NaNoWriMo Day 29: Seeking the senses

On Thanksgiving Day, I accompanied my mom and her husband to volunteer at a church serving T-day meals to the homeless and low-income families. It was a nice break from working on my NaNoWriMo project. The three of us ending up on the team of volunteers who picked up paper plates and cups from those who had finished their meals and deposit them in the trash cans.

I meandered around the tables set up in the noisy church basement. Pop music from past decades played from speakers in the background as I looked for people who appeared to be finished eating and were conversing with those around me.

I also ended up just sitting and talking with guests who ate the turkey, dressing and various vegetables. Two of the guests I talked with were a middle-aged blind couple. They said they had been members of the church congregation and enjoyed fellowship of the Thanksgiving day meal the church provided every year.

One thing for sure, they were interesting. I asked them where they were from and what they did. The woman said she translated crime reports which I found fascinating. She also said she had lived in Denver, Colorado for a long time.

I latched onto that bit of information to talk about. I had traveled to Denver a lot in my former job and stayed in a conference center way up in the mountains a couple hours outside of the city. I wanted to say how beautiful the mountains and scenery were, but I felt self-conscious about saying this to two people who, as far as I could tell, had been born blind.

But she rescued me by describing how clean and crisp they air was in Colorado. And it was then I realized I had to “see” my experiences not through sight, but through smells, touch and sounds.

I described how I remembered being in the city of Denver with warm temperatures and then driving up into the mountains and, in just an hour or two, being in freezing cold with snow around.

I asked her if she had ever heard the sound of an elk, which are all over the place in the mountain towns. She said, “Oh, yes it’s like a bugle.”

After volunteering, I returned home to work on my NaNoWrimo project and remembered my encounter with these people. It was a reminder to use all five senses when writing, not just sight, but the feel of the crisp air of the mountains and the sound of the elk’s bugle call.

One way to build up word count is to include as much sensory detail as possible in the rough draft. It’s okay to overdo it at this stage because the writer can revise by picking out the one or two best descriptive items to use and get rid of the rest–or at least save them for something else.

I’ve been done with NaNoWriMo for two days now. I’m on vacation so I’m enjoying doing other things not so writing related like getting back into reading. I’m still writing — I’m just not trying to get to 50k, since I’ve already done that. Now, I’m able to write with momentum of a sprint, but relaxed knowing I’m applying the habits I practiced all month long.

When I revise, I will be added more sensory detail where I neglected to include it.

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