don't know.

The truth is, I'm totally pants-ing this one. Every time I try to plot a novel, I get stuck somewhere between 1-15k words. When I get stuck, I give up and move on to something else. Lather, rinse, repeat. (That reminds me; I need to wash my hair. Gotta get the woods out of it.)

So, I'm just kicking back and letting the words come to me. I'm in Jo's head, and she's in mine. (Yours could do with a bit of tidying, y'know.) I'm going to let her take my hand and help me write this story. Her story. And it's also my story.


Because Jo is me, and I am Jo.

We're loners, but we're not lonely. We prefer the sound of wind stirring the trees, rustling leaves, birds cooing, calling to one another, voices caught by the wind and shuffled, muffled, reinvented.

We're old souls molded from the same stardust and clay.

So, word of warning... You're either gonna love or hate Jo. (Gee, thanks.) She's polarizing and, some people claim, bipolar. Or borderline. Or just 'crazy'. (You don't need to remind me.)

Bear With Us Here... If You Dare

Come along for our journey. Or don't. I'll get Girl in the Red Parka written. (You better.) NaNo 50k or no NaNo 50k, it will happen.


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