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Chapter Two–Done?! Not so fast May 18, 2010

Filed under: Fiction book writing — rjlacko @ 11:45 am

This post chronicles the ongoing saga of one work-from-home freelance writer determined to write her first fiction novel, while raising two rambunctious preschoolers.

It was with a great sense of accomplishment that I completed chapter two. I absolutely loved getting in the mind of Mike Hayden, and introducing his thoughts, some of his history, and his pain from the loss of his beloved Camille.

My main character, Treva, was originally supposed to be Mike’s son, but when I sat down to write the story of a father and his two sons, it felt terribly distant from where I wanted to direct the action, and from my own truth. Why would I leave a woman’s perspective out of something I held so dear? Besides, I want to write the kind of story that I would read! The same goes for my intended audience. Not a day goes by that I don’t consider fondly the readers I hope will enjoy my novel.

My husband has openly admitted that he lost much of his interest in my story when Treva took center stage so I was eager to have him read chapter two, because it is Mike’s chapter, “in a man’s words,” so to speak.

He had a number of constructive criticisms. I listened, with the understanding of the story’s complete outline–some things must happen now so that it makes sense later, and I knew which parts I needed to stick up for and which parts were still ripe for reshaping. A story’s beauty is often found in those little seedlings at the beginning which later bloom when the story is fully revealed.

I’m glad I shared it with him, and he had some helpful feedback which I am implementing today. It is extremely valuable (and of utmost importance) to have your work reviewed by a number of experienced writers and editors–and readers. But one’s own spouse can be a tough audience. Or perhaps it’s the criticism that is difficult to receive. Either way, I don’t want my back patted gratuitously, but I do want him to like it.

I’m discovering also that even the best-laid plans leave room for improvement. Like anyone elbows-deep in a story, I think about my characters throughout the day, while in traffic, or while bathing the kids or running errands. As a result, I’m writing additional scenes, and changing the circumstances of my players to increase drama. Next week, I will reorganize all my chapters to include these new revelations, and speed up the action. I know I need to leave a cushion for more inspiration–who knows what new ideas will spring forward as I continue to write?

I’ve created a new blog dedicated to my journey of writing my fiction novel! You can find it at rebeccalacko.wordpress.com

Want to read more about my process of writing Chapter Two?

Fiction Writing Chapter Two: Character Name Crisis!

Fiction Novel Writing, Chapter Two Begins!

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Chapter Two: A New voice and some dashed confidence May 7, 2010

This post chronicles the ongoing saga of one work-from-home freelance writer determined to write her first fiction novel, while raising two rambunctious preschoolers.

My second chapter is such a treat to write because I am speaking in Mike Hayden’s mind–the chapter is his narrative.

I guess that’s kind of odd: what do I know about being a man in his mid-50’s? But, I am enjoying it. And as luck would have it, I have access to a handful of experienced “car guys” in their 50s who I’ve earmarked for future interviews.

When I completed my outline for the book I thought I was so prepared–I have notes on what happens in every chapter, so when I sat down to write the actual story, I (foolishly) thought it would “write itself.”

What I quickly discovered is that if my notes suggest Treva went to get groceries, that only opens the larger can of literary worms: was it a fast trip? do the details of what she bought matter? If I mention a particular food item, why, what relevance does it have? Does she run into someone at the grocery store, who? why? How do her food choices indicate her lifestyle as a single person–does she eat well or does she prefer snacky/microwavable stuff. Sheesh! There’s no hiding from detail, and it would be inexcusable to abandon an opportunity to delve deeper into what makes my character tick.

In Chapter 2, Mike walks into his competitor’s building to complete a weekly transaction. That should be it, right? As I had him enter the building (seeing the action from his perspective in my mind’s eye)  it occurred to me all the thoughts and emotions a person has about the stuff owned by someone we envy, and I had to give his impressions, even though he’s been going there for years. This is unexpected material I never made any notes about! I’m pondering and “watching” the action play out in my imagination as much as I am typing it out; actually more imagining goes on than writing, alas.

I’ll warn you now, Mike Hayden’s no saint. But he is a good and loving man with a lot of talents who is doing his best to make choices that benefit the people he loves, although he makes some mistakes along the way.

Learn more about my novel writing process!:

 

Fiction Writing Chapter Two: Character name crisis! May 6, 2010

This post chronicles the ongoing saga of one work-from-home freelance writer determined to write her first fiction novel, while raising two rambunctious preschoolers.

As I mentioned in Fiction Novel Writing: Chapter Two Begins! my second chapter’s narration springs from the mind of Mike Hayden, Treva’s father and the owner of Hayden Autos, a Southern California used-car dealership boasting mediocre success at best. A man of heart and good intentions, Mike’s hard work over the years have fallen short of his dreams, and now that his beloved wife Camille has passed, he’s becoming just a little bitter. Orange County’s rich just keep getting richer, while Hayden Autos  continues to struggle. When will it be Mike’s turn to shine?

