Issue #6 of A Novel in One Semester
by Mary Kay Zuravleff, copyright 2006
If you’re just joining us, we are a graduate class of fiction writers composing 40,000-word novels during a 10-week span. To keep everyone honest, flashdrives were required, and I supplied silk cords and various beads (donated by my children and the seams beneath the couch cushions) to turn our data dumps into wearable art. Each week, class members submit to me their flashdrives, which I plug into my laptop to perform the word count ceremony. This involves much dragging and clicking until the numbers flash on my screen. With the evidence in, we write the class member’s name on the board and applaud the success of an author hitting the weekly target. This week, almost every one of us got to the 16K-word goal, and that means that October 4, 2006, we will hit the 20K mark. That is halfway to our goal. I have put in a supply of worthwhile totems to hand out next week; just between you and me, I have prematurely awarded myself an onyx bunny.
There are many reasons to go into such detail of our weekly ritual. First, never underestimate the power of a gold star. Fifty pages written in four weeks is a huge accomplishment, and we need to give ourselves credit. Second, when someone launches her line of flash-drive jewelry, I expect a cut. Or at least a zoomy, beaded cord.
Here’s the unintended consequence of my backup obsession: my necklace is helping me to write. Just as the bowling shirt is part uniform, part team identification, and part signal that it’s time to bowl, taking my novel from the closet doorknob and hanging it around my neck each morning is akin to suiting up. I wouldn’t mind a silky shirt with my name stitched over the pocket; maybe next time around, we can get class shirts and a sponsor at our back. However, the beauty of this adornment is that my flashdrive actually carries the evidence of my writing. Isn’t that what a shibboleth is, or is it actually synecdoche? I’d look the words up, but I have to write a novel.