The Power of Slash -Life of a NaNoWriMo Novel

“Kill Words” by Clare Graith – first paragraphs:

I can’t go home. That much I know. I’ll just stay in my car at the Walmart parking lot. If I could just get the phone package open. My hands are shaking. What did he say? “Hang up and go buy a burner phone then call me back.” His words go through my mind over and over. I love his voice. It matches the tone of his blog posts. Strong but approachable. I must be crazy. He only spoke one sentence and then click. Did I make that up?

I resort to using my car key to rip a hole in the package. The phone slides out. As soon as I have it on and the screen lights up, my heart pounds even faster. I need to calm down. I’m not doing anything wrong. I look around half excepting a police officer to come by come and tell me to step out of the car as though using a disposable phone is a crime. I’ve got to get it together. Seriously, all this could be a game; “let’s see what Maisey will do”. Wait, not Maisey, Maeve. I have to remember my blog name. I’ll play along for now. I make the call.

            He picks up at the first ring. “Hi Maeve. Sorry about this.”

            “What’s going on Tyler?” I surprise myself with a demanding tone. But that’s right Maeve would be that way. “Why can’t we talk on our regular phones?”

            “The people I work for. I think they’re monitoring my phone and my email.”

            “But you work for the library, right?”

            “The library is my cover job.”

The new beginning was created by chopping the entire first three chapters, picking the story up right before Maisey’s life spirals out of control. The previous beginnings are below. I think its getting better. Who wants to bet that I’ll have another post with further revisions? Anyone want to see more?

I hope sharing the progression of the beginning of my novel, gives someone out there the courage to try slashing. It can transform the beginning from “meh” to “yeah”.

Write On! Slash on! Be free from the page already written!

Read about Tyler’s backstory at

The previous Beginning read like this:

Lying on my bed, staring up at the swirly pattern on the ceiling of my childhood room, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need a blog. I need a place where I can be me, not the me that everyone thinks I am. The me I know I am. I’ll be called Maeve. That’s a good, solid sounding name. Better than Maisey. Not that Maisey is a bad name, it’s just that it’s grandma Gertie’s middle name and Grandma Gertie was incredible. Widowed with ten kids at thirty, she built a business making children’s cloths. What am I building? Not even immunity, I catch a cold every other month chasing after kids as a teacher’s aide.

This kind of thinking is what happens on fall break. Give me some time and I see my life for what it is. I see clearly, I’ve bought into the lie that working hard, getting a degree with high honors means I’m destined for success. My mother was a five-time winner of the Midwest teacher of the Year award. Yet what kind of job do I land? One that does not even require a college degree; ‘preferred but not required’ to be exact.

A blog will not solve all my problems, but it won’t add to them.

This was the version before:

I’m named after my grandmother, Gertrude Maisey Warner. But I don’t have her first name, I’m called Maisey. The truth is even when I was born my parents could tell I would not fill Grandma Gerty’s shoes. She married at eighteen, lost her husband at thirty and raised ten kids by sewing children’s clothes, eventually creating her own brand. Each of her children grew up with the same penchant for success. My uncle Bill is a neurosurgeon and pioneered a technique for treating a rare brain tumor. Uncle Jack is dean of mathematics at the university. Aunt Becca is co-founder of a medical device company. My own mother not only won ‘teacher of the year’ five years in a row for the Midwest region, but she started a non-profit to combat illiteracy in the inner city. Now it was the next generation’s turn to carry on the legacy unless I break the trend.

ORIGINAL First Draft Beginning:

I’m named after my grandmother Gertrude Maisey Warner, the revered matriarch of the family. They called her Gerty, but I’m called Maisey. I guess my parents could tell even then that I would not be able to fill her shoes. She married at eighteen and had ten kids all of them growing up to be upstanding citizens. My uncle Bill is a neurosurgeon, uncle Jack head of mathematics at the university, my aunt Becca