Tag Archives: novel

When Your Novel Takes the Steering Wheel

You’ve discovered your greatest idea, worthy of molding into a novel; you’ve named the characters and created an outline; you think you know exactly how things will begin and end, and maybe you even know about all those twists and turns that make up the middle – the bulk of the story, all the really good stuff.

But let’s face it – who really knows exactly where their story will end up? I suppose there are a few, but the majority of writers would say that at some point, their characters took the wheel and made a left when the author had their turn right all planned out.

I began this novel with a lazy version of an outline, which really just consists of the names of the two main characters, their ages, and a measly list of background information. To be honest, it was more to prevent contradicting myself while this thing grows. After all, it’s pretty intimidating to be 100 pages in and about to mention a name, an age, or a date and have to make sure you get it right the second time around. It’s a lot to keep track of. If this thing ever goes to print, I’d hate to get bashed in a review because Angel’s mother died in 1965 in chapter one, but 1967 in chapter 23. Maybe the cream-of-the-crop writers will scoff at my concerns, and maybe it’s just me – but I have a horrible memory for tiny things like numbers, so I have to keep careful watch.

Anyway, as I was typing away last night my novel suddenly whispered in my ear, and told me to go somewhere I hadn’t planned on. Hearing about this whole “book writes itself” thing from a few writing professors in college, I decided to listen to that little voice and let the action swerve a little bit and possibly make an illegal turn.

The result: a little piece of creativity that I am very proud of. There is plenty of editing to be done, of course, but I was left with an interesting twist in the story line – just when I was getting scared that things might be getting boring – that I think others may enjoy, some day.

Once again, NaNoWriMo has been nothing but a huge help to me as a writer. My motivation to write is through the roof, and I’ve managed to push through even the worst of days, when I feel that my creative well has dried up. While my word count is a tiny bit behind (I’m trying not to beat myself up; some days in my life outside of writing have been busier than others), I’ve still managed to reach 103 pages of a novel. It’s rough, but it’s there. Woo hoo!!

How is NaNoWriMo going for everyone else who is participating?

As for those characters who have kicked you out of the driver’s seat: has anyone else experienced this? How did it affect your novel?

I just thought this bookmark was hilarious. Enjoy

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The Animated Author VS. The Negative Novelist

Our relationship with our writing functions just like any other normal relationship: lots of times there’s lovemaking, and sometimes you want to punch your significant other square in the mouth.

 

Yesterday my novel and I had a little tiff. (I’ve discussed our disputes before.) There was no violence involved, no tears; it was more like one of those arguments when you stomp off to opposite ends of the house and ignore each other for a while. She did me wrong, refused to provide me with the word count I needed, and I didn’t want to talk about it. I refused to admit any fault in the situation.

But this morning I came to terms with what I’d done and it was time to make up. So I opened her up and stroked the keys for a while. (I won’t go much further with that, some things are personal, you know?)

Long story short, we made up. Two hours later we were both left satisfied; my word count grew larger by the minute and she dropped into new pages, expanding to – wait a minute! 

Get your minds out of the gutter! I’m talking about writing here, people. The only magic being made here is on my Microsoft Word document. Sheesh!

Here’s my point: I experienced that little pocket of defeat that every writer, every artist, athlete, whatever, trips and falls into once in a while. But we all must remember how to take the good with the bad, and turn those frowns into big ol’ smiles with pride for our work. There’s gotta be happy times involved in this whole writing gig, after all – or what’s the point?

I fought my way through the crap and temporary writer’s block to a solid chapter that I’m proud of. Woo hoo!

An itsy bitsy peek at what’s goin’ on, if you find yourself interested:

My other experiences had all felt hollow. I’d gone through the motions of touch and sex for some other gratification, usually in the form of money or another necessity. Jessie filled me up when I was empty, and helped me stretch my dreams beyond a small apartment and an ignorant sibling. With him, time became elastic; I bounced between then and now and whatever could be. I ran my fingers along his spine and felt him throb against my thigh. All of my better judgment tumbled into the unknown. Suddenly my heart and mouth went to work before my brain, and the dreaded “I love you” escaped the tip of my tongue before I had time to swallow the words.

Jessie froze, still hovering in midair above me. I shrunk beneath him, searching for any reasonable escape from the confines of his arms that flanked my own. When all else failed, I laughed. I laughed long and hard, grabbing at my stomach to prevent it from ripping at the seams. It proved contagious, and soon he had the same strong breaths convulsing their way out of his lungs and into the ungraceful atmosphere.

“Let’s rewind,” I said.

“I think I can do that.” He flashed me a refreshing grin. I drank it all in.

I expected Malory to explode in a fit of exaggerated nerves, hurling questions at me like a slingshot; but the moment I’d admitted out loud the reality of what had happened, I felt an imaginary weight lifted from my shoulders. I held no actual guilt for doing away with the asshole, but it felt good to tell someone.

