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.


Please Excuse Me While I Go Work On My Novel

Don't worry, I'm not writing THIS novel by hand.

It’s that time of year again. Time for NaNoWrimo. For those of you that don’t know about NaNoWrimo (and didn’t read last year’s blog post about it), it is a “contest” where participants spend the month of November writing at 50,000 word novel. The focus of writing a novel in such a short period of time is on quantity over quality.

I’ve flirted with the idea of participating in NaNoWrimo ever since I learned about the competition back in my early college days. I’ve had many attempts, but zero completions (which would, incidentally, make me a terrible quarterback). Writing a novel has always been on my list of things to do ever since I started making lists of things to do. (So is getting a driver’s license, but I’ll save that story for a different post). I wrote one novel in the seventh grade, but that lone novel is getting pretty lonely. Plus, I lost it. It’s time to add another novel to my repertoire.

But, I say that every year. And just like every other year, my dance card is nearly full for the month of November. And am I really going to write on Thanksgiving? During a Green Bay Packers game? Maybe not, but something feels different about this year’s challenge.

So what’s so different about this year? For starters, I actually like my storyline. The words are just flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup. The story practically writes itself. I’d love to tell you all about the plot, but I do have a superstition about giving away a story before I write it. Because that alleviates the need to tell the story!

Another reason I’m going to finish this year is that I’m not getting any younger. I’ve always wanted to write a novel. So now is as good of a time as any other to write it. As my good friend always says to me, “Don’t talk about it, be about it!” So, I’m going to be about it and write this darn novel if it’s the last thing I do. I realize that finishing will take serious Dedication! Sacrifice! and Beer! But, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I WILL FINISH THIS NOVEL!

Finally, this time around, I’m chronicling my NaNoWriMo writing adventures in a series of articles in the book section of the Huffington Post. I volunteered to answer questions about the writing process and the progress of my novel. Each week, my answers will be posted along with the answers of six other writers. That will keep me in check and on track. After all, I don’t want to look like more of a buffoon on the interwebs.

That all being said, I have a lot of work to do. 6046 words down, 43,954 to go. Please excuse me while I go work on my novel.

Write a Novel? No Problem.

As you’ll notice in my “NaNoWriMo 2010” tab, I have signed up to do this year’s NaNoWriMo.  For those of you that don’t know what that is, NaNoWriMo celebrates November as National Novel Writing Month.  During NaNoWrimo, participants are to write a 50,000 word novel.  The goal is output, not quality.  Brave participants do not go it alone as NaNoWrimo has basically arranged itself into a social networking site.  Forums help authors sift through the details of their novels and most regions sponsor write-ins.

I was first introduced to NaNoWriMo as a freshman in college. My hip, artsy dorm neighbor from New York announced that she was going to do NaNoWriMo. When she gave me the details, I was intrigued.  Sadly, my novel was not longer than 5 pages, but ever since that year, NaNoWriMo has plagued my mind.  It has been a life goal of mine to write a novel and I can’t think of a better way to write one than to pound one out.

Speaking of writing novels, I did hand write a novel in the 7th grade.  This one was 154 pages handwritten and it was told through the eyes of Suzanne, a 7th grade girl who was madly in love with her 8th grade boyfriend, Jimmy.  Jimmy lived a life of crime as he was constantly getting suspended from school.  Suzanne and Jimmy had their share of difficult times especially since Suzanne, a straight A student, did not always enjoy being associated with such a troublemaker.  They broke up briefly, but rekindled their romance during a dinner at Pizza Hut followed by a trip to the skating rink.  One day, at the climax of the novel, Jimmy ran away and Suzanne was involved in a search party.  He eventually returned, unharmed.   Meanwhile, Suzanne’s older sister Francesca was always out doing cooler activities like playing high school volleyball and participating in the school play.  I think Suzanne’s mom also had a baby during the novel, but that was virtually insignificant.  Suzanne’s sometimes tumultuous relationship with her ever-changing friends was also a good subplot as was the fact that Jimmy’s cousin, Dawn, moved to their midwestern/east coast town from California.  Dawn was obsessed with her looks and was a closeted anorexic.  While getting ready for the dance, it was obvious that Dawn had never eaten a decent meal in her life.  Originally, I killed off Dawn, but then I decided that it would be better to portray her in a more positive light.  You know, turn her into a role model for middle school girls struggling with image issues.  In the end, everything turns out hunky dory and Suzanne marvels at how much she has changed in the past year and how eighth grade will be even better because she knows how to overcome adversity.

I eventually lost this manuscript, but the important part is that I went through the writing process. I am hoping that I can approach NaNoWriMo with the same passion that I did in the 7th grade when I completed my one and only novel.  I also hope I can find similar success.

One final note, now that I have made my goal public, I am urging you to heckle me, harass me, and maybe even cheer me to the completion of my novel. Thanks in advance!