For Whom the Bell Tolls


Paula’s Post #16 – I hope you welcomed the New Year in with style and enjoyed this holiday season in the company of family and friends.

But the holidays are over.

A ‘New Year’ is here.

And a ‘New Year’ traditionally means new beginnings. New beginnings are always welcome, aren’t they? The proverbial fresh start. In fact, were we not already in the home stretch of this 5writers challenge, perhaps more than a few of this illustrious group might welcome the opportunity of a ‘New Year’ to chuck our current manuscript and run, run, run, run towards a brand new project.

Have you ever done that? Given up half way through a first or second draft of a novel? I have. Some of those manuscripts deserved it. Others, who knows? Maybe I just gave up too soon. Maybe I’ll come back and drag the deserving survivors out from under the bed sometime. But this year, the only thing we 5writers will be chucking is our old writing schedules.

I’m sorry, but let’s face facts. It’s time for some more arithmetic. Silk wrote a lovely little post on this very subject back in September, back when we were fresh out of the starting gate. Silk cautioned us that ‘arithmetic tells the truth’.

So, since this is New Year’s Eve, and I’m stealing minutes away from a fractious two-year old who deserves to have ‘Nana’ standing up beside her, dancing the night away with Justin Bieber and his bright red high tops as the clock tick’s down to midnight, I’m going to borrow a big chunk of this post from Silk’s September 24th post. I hope she won’t mind. I’ll even save you the trouble of looking it up. Silk wrote:

So what truth does arithmetic have to tell to writers?

Well, in the case of the crazy group who launched this 5 Writers 5 Novels 5 Months challenge, and those who follow us, here’s the arithmetic:

  • The 5 months between September 5, 2012 and February 5, 2012 span a total of 153 days.
  • While some of us 5 writers may already have put some actual words on the page, others (including myself) have been busy clearing our desks and figuring out how to get a successful blog up and running, so that as of today (September 21), we have 137 days to get the job done from a standing start. Okay, not “we” … me.
  • But wait … do I really have 137 days? Of course not. There are at least 8 “holidays” over that period, including my Halloween birthday and my 44th wedding anniversary, when I am not likely to write a word … leaving 129 days.
  • I also have just a few other commitments … an 11-day trip to Boston to see old friends, a visit with my nonagenarian mother-in-law in California, 4 days at theSurrey International Writer’s Conference, and an actual paying non-fiction writing gig for the University of Victoria … so the nice, round number I think makes more arithmetical sense is 100 days of writing time.
  • Yikes!

Here’s where the buoyant bubble of optimism, inspiration and hope comes into play. I have 100 days to write, say, 100,000 words. What are the chances of that happening?


No 100 days left now,. Nope! That was back in September, with a lot of time off built in for good (or bad?) behaviour. I was never a math wiz, but the closer we get to February 5th, the easier the math gets.

“Thirty days have September, April June and November, all the rest have Thirty-One.”

Thank goodness for that. According to the little ditty above, in the 5 months of this 5writers challenge,  we’ve only been robbed in one of the aforesaid months, to wit: November. My November was a write off anyway, a busy month filled with birthdays, house-guests, professional conferences and travel. (Don’t even ask about December!) But let’s look on the bright side.  At least December had 31 days. though you wouldn’t know it judging from the super sonic speed by which it roared past us.

But back to the math.


January is a 31 day month. Our challenge runs until February 5th.

31 + 5 + 36

See? the arithmetic is getting easier. It’s only our challenge that is getting harder. With apologies to Ernest Hemingway and John Donne, I’ve done the math. I know for whom the bell tolls and it tolls for… me!

Hemingway helped to make this phrase commonplace in his Spanish Civil War novel. In his story, Hemingway meant  the phrase ‘for whom the bells tolls’ to illustrate that ‘no man is an island’. He emphasized the solidarity between the disparate allied groups fighting together against fascism.

But scholars generally attribute the origins of the phrase to a work by John Donne wherein the 17th C poet explored the interconnectedness of humanity.

john donne

No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

In some way, the philosophy behind the phrase is surprisingly appropriate for the unique individuals who collectively comprise the 5writers. We are not working in isolation. We communicate with one another. We communicate with our followers. On the 5writers website, we share our problems, our progress and our triumphs. We get valuable feedback and encouragement from our readers and from the comments you leave here for us.

Thank you. Your support means a lot to us.

Writing can be lonely, but we’ve used various devices to make it less so. (Thank you internet, whomever invented you). In addition to this blog, we 5writers also communicate privately in a special forum set up for that purpose. Sometimes we go silent for days, like Helga did for three weeks during her South American Cruise, sometimes one of us runs into a problem and we all throw in our two cents worth in an attempt to solve the problem. Sometimes, we just rant. But the point is, we communicate. We support one another. We cheer each other on!

We’ll I’m here to say enough already. The time for cheering is over!

It’s time to point out the cold hard truth! And if no man is an Island, then that means that the bell tolls not just for ‘me’ but for ‘thee’ and for ‘we’.

From my perspective, that means that the days of cheering us on are over. Now it’s time for spurs that jingle jangle jingle, because we need to be ‘spurred on’ not ‘cheered on’! Ridden hard, whip at the ready, down the home stretch.

36 Days!

This week’s reveal:

Words Written to Date: 48,551 (Up from 42,665 last week).

Target Word Count: 100,000

Words short of Target: 51,449

Pages Written to Date: 174

Target Page Count: 400

Pages Short of Target: 226

Pie’s eaten this week –   I plead ‘the fifth’, or, for our Canadian followers, s7 and s11(c) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

3 thoughts on “For Whom the Bell Tolls

  1. So, here’s another bit of arithmetic – you have less than 3,000 word to get halfway. Go! I have whips, chairs, chains and latex cat suits and am not afraid to use them. Get writing!

  2. Hello Paula – I met you in the Board Room at SFO Airport on Nov 26th on my way home to Seattle from Australia and New Zealand. I’m just preparing a post about all the interesting folks I met that day in the 8 hour period during which my flight was cancelled. You are ONE! If you’re interested, you can see my blog at Such fun to see how you all are doing. Happy New Year! Evelyn Williams

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