A Novel About a Grieving Woman

Several months after the death of my life mate/soul mate, I participated in the National Novel Writing Month. I’ve never seen the point of NaNoWriMo — if you want to write, write. You don’t need to be part of an international campaign to foist more hastily written tripe on an unsuspecting public. Still, in an effort to deal with my grief, I’d been trying all sorts of new things, and NaNoWriMo seemed like a challenge. I’ve always been a slow writer, and I wanted to see what would happen if I wrote without regard for any sort of cohesiveness or literary merit. Other people who had participated told me that when you let NaNoWinneryourself go, wonderful things happened, which, in my case, was not at all the truth.

Still, I did finish the word count. (And forgive me if I add that I see no benefit to counting words. What difference does it make if one person can write 10,000 words in a day, while another can only write 100?) What I mostly ended up with at the end of the month were disconnected scenes of a novel about a grieving woman. I wanted to get the emotion down on paper before I forgot the horror and agony of new grief, and that I did.

Well, now I’m typing up those long-fallow pages, and it’s been a surprise. The angst is there, but so is humor. How did I manage to write anything but the most sorrowful prose while still in the depths of grief? For example, here is a passage I typed up this morning:

Amanda made her way to the buffet table. The merry widows were huddled together, poring over the selection.

“Make sure Paula brings her meatballs to my funeral lunch,” Jackie said. “Katherine’s lime mold is something I’d just as soon not see.”

“You wouldn’t see it anyway,” Muffie cackled. “You’ll be dead. I like a good Jell-O mold, especially with marshmallows. Put that on my list.”

“Buffalo wings are my favorite,” Barb said. “They’re messy, so be sure to bring some of those wet wipes. Everyone will be dressed in their best, and I don’t want the men remembering me by stains on their ties.”

Amanda slipped away from the three long-time widows before they could see her. No way could she deal with them today. Usually she saw them as the fairy godmothers in the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty—brightly dressed, rotund, and into everyone’s business—but today they struck her more like the witches in Macbeth.

Would she become like them now that David was gone, with nothing better to look forward to than her own funeral? But there was Sam . . .

Okay, so it isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but it is a lighthearted respite from the rest of the story. I wonder what other gems I’ll find that I’ve forgotten?

At the time I conceived the story, I wasn’t sure where to go with it — hence the disconnected scenes — but I don’t think I need to go anywhere with it other than finishing what I already have: a grieving widow, an angry daughter, a cyber lover, a gun, and hints of evil-doing by the dying husband (a preacher, incidentally, who supposedly led an exemplary life.) Sounds like an interesting story!


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

8 Responses to “A Novel About a Grieving Woman”

  1. shadowoperator Says:

    Yes, it does sound interesting. I can recall a little while back you were debating whether it was time to start a new book or not (and here you had one already in its infancy stages all along!). For my vote, I’d go ahead with it.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Okay, I’ll do it! I’ve been thinking about the book while I’m out walking, so that’s a good sign. I’m looking forward to finding out how she gets to where she needs to be.

  2. Patti Hall Says:

    Go for it, Pat! I don’t regret joining camp nnwn. I think it works in dif ways for dif writers. I’m using it to get organized with my memoir and it is working. I know this is your place, but sometimes what you write makes me think, “ouch!”
    There I go with my honesty. Glad you are getting something out of it too…please do write this book!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Patti, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to step on anyone’s toes. I do know that NaNoWriMo is good for a lot of writers, if nothing else, by getting them to make the commitment to do something they want to do.

      It will take me a while to type up everything I wrote back then, put it all together, and see what I have, but I’m actually getting interested in the project. That’s something I haven’t felt in a long time!

  3. rami ungar the writer Says:

    With the right tweaks here and there, it could be a TV movie or a feature film with Kristen Wiig.

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