Malory was surprisingly calm, and casually took two cigarettes from her pocketbook. She put both to her lips and lit them. She passed me one and looked around us before turning in my direction.

“We’re more alike than you think, Angel.” The irritating shrill of her voice was gone. Now she sounded calm, sensual, in no rush. I stared at the prissy, naïve school girl in front of me and questioned who I thought she was. I’d always considered myself good at reading people, of seeing who they really were, past the materialistic crap. But time and time again I was proven wrong.

 

Back to my NaNoWriMo-ing.

 

 

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Sometimes, my novel hurts me.

“Writing a novel is like making love, but it’s also like having a tooth pulled. Pleasure and pain. Sometimes it’s like making love while having a tooth pulled.”

Dean Koontz

Mr. Koontz hit the nail on the head with that one. With day 3 of NaNoWriMo breathing down my neck this morning, I put on my slippers, made myself some breakfast, and headed for the computer, feeling refreshed and ready to bang out a hefty word count. While I did get some work done (my word count has now reached 5,086!) I had to keep brushing away that feeling that crept its way up my spine and made my hands sweat: I was slowly approaching a brick wall. The anxiety managed to distract me away from the task at hand, but only for a few moments – you know, updating my Twitter status, sifting through some blogs, scanning the Facebook news feed. But I quickly shook the fear from my mind and kept on goin’. So – according to my NaNoWriMo “Stats” – I am on track to reaching 50,000 words by November 30th. This is good.

Every word that makes its way from my head to the keyboard to the virtual page is another step towards a finished first draft. This serves as my reminder, when I’m questioning why I stay in this abusive relationship. My novel may beat on me at times, but she makes me so happy! I swear! Maybe if I’d pay her more attention, she wouldn’t do these things to me.

“It’s not you, it’s me.” That’s what I tell her.

It’s only day 3, and I already owe NaNoWriMo and the thousands that are ripping their hair out along with me this month a huge “thank you” for the motivation you don’t even know you’re feeding me. Here’s hoping we each come out of the tunnel on the 30th with a first draft.

In the wise words of Dori the fish, even when times get hard:

Just keep swimming!

New vow: I will post about something other than NaNoWriMo this month. But it’s sort of hard to think about anything else during a month of “literary abandon”, is it not?

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How do you flesh out a murderous, drug-addicted, overprotective stripper in 1985? I’ll tell you how.

In this story, the hair doesn't matter.

Or at least, I’ll try. Angel Vasco is 25; young, hot, can have any man she wants and knows it. It’s 1985 in Queens: sex, drugs and rock & roll, baby.

Angel lives in a cramped apartment with her sister, Sarah: 23, naive, already defeated. Angel and Sarah lost their mother as children, and were forced to care for themselves when his wife’s death emotionally disconnected their father. Sarah allows a long line of boyfriends to take turns beating up on her, and even Angel isn’t able to knock some sense into her sister’s head, so instead she ignores the problem.

Until something happens that almost wipes away Angel’s former identity as a female powerhouse. After a performance at Angel’s club, Half Moon, an admirer enters her dressing room, and refuses to leave until he gets what he wants.

(Excerpt)

“I’m gonna head home.”

I stood up, somewhat uneasy now, pulling everything into my arms as quickly as I could. He had moved to the doorway, and when I looked into his face the features had changed. His green eyes were muddy, and his lips had thinned and lengthened across his face. A layer of sweat glistened between his eyebrows and an erection throbbed against his zipper.

“I said I have to go.”

I attempted authority, raising my chin to the air, but I could feel the walls tightening around me. No one had ever tried to follow me back to the dressing room, but the men who took to the other girls were always nervous or eager, pathetic – middle-aged and grey-haired, smoking a cigar to look important. This man had a messy confidence, and a stone face that never doubted he would get what he wanted.

I tried to squeeze under one of his arms that blocked my exit, but he lowered it against my breasts and I felt its strength against my own weight.

“I don’t think so. I haven’t gotten my money’s worth yet.”

Angel is traumatized by the incident, and almost loses herself in the aftermath. But she quickly bounces back, and has one thing on her mind: revenge.

This is a very quick look into what I am working on, to hopefully gather more interest and motivation towards finishing. Let me know what you think, and if you’d like to know more!

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In progress.

A quick excerpt of my most recent writing. This week, I may send my first two chapters to a New York publishing company. Keep your fingers crossed. Is this worth a read? I hope so. Feedback, anyone?

 

“Angel, how the hell are we supposed to get out of the front door without anyone seeing us? Aren’t they going to wonder what the fuck we’re putting in my trunk? It’s pretty damn obvious there’s a head and a pair of legs in there. I can’t believe I’m doing this.” He leaned against the sink where the condom wrapper still sat. I grabbed it and threw it in the trash.

