Tag Archives: WIP

I’ve Been Hearing the Voices Again or Thank You Chuck Palahniuk‏

I’ve been MIA. I was somewhere between writer’s block, HitList revisions and [The Next Thing], which up until Sunday was nothing but white noise. I wanted, I needed, I swore to finish HitList but instead I found myself shuffling words around the pages of my manuscript, composing imaginary emails to my editor and having mental arguments with the literary agent who gave me a lengthy, encouraging, kind-but-firm rejection letter.

LITERARY AGENT: In your book, I didn’t find the voices of your three narrators sufficiently distinct.

ME: But they are. I can prove it to you. I Write Like says so. Ahem. Well at least two-thirds of the time it does.

YOU: Okay… Well. Whatever. But what does this have to do with Chuck Palahniuk?

The website—I Write Like. They have an online form that matches your word choice and writing style with famous authors. I clicked-dragged-copied-dropped each and every chapter from HitList into it, to see which author each character sounded like. And for whatever reason, one protagonist continually came up as Chuck Palahniuk.

I’d never read his books and if you’re a fan, I apologize for this shortcoming. Here’s why: I haven’t been reading much lately. Not since I started writing. Well, since I had kids. Okay, okay, I haven’t been reading at all—but it makes me feel terminally insecure and what can I say, I’ve been occupied watching my daughter’s Pocahontas DVD for the past three years.

But Sunday I went out and bought Damned, just to hear Mr. Palahniuk’s voice. And let me say that while I don’t possess the man’s biting wit, delicious timing, full-throttle-rhythm or a fraction of his talent–if you put that aside for a second–I can write exactly like him. Well… we both write in English.

What I didn’t expect to happen was that reading his book would be mental Drano, creative WD-40, effectively pulling a thumb from the dike of my imagination. They started talking again—my narrators. They had a lot to say and there were more voices, and more stories too, so much so that I can’t possibly keep up. But despite the chaos of all that chatter, I now have the clarity I need: I know what I must do to put the final tweaks and polish on HitList.

I can’t say what it was about the book that did it for me. Damned has little in common with HitList, aside from a rainbow spectrum of messed-up teenagers. Maybe it was the book, or his protagonist, or perhaps it was only the unapologetic sound of Chuck Palahniuk’s voice. So, if you’re face-down in a stagnant pool of creativity, or hopelessly bogged in a mire of revision, there may be other ways to unstick your stuck. Or, you could always try Chuck.

The Next Morning, The Beast Was Still There

“I was thinking we could just call it good, I wrote your story,” I said. 1,100 words — a short story. It wasn’t bad… still it was a relief to have it done.

He made a gurgling, phlegmy sound which might have been a laugh. “We haven’t even gotten started, sweetheart,” he said.

I did not have to take this — this was my house, my mind, and I would write what I wanted to — I had to draw the line somewhere. “Look, I don’t write that kind of crap. I’m doing Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows. Get out of my house.”

“No,” he said and narrowed his eyes at me. “I’m not leaving until you write me.”

“But… no one is going to like me.”

“Not my problem. Your job is to write me. We’re wasting time.”

His feet were propped on the coffee table and as I tried to shove them off I saw the pile of glitter. Pink glitter. “What did you do to Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows?” I hadn’t seen my old book since the day he showed up.

“Haven’t seen her,” he said and patted his stomach.


This was ten days ago and The Beast has since grown to a timeline, a plot outline, pages and pages of character worksheets and 8,000 words of manuscript. I’m hoping if I do as he says, we can get this over with.

The Beast

I have a new WIP – aka Work In Progress. It is not the book I carefully plotted and planned to write.

img_9579.jpgThis book is a beast that shoved my planned book aside … or possibly ate it. I’m not sure.

When I woke up, it was sitting in my family room, smoking a cigarette and tapping ashes on the carpet.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I’m your new book,” the Beast said.

“We don’t smoke in the house.”

He exhaled a thick cloud at me. I looked him up and down — the bad skin, the folds of flesh, the greasy hair. He burped or maybe farted, I wasn’t sure which.

“You’re hideous,” I said.

He grinned, revealing a mouthful of jagged yellow teeth. “You’re stalling. Get busy. I’ve got alot to say.”

I shook my head. Maybe he would settle for a short story. I sat down and began to take dictation.

To be continued…