Novel Writing: A Day in the Life



Last year, after successfully completing three novels of varying word counts and subject matter (and genre), I got the crazy idea that I was ready for a challenge. So, I came to the ridiculous conclusion that I would take an experimental track with the environmental mystery I am writing. Rather than writing this story in a linear fashion in which one guy and one girl meet the environmental frailties of this world head-on, solve the problem, save the day, and fall in love in the process, I decided I needed something HARDER. So, I thought I'd pattern my book after the movie Crash, in which alternating characters tell the parallel stories of various casts of characters, all unknowingly involved in the same scenario. For me, this means different characters get their own chapters. There are no connecting thoughts or sequential elements. Every new chapter just picks up on the action, four chapters previous, of that grouping of personalities. Or, as the song I am currently listening to says, "side by side, we're different but the same, it really shouldn't work but it does."


And I believed I could pull this off.

How dumb am I?!


It was kind of fun at first. Really, I am writing multiple first chapters of the same novel, all with different characters in different moments of life. Since I am one of those ridiculous people who LOVE writing first chapters (all the fun of creation, none of the labour of birth), this was excellent fun. Except, at some point I not only needed to make a point -- meaning I needed to pick a point to make, ha! -- I also started to lose track of who had done what when last we met. If writing one middle is hard, well, writing five middles bites.


And so, I was twelve thousand words into this book with absolutely no idea

who was trying to kill who, or why, and after I randomly killed off a Cactus Club hostess just because, I had to come up with some plot-relevant reason that Grace had to die. (That's right, I killed grace. )


So, basically, what I am trying to say, is, I found myself writing a novel in which I, the author, had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT WAS GOING ON. Except, I liked my five casts of characters, and I liked the basic premise I had concocted, so I was pressing on. So, yesterday, I re-read this story cover to cover, and went, oh! That's what I'm trying to say!


Which brings me to today.


As all my non-summer Mondays do, today started with me getting up and driving my daughter to high school. Since I was groggy big-time (Possibly I stayed up until 1:30 watching Season Two of Ozark, on which I was behind), I did a wee Tim Hortons detour, then did a quick bit of yoga to loosen myself up, did last night's dishes (mostly an excuse to watch another Ozark episode), let the dog out to the bathroom, fed the fish, had a shower and washed my hair, cleaned the bathroom, then sat down in front of the computer by eleven.


That's where the day got good.


I'd left the book with community patrol officer, Rory, waiting in the police station to give his official statement about discovering Grace's body. While Rory waits, he muses on his ex-wife, a reporter, and asks himself heavy environmental questions, like, do people really change and if I couldn't even make my marriage to the woman I still love work, how can we expect to co-operate as a species long enough to save our planet? Trust me, in the book, the comparison works. Particularly, since I started today googling quotes by famous people about the environment, then scandalously paraphrasing them and inserting them in places within this chapter. The overall effect is a strengthened point of view from Rory's character. Sweet!


That took me through noon, so I had a working lunch, also known as, the writing was flowing so I didn't stop to eat. So, same chapter, Rory gets called into the detective's office to give his statement, but first they chat. Rory's a good guy, and he's busted up about Grace's death, so the cop takes pity and tells him a bit of history on Grace, and voila! Motive! Then, the cop reveals that Grace and Constance, who runs a contemporary art museum about to open a showing by environmental artist, Matt Collier, (whose work deals with all aspects of oil pipelines, from fiscal realities to environmental catastrophes) are look a-likes. People are picketing the gallery in protest, tension is building, and bam! We have a whole new suspect pool, PLUS, the potential that Constance's life is in jeopardy.


In celebration of Rory's excursion to the police station, I eat a brownie while heating up baked beans. Lilly licks out the bean bowl. She doesn't seem as excited by this meal as she ought to be, but then, it's kind of grotesque. And she definitely missed the best part of lunch.


Rory's work is done for today, but Jen has made it, filthy and wounded, to Matt's house. To the best of her knowledge, the guy with the gun has not followed her. Previously, Jen had almost collapsed into Matt's arms, and it is this reason alone which has him showering with her first thing this afternoon. He is worried she will pass out and drown if he leaves her alone. He doctors her up, and I know she is about to tell him why gun guy is trying to kill her. Which means, I need to figure out what the bad guy wants to cover up. I start Googling.


