A Work in Progress

As many of you know, I’ve been hounding away at my NaNoWriMo novel and I’ve been sharing my progress in a series of posts in the books section of the Huffington Post. Some of you have been asking if I will let you read the story when it is done (and I will), but I thought, why not share some excerpts with you now?! This story has been so fun to write and although I’m behind on the word count (I’ve always been a procrastinator), I’m farther along than I ever have been in previous years. 11,365 words and counting. I have a clear idea of where I want to go with the story, but it has taken some interesting turns in the meantime. Below are some excerpts that I’ve pulled from what I’m writing. Let me know what you think!

Excerpt #1Jocelyn, the maid of the main character Laurel Cornwallis, is getting ready for work.

Crying is for babies, and a woman who escaped from El Salvador at fifteen years old to give her six month old son a better life was not a baby. A woman who reared two children all on her own while working three jobs and living in government subsidized housing alongside scores of other families who were simply trying to make it, was not a baby. Still, she thought of her mother and what her mother would think about this apartment and the fact that she had no control over her two children. And it broke her. Jocelyn was half tempted to pour herself a vodka cranberry, or a Cape Codder as the local folks called it, and lay flat on her couch until she fell asleep, but that’s not what she was raised to do. Besides, it was her day to clean the Cornwallis home on Beacon Hill.

Excerpt #2–At the Cornwallis home in Beacon Hill, Jocelyn starts her work.

Jocelyn always started with the dusting of the shelves in the bedroom. She liked to take her time and examine the photographs and the book titles of the musty books that sat on the shelves frozen in times. Some of the words in the titles were hard for her to pronounce, but sometimes she practiced saying the unfamiliar words out loud as she dusted and mopped. Prejudice. Ecstasy. Persuasion. Wuthering. What was a wuthering, she often wondered. She’d have to remember to ask Mrs. Cornwallis one of these days.

Excerpt #3–Laurel (Nee McIntyre) is vacationing in the South of France on a school holiday with her parents at their summer home, during her university days.

It was to be expected that both Mr. and Mrs. McIntyre were already gone from the flat when Laurel awoke that morning. Some family vacation this was. She had stopped relying on her parents for companionship from pretty much the beginning of her conscious life, but since she had taken the time to allot time for them during her break from university, she expected them to make it worth her while. She probably should have just gone to Barcelona with the girls like they had begged her, but she wanted to attempt to create some positive family memories before it was a completely lost cause.

Excerpt #4–Laurel and French friend Nathalie are having a snack out in town and this man comes up to eat at the table next to him. They hardly pay attention to him.

Meanwhile, the gentleman sat at the table pondering over what to order. His French was pretty much non-existent, with the exception of a few medical terms he had picked up along the way, so it was difficult for him to decide what to order. He lacked the basic French vocabulary that most people pick up in grammar school. Un croque monsieur was not even something he could recall. He settled upon a cheese plate, because he recognized words like “brie” and “gouda” and everyone knew what fromage was. Given his stature, you’d assume someone like Anthony Newell Cornwallis the third would speak impeccable French, but actually he was fluent in Latin and Italian. French had not been on the menu at his exquisite prep school in Massachusetts.

When the waitress came to take his order, he was unable to decipher the classic French phrases that any beginner level French speaker could understand and then assume that had mastered the language simply because they knew how to speak to a waitress at a French restaurant. The old “vous avez choissiez?” followed with a “c’est tout? Parfait.” And if she was feeling hospitable, maybe a little, “Encore de l’eau, monsieur?” He bumbled through his order and she smiled and poured him more water and then brought him a glass of wine.

Excerpt #5–Anthony Cornwallis is reflecting upon the last night he spent with his girlfriend, Melanie, before leaving for his trip to France with the boys.

Melanie, ever the decorous one, had already returned to her slip and had her hair pinned up into a perfect bun. Anthony, wrapped in the sheets so as not to offend Melanie and her bun, opted instead for a cigarette. He took the liberty of putting some whiskey into their matching snifters and let them sit on the nightstand as he inhaled the smoke from his cigarette. He preferred to smoke something stronger, but there were ladies present. As Anthony was basking in the comfort of his silk sheets against his raw skin and the rhythm of inhaling his cigarette, Melanie sat with her back straight up like a cat’s leaning against the bedpost. She was so stiff, that Anthony was pretty certain she didn’t even need the bedpost to keep her upright. He wanted to reach out to her, to put his hand against her cheek, to run it through the back of her hair, but her hair was already tied into a rigid bun. He knew this wasn’t the woman for him, but she would make a dutiful wife and an effective mother. Wasn’t that all he needed? He was a medical student, after all, and he would be bringing home all of the bacon and some more to grow on.

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6 thoughts on “A Work in Progress”

  1. Looks like you have a very solid start in terms of plot and character development. Good job on that, as well as surpassing your previous max word count.

    I’ve got a number of suggestions on style, etc. Please take these suggestions in good faith as they are meant to be helpful and supportive.

    -Be careful in regards to run on sentences (see: Excerpt #1).
    -Be careful of word repetition, such as “the book titles of the musty books that sat…”. You only need the word “book” once in that sentence. In Excerpt #4 the word “french” shows up too many times.
    -Destroy all examples of “pretty much”! For example, “His French was pretty much non-existent”. It was was simply non-existent or his French was fractured and inadequate. Every instance of “pretty much” is where something stronger and more definite needs to go.

    I think you have a fantastic thing going here. Stay with it!

    1. Thanks so much for your feedback! It is greatly appreciated and part of the reason I posted was to get such feedback. After November is over, I’m hoping to make serious edits as this is a story I actually enjoy working with. I have to get “pretty much” out of my vocabulary!

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