Hi, Dear Reader! It’s Day Three of the NaNoWriMo 2020 writing challenge, an annual Internet contest in which tens of thousands of participants from around the globe vie to write a 50,000 novel in 30 days for the sheer fun of it. It’s not the easiest writer’s challenge in the world; on the other hand, NaNoWriMo doesn’t require you to turn in a fully-revised, ready-for-publication final draft ready for publication. It’s an exercise to motivate you to write as many words as possible within a fixed time frame.
As a NaNoWriMo.org email I received this afternoon puts it:
Writing a novel in a month can seem like a daunting project—especially when lots of other important, heavy things are vying for your attention.
But sometimes, if all you think about is the insurmountable amount of work, you’ll never reach your goals. So don’t think about all those scary 50,000 words yet: just think about the first word. And then the one after that. And then the one after that. Pretty soon you’ll have a sentence, then a paragraph, then a page. Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to finishing your novel.
Today I got to a slow and belated start – despite my intentions to start in the late morning hours – because I got up way too early: at 4:02 AM. I didn’t want to wake up so early, but I had to go to the bathroom and could not fall asleep again. I had a good breakfast, drank three cups of coffee, and even went outside for a walk in the cool early November morning, but I was stuck on the beginning of Chapter Two until a bit past two in the afternoon.
I eventually came up with the notion of creating aseries of dispatches by one of my point-of-view characters, war correspondent Alan Grant rather than tell the story using only the omniscient third-person voice. I don’t know if I pulled that off in a satisfactory manner; all I can say is that this technique was the only one that seemed to work for me today.
Here is how Chapter Two starts:
Chapter Two: Dispatches from the Front #1
SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE, WITH THE AMERICAN FORCES – Wednesday
The Battle of St. Lo officially ended yesterday as American forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Charles Cortlett entered the bomb-battered city after a three-day battle that included one of the heaviest aerial and artillery bombardment our forces have unleashed during the campaign in Normandy. The city was a critical logistics center for the German army in this region of France, as well as a key headquarters for a Wehrmacht corps that has been fighting desperately to keep U.S. forces from breaking out of the beachhead and into the interior of the country.
The final stages of the liberation of St. Lo began several days ago, when several American units captured strategically important high ground north and west of the city. This allowed our troops, which are part of General Omar Bradley’s First Army, to deploy several batteries of heavy artillery – including long-range 155 mm howitzers – in a more prominent combat role than in the early stages of the campaign.
Even before our infantry began moving toward St. Lo on Tuesday morning, large numbers of German soldiers surrendered. Many of them were hungry, wounded, or suffering from what Army doctors call “battle fatigue.” Some units, especially ones that were stationed near the city – the second largest in Normandy after Cherbourg – have been under constant air attack since D-Day. One division in particular, one intelligence officer told me, has been in combat with American forces since the first day of the landings and inflicted many casualties on the beaches before making a fighting retreat into the interior of the Norman countryside.
There’s more of this, of course, and even though I read some real reports by Ernie Pyle to get that 1944-era style of reporting down right, I am not sure if it sounds authentic. Clearly, though, you can tell that war correspondents in World War II were not 100% objective in their reporting, nor where they adversarial toward the Allied military or the war effort. In contrast to the journalists who covered wars in Korea, Vietnam, and America’s two wars with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, war correspondents such as Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Ernest Hemingway, Eric Sevareid, and, of course, Ernie Pyle believed in the Allied cause and considered themselves part of the war effort and not neutral observers.
So if the tone of “Grant’s” articles sounds suspiciously propagandistic and not-at-all objective, that’s because all of the news coverage sent back to America from Europe during the liberation campaigns was slanted toward the Allied forces. American journalists did this all the time, as did the British, Canadians, Australians, French, Belgians, Dutch, New Zealanders, etc., etc. All news stories had to pass muster with the military censors, too. And although Allied reporters did not weave lies out of whole cloth like their counterparts in the Axis dictatorships often did, they withheld a lot of information from the public. Mostly to not give the enemy any militarily useful information about ongoing operations, but also to not shock or demoralize those in the home front with the full scope of the war’s horrors.
I had to write this chapter in several stages and take short rest breaks in between each one: I’d write 450 words here, 550 words there, until by the last one (at 6:31 PM) I had a total of 1555 words…just 112 short of the daily target of 1,667.
When I stopped to have dinner – The Caregiver brought take-out food from a nearby Chinese restaurant – I figured I’d stop for the day. But since I don’t want to watch the Election Night returns, I think I’ll go ahead and add those 112 words and then call it a day as soon as I post this here on WordPress.
Well, that brings to the end of another chapter in the My Adventures as a NaNoWriMo 2020 Participant saga. Tune in tomorrow for another exciting episode! Until then, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things!