As I dove into the chapter, I introduced Lyle Langley, Mike’s hero, nemesis and competitor. For whatever reason–writer’s intuition?–I Googled the name “Lyle Langley” and was quickly deflated to learn the name Lyle Langley belongs to one rather memorable character from the enormously popular Simpsons show. Remember Marge Vs. the Monorail (1993), when Lyle Langley, played by Phil Hartman, convinces the town of Springfield to construct a monorail? Not coincidentally, there are similarities between The Simpson’s Lyle and mine, which just goes to show how certain traits can become attached to names in our brains.

As we writers and journalists know, resources on the web must be very carefully fact-checked. As I dug deeper, I learned from Wikipedia (not the most reliable source) that Lyle’s last name was in fact Lanley, On Phil Hartman’s IMDB page, the character’s name is listed as Lyle Lanely. TheSimpsons.com doesn’t even mention the character on its Characters page.  However, Google has the most references to Lanley, so I’m guessing that’s the real one.

Even though my character’s name is, after all, original, this event was a total turn-off and sent me back to the baby name origin sites to look for new name ideas. I created a short list of first names to go with Langley:

  • Leonard–“strong as the lion”
  • Logan–“hollow”
  • Lowell–“wolf”
  • Louis–“fame and war”

In order to avoid the same pitfall, I fact-checked all combinations and learned that Leonard Langley is a well-known boxer, and Logan Langley is a popular name for young American men who share a passion for athletics. Considering that my character is in his late 60s, the name Logan would be too youthful. But isn’t it interesting that among the Logan Langleys I found, most were mentioned in various team/sports rankings?

The winning combination and new name for Mike’s nemesis will be Lowell Langley, a name best fitting my character, and apparently the most free to use.

Now, join me in the hunt for the perfect title for my novel!

Vote for your favorite book title!

 

Fiction novel–Vote for your favorite title! April 21, 2010

I am considering a handful of titles for my in-progress fiction novel. Your input is valued! Please vote or suggest your own title!

The story is about an Orange County (Southern California) based family. Beginning the day after the mother’s funeral, the first scene  occurs the family’s car dealership in Capistrano Beach. The father, Mike Hayden, has spent his life trying to make up for his own father’s mistakes, pouring his heart and countless hours into building the family business–without much success. For years, he looked forward to his oldest child, Liam, joining him. At age 25, Liam has made it abundantly clear he wants nothing to do with the dealership. Liam would rather go to culinary school and plan lavish parties, leaving Mike heart-broken. His young daughter Treva, on the other hand, is doing everything she can just to get a foot in the door. Mike knows his business hasn’t amounted to much, and tries to thwart her interest and involvement, but Treva has never taken ’no’ for an answer. She knows she can turn the business around, but more importantly, she wants to finally earn her father’s attention and admiration.

VOTE NOW! (Thank you!)

 

Fiction Novel Writing, Chapter Two begins! April 20, 2010

I am officially 676 words into Chapter Two. (See Fiction Novel Update… Eurphoric Uncertainty) I mention the word count because it seems like an impossibility. I have been working on, ruminating and procrastinating over this chapter for days, and I only have 676 words?! Sure, I’ve read and reread them, updating, finessing, editing and adding to them. But it seems like I should have more to show for it.

The joy of this chapter is that it is about my Impact character, Mike Hayden, father to Treva and Liam Hayden. The chapter is written like the first–one day after the funeral of Mike’s wife Camille. The entire novel is third person, however, the narrative voice complements the character in action.

Since Chapter Two introduces Mike’s journey (it is “his chapter” so to speak), the narrative is in his voice. I’m having so much fun with it! I love writing in Mike’ s voice because it helps me to more fully understand him,breathe life into him, and make his thoughts and actions realistic. To be sure, he isn’t very happy. He’s just lost the love of his life, his brilliant daughter wants to follow in his less-than-spectacular footsteps, and his attached-to-his-mother’s-apronstrings son wants nothing to do with him. To make matters worse, we find him engaged in his least favorite task–bidding on trade-ins at his rival dealership, Langley’s Mile of Cars.

My driving force of my story was originally going to be son Liam. I had chosen a title I was completely staisfied with…until I discovered that the story would be more dynamic from the perspective of Mike and Treva’s relationship. So, I’m left tossing about title ideas again. Here are my top choices–what do you prefer?