“We’ll go out the back way. Just pull the car around. Listen, I’m scared too. I can’t believe this is happening. I can’t thank you enough for helping me, Hugh.” I put a hand on his shoulder and tried to find a crack in my voice. “You know I’m not a violent person. I never would have wanted things to turn out this way.”

I was sixteen when I had my first boyfriend. I had already been sleeping with Mr. Paoli for nine months, but I knew it wasn’t love; only lust. I agreed to slip into his bed each night and he agreed to buy my friends and me anything we wanted; he thought blackmail was a more reasonable sentence than jail time.

Charlie sat next to me in math class that year, and had started dropping his pencil near my desk just so I would lean over and pick it up. While the other girls were sporting the modest seventies fashions their mothers forced on them, my breasts spilled over tube tops and out of push-up bras I bought with Mr. Paoli’s money.

“Hi Angel.”

Charlie stopped me at my locker one afternoon, his left hand fingering the lock while he stuttered and tried not to stare at my chest.

“Wou-would you like to hang out with me? To-tonight, maybe?”

I giggled and put a hand on his shoulder. He was shaking.

“Yes, Charlie. I would love to.” I winked and his mouth broke into a crooked smile. “My place or yours?”

I gave Charlie my address and told him to look for light from the candle I’d put by my bedroom window. That night he arrived ten minutes early, knocking loudly on the pane glass. I warned him to be quiet as he slipped into the room.

“What now?” He barely had both feet on the floor. I sighed and reached one hand around to my back, unclasping my bra.

“Let’s get to the point, Charlie.”

I listened for the rough idling of Hugh’s 1975 station wagon and imagined that the dark wooden paneling was one of the reasons he never took any women home. A thin ray of light crept through the single fogged window of the men’s room, bouncing off the trash bag that concealed Steve’s legs and feet. The light began to warm my scalp and a sudden wave of exhaustion swayed me into the sink. I hadn’t slept in more than a day.

“Pst – Angel! Hurry up, I’m out back.” Hugh’s whisper came from the other side of the window, startling me back into the moment.

I looked at the dark heap on the floor then back at the window. “Jesus, I could use some help, Hugh.”I heard him shuffle over the gravel toward the bar’s back door.

“Sorry” he mumbled, as he reentered the bathroom.

Minutes later Steve was in the trunk, Hugh was sweating behind the wheel and I was lighting a cigarette with the early morning wind combing through my hair. We decided to drive to a nearby construction site, where a new apartment complex catering to couples 55 and over was in early production. Miles of dirt and areas of hollowed earth lay before us, still quiet before the start of the work day. We parked by a sagging fence and I scanned the landscape, using my hand to block the sun from my eyes. Hugh rested his forehead against the steering wheel.

“There.” I pressed my index finger against the windshield and pointed towards a ditch by one of the new apartments, likely to be filled in and built upon soon. “And let’s hurry up. It’s nearly seven.”

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Do I look like a professional?

Maybe not. But I DEFINITELY look like an anime character. Sailor Moon?

I have a portfolio (resume, writing samples, the works). I have business cards ready for pick-up. I’M READY TO GET A JOB!

I have recently been promoted to bartender at work. On my last day of training, I waited on Phillies player Roy Oswalt and didn’t even know it. (On television, you only ever see them from the nose down. How should I know what the man looks like?) I heard he came in the next day, too; I bet he was only looking forward to finding me and my ability to make a mean Arnold Palmer, but alas, I was not there. As bartender I get to crack open root-beers and real beers and gluten-free beers and make dozens of margaritas (and Arnold Palmers). So far, I dig it.

On July 17th I’ll be getting “down and dirty” with some co-workers in the Merrell Mud Run in Fairmount Park. I’m excited, nervous, considering the early preparation of my will…but above all, excited. If I make it through the 6 miles of obstacles and mud pits alive, I plan on rewarding myself with the largest peanut-butter milkshake money can buy.

At the moment, I am shifting between this blog entry and an attempt at banging out a few paragraphs. So while I contemplate my next move, I’ll compile a short list of things to avoid while attempting to write a novel; or short-story, or memoir, or whatever.

Things all writers should avoid if they have any fighting chance of writing more than one paragraph of solid work a week:

1) While writing, log out of Facebook. Do not tweet (or whatever they call it). Turn your phone off. Log out of your email. Avoid everything that I am doing at this exact moment.

2) While a glass of wine or a beer is sometimes helpful, don’t get sloshed. Sure, I’ve had a lot of good ideas swirl around in my head while under the influence…but I almost always chose a shot over a keyboard.

3) Even if you’re not sure about it, write it. Get it down. Get it all out. Go back later and edit. Don’t stare at the screen or the paper waiting for something brilliant to present itself. It doesn’t work that way. I’m sure even Hemingway threw away a few drafts.