First, I ask Google to tell me about the history of the oil industry. I learn that the first oil well was in 1747 (or thereabouts) in Russia, but the first DRILLED oil well was in 1847 (or thereabouts) in the United States. The reason this well, called the Drake well, is considered the first oil well, is that it was drilled rather than dug. Okay, I'm following so far. Also, humans have had uses for oil since, well, always. It was the creation of the combustion engine that really spawned the oil industry as she exists today. Ahha! The plot thickens! And, since I am looking for a plotline, this is a good thing. I start randomly clicking links, and scanning whatever pops up, and soon I've learned that last year, Canada was the fourth leading global oil producer, behind the US, the Arab Emigrates, and somewhere else which right now I forget. We are in front of China, who is number five on the list.


However, when I start clicking on links that might provide some sort of solution for a fossil fuel empty planet, I learn, to my surprise, that China is the number one producer of solar energy. The United States is number four on the list. Great Britain makes the top ten, which I find humorous considering the two things needed for solar production (according to today's readings) are sunshine and space -- as in empty landmass. The CONTINENT of Africa also makes the list, which seems obvious, as do Russia and a bunch of Arab countries. Canada, who has plenty of landmass and also sunshine, does not even make the list. I blame Alberta. I also think, emissions reduction? What emissions reduction!


I kind of fall down a rabbit hole of solar energy wish list making for a bit. If, I think to myself, I won the lottery, I would add solar panels to my place! Which is not true, as my place has a flat roof and a small yard. The truth is, if I win the lottery, this place goes on the market the next day, and I buy an apartment on Main Street in Peachland which I will live in summers only, and I buy something nice, but not so big that I have to spend all my time cleaning, for Sheena and I to live in together until she graduates. That house, I decide, will have solar panels.


At this point, I figure it is about time to check in with my social media sponsors, and I do a brief scan, randomly hit like a couple times, change playlists on my iPhone, then create a quick post about solar energy just so people will know I am still working, and I share it between both my Facebook pages.


I zip off a quick text to my kid, who apparently doesn't need a ride until 4:30, so, sweet, back to Jen and Matt I go. By now, Matt has Jen in his bed and he is doctoring her wounds, which is sweet, except there is a lot of unresolved tension between them from their breakup last year. Matt might be sleeping with other woman, but he's no more over Jen than she is over him. At his request, she tells him what she knows about who is after her and why, but you and I can't go there, or there will be no reason for you to read this book.


Right before I head out to pick up Sheena, I do a quick word count, and realize I've surpassed my 3000 word goal for today. Yeah! Since it is now almost 5 pm and I haven't even begun to think about dinner, I let Sheena talk me into McDonald's, and it's a Chicken Jr meal for her, fish fillet solo for me. She disappears into her room saying something about homework, and I head back to novel land to finish off a few details with Jen and Matt, and determine the game plan for tomorrow. That looks a lot like beginning a new chapter, in which Constance is feeling irritated that Chad still looks hot despite both of them attending the late night alarm call at the gallery. She might be totally bagged, but he looks so good that all she can think about is kissing him again. And then Sam asks her is she heard about the murder, which she hasn't, and then I hit Save Document, and shut the file. 4000 word day. This is how we do it, baby.


At eight, I call my mother to check in on her day, but we are pretty caught up on each other's lives, so the call is brief. And then I start this blog, and I discover my smarty pants narrative voice is alive and well. It's hard, some days, to predict which narrative voice is going to rise to power on any given day., so I've learned to value all the voices inside my head.


It's now shortly after nine. I hear Sheena's music from her room, and I am headed there to pound on her door and offer her the pleasure of my company. Then, I am going to work out while watching another Ozark episode.


And that, friends, is a day in the life of a novelist. Possibly not the healthiest day, but undeniably productive, and really, isn't that what truly matters? :)


Tomorrow, I was thinking maybe I'd take this show on the road, make time for a swim then work out of some coffee house somewhere. Also, tomorrow, there will be vegetables. This is the promise I make to me.


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