  • Leverage
  • Mileage
  • In Good Standing
  • The Family Business
 

Fiction novel writing update – Euphoric uncertainty April 1, 2010

Filed under: Fiction book writing — rjlacko @ 12:51 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I am hitting my head against the wall daily, but I’m SO EXCITED! I love the process of writing my novel, as painful as it all is. (See Fiction novel writing… begins with the first sentence, first word.)

The story is about an Orange County (Southern California) based family. Beginning the day after the mother’s funeral, the first scene  occurs the family’s car dealership in Capistrano Beach. The father, Mike Hayden, has spent his life trying to make up for his own father’s mistakes, pouring his heart and countless hours into building the family business–without much success. For years, he looked forward to his oldest child, Liam, joining him. At age 25, Liam has made it abundantly clear he wants nothing to do with the dealership. Liam would rather go to culinary school and plan lavish parties, leaving Mike heart-broken. His young daughter Treva, on the other hand, is doing everything she can just to get a foot in the door. Mike knows his business hasn’t amounted to much, and tries to thwart her interest and involvement, but Treva has never taken ‘no’ for an answer. She knows she can turn the business around, but more importantly, she wants to finally earn her father’s attention and admiration. 

Today, I spent some time with Steve Turner of Mercedes Benz of Laguna Niguel. With 23 years of experience, Steve was very helpful with providing some preliminary research on the car sales industry and introduced me to a gentleman who began working at his family’s used car dealership when he was five years old. A goldmine interviewee!

I have clearly outlined 35 chapters over five acts. I know when and how my characters will reveal information, when they will triumph, when they will fail, and yet I’m holding them so delicately in my hands, unfolding their stories slowly and thoughtfully. I am trying to pace my scenes so that I’m not too quick (don’t want to overlook important details) but at times I feel like it might be coming off a little “Lifetime” channel, which I don’t want–although that style is very marketable. I just want to avoid being a cheeseball, but also avoid taking myself too seriously. I want it to be energetic and contemporary but maintain intrigue, quality and character development

It’s a bittersweet process, but the more I try to write it, the more satisfaction I get. Of course I am obsessing over every word, and I am certain all of it sucks. But I can’t stop the process and I wouldn’t give it up without a fight! It’s a euphoric uncertainty.

 

Fiction novel writing… begins with the first sentence, first word. March 25, 2010

After five years, I have finally decided to devote my time and attention to the fiction novel idea that has been rattling about in the back of mind. It isn’t the first idea I’ve carried about; I’ve wanted to write a novel since… well, like anyone destined to write, the desire to do begins when first mastering letters. I remember the brownish, lined paper of kindergarten and first grade. Our stories then were only one or two sentences, but we hung them on the frig, we made pictures to accompany them, and if we were lucky, our parents saved them for us to enjoy years later (thanks, mom.)

Over the years, I’ve tried many approaches to novel writing. The novel is an enormous undertaking and I can say from experience the very last thing you want to do is simply sit down and begin to write. A plan, a structured outline is absolutely a must. Over time, the acknowledgement of story structure, the elements of drama and a vision for pace and detail must all be explored and acknowledged. We have to know who our characters are and be honest with them, have them do only the things that are true to them.

So, now I have Dramatica, the most amazing teaching tool ever to be created in the guise of writing software. It is enormously helpful for planning a story and ensuring that storypoints will appear at the right time and place from the perspective of your characters and their activities. It has helped me define who my characters really are, and has helped me to create new ideas for conflict and resolution and has urged me to get to understand my main characters so intimately that I ultimately changed the gender of my protagonist and began the story the day after her mother’s funeral–the very same mother who was not too long ago an important player in my story. Dramatica has helped me to realize she did not have the voice I thought she would. It has helped me to funnel that character’s contribution to another who could better move the plot, alter the course of my characters’ goals and outcomes. Hey, it also helped me figure out where I was getting fantastical and dial it down a little.

At any rate, I’m embarking on Act I, Scene I, and it is a tough climb. I am besieged with doubt. I’m worrying too much about the value of my first scene–I know in the back of my mind it will be the benchmark for my story, the pages most often/likely read by prospective agents and publishers and I am obsessing over every last word and turn of phrase instead of flowing freely, getting these long-held ideas out and free to deliver the story they were meant to. I must cut myself slack–I absolutely know this is the initial draft, that in time I will be poring over it, updating, editing, gathering feedback and criticism and revising, so I need to just let go and have fun. Just in the moments I have written this post, there are already more than 500 words. It should not tax me an hour to create only 100 words in my novel! I’m aiming for about 2,850 words per chapter, and at this point I’ve got 1,176 and a nervous tummy.

To all writers and would-be novelists today, I offer unleashed creative freedom. I offer softness, uninhibited expression. I offer fun. I cannot give these unless I have them myself, so together we will write.