4) Don’t get distracted with trying to choose a title, when you could be spending that time writing any type of piece that will actually be worth giving a title to. (I really, really wish I could find a title.)

5) Write every single day. Even if for a few minutes at a time. Don’t let sleep, work, alcohol, family, your dog, or that favor you were supposed to do for your best friend get in the way.

Now if only I could follow my own rules a little more strictly.

Eat, sleep, write. Let’s do this.

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Work, work, beer, work, write.

The order of those things should probably be a little different. Write, work…beer?…work. Something like that. Sometimes “write” and “beer” can join forces.

While I am completely aware that my parents are proud of my accomplishments thus far – proud enough to post my next handful of missions in life on Facebook – any talk of my plan terrifies me. I feel it’s going to jinx me in some way; if everyone keeps quiet, ten years from now I could be be nursing a cramping hand after signing the 100th copy of my latest novel, chai tea by my side, posted by a hardback display of my head shot in a Barnes & Noble. Oh, and I’d be wearing glasses and a scarf. The accessories of an intelligent novelist, of course.

BUT!

If friends and family continue to receive a play-by-play of the career I don’t even have yet….I’m doomed. I’m hopeless. I’ll still be waiting tables and paying to put my own shitty book on the shelves. Now I realize how stupid this sounds, but I am superstitious about these things. Hmph.
For a writer with serious A.D.D., short stories have always been my preference. However, after taking a course called Writing the Novel in my last semester, I tested the waters of writing something a tad more lengthy. Seven chapters and about 40 pages later, I’m pretty damn proud of how far I’ve come. Of course since graduating and not having a professor and five of my peers breathing down my neck to get the latest chapter completed, my progress has slowed a bit. I’m hoping to take a writing workshop this summer that will keep my level of motivation high.

I have not yet come up with any sort of title, something that was always one of my favorite parts of writing a new piece. But somehow, I feel that makes me more serious about this one. Hm. It’s sort of a horror-crime-murder-mystery (horror is my strong point), taking place in 1985. I thought writing in the 80s would be a good challenge for me, and I love the clothing and music of the era, of course. Who doesn’t enjoy big hair and acid-wash jeans? Anyway….

The time is 1985. Summer. Queens. Angel Vasco lives in the usually quiet neighborhood of Southside with her sister, Sarah Vasco. Angel dances at Half Moon Nightclub, located in the noisier Northside. Angel is strong, fairly intelligent, and uses her sexuality to get what she wants. Sarah is the weaker of the two sisters: quiet, very much a push-over, goes through a string of abusive relationships that worries Angel. After Angel is raped by a man that confronts her in her dressing room after a show, she gives in to anger and revenge that gives birth to a rather bloody series of events.

Publish-worthy? I sure hope so.

There is a bit more to the story that I hope to execute well: the relationship Angel had with her late mother, the strains on the relationship between Angel and Sarah, how their father abandoned them after their mother passed away. Aside from a story about murder, it is a story about self-discovery and family.

Sneak-peak:

Before the ground had settled around a small headstone that read “Mary Ann Vasco 1930 – 1965”, our father was already miles away from us, drowning in vodka and reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Over the next thirteen years, our conversations were scattered, as he sank into the dip in his armchair and I was forced to teach Sarah (and myself) how to do homework and tie shoelaces, our father only providing us with the necessities of food and shelter. We were suffocated with small mumbles and goodbyes until on my 18th birthday, he left. That’s the day my skin hardened and I shoved the card and whatever bullshit explanation he had left into the trash without ever opening it.

Now, as I stood before my broken sister, I blamed myself for shielding her during those years instead of throwing her straight into the storm. I had developed a protective shell – she lay exposed and constantly defenseless.

I let out a long breath and went back to my room, once again digging through the pile of delicates in the corner, finally pulling out a thin elastic band covered in a mesh of black lace. I pulled on a pair of Levis and a blue sweater that hung off one shoulder, Sarah silent now in the next room. I stuffed the garters into a leather u-shaped pocketbook embellished with stringy fringe and grabbed another bag filled with makeup and perfumes; I mumbled a goodbye as I made my way down the hall, grabbing a bottle of Evian before loudly making my way out the front door and down three flights of hot stairs to the street.

I knew Sarah would never tell me who gave her the bruise; she would wear sunglasses in the market and call out of work, tell people she slipped climbing out of the tub. After our father left Sarah and I were forced out of our small home in a somewhat clean suburb of New York. We moved into a smaller apartment in Queens and she crumbled.
Comments? Anything? Is this thing on?

If you’re stuck in New Jersey as I am, be careful in the heat. You  know it’s bad when the weather application on your phone shows a little cactus next to Wednesday and Thursday. Ugh.

Angel Vasco’s theme song.

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