I’d been writing short stories for several months when a small idea popped up in my head. It wasn’t an idea so much as it was a title.
I work for a nonprofit, and for every aspect that’s rewarding, there are others that are stressful, aggravating, and mind-boggling. One of my coworkers and I had a running joke that we’d start our own nonprofit, but for people who worked at them. We called it Recovering Nonprofit Workers, shortened to RNW (pronounced “Renew”); and it would work tirelessly to save nonprofit workers from the crazier aspects of the nonprofit office life.
The joke ran its course, but earlier last summer, I found myself reflecting on it as an idea for a story. I created a folder called RNW, as a reminder to consider it. I considered it while I wrote other pieces, but had a hard time coming up with the story.
To have a story, one must have characters; and I finally got one. Her name is Beth. Working in service is her dream — a dream she’s happy to see take root in a full-time job, albeit in an office that tests her patience. She has a lot of trouble opening up to people — myself included. As such, she and her story simply flickered in and out of my mind as I worked on other things.
However, she kept showing up — and so did another character. He wavered in and out of the flashes of the story I’d have in my mind. He was obviously important, but I wasn’t sure why. Finally, in September, as I took a walk around the National Mall and daydreamed about my stories, Beth told me: “I’m sleeping with him.”
I didn’t believe her at first, because it seemed so out there, given what I knew about him. But, she assured me it was true. I believed her. And, I went home and wrote both their first date and the first time he opened up to her about something in his past.
That was in September. It is March. I’ve created 30 characters (including major and periphery), devised each major plot point, and written over 120,000 words (it will be edited). It’s gone through many changes, and will go through many more. All of them, though, follow the same premise: what is it like to be someone who works in service, yet can’t open up and allow others to help her? That premise is currently under the title of Please Give. It’s the first novel I’ve ever come close to completing, and I’m excited to see how it — both the story, and the process of writing it — ends.
I’ll share more of the plot, thoughts on writing I’ve developed during the process, and perhaps some passages over the next several weeks. I am very excited for this project, as I like the characters and really enjoy their interactions. It’s taken up a lot of my thoughts since that fateful walk in September, and I look forward to sharing some of those thoughts with you — once, like Beth, I am ready to do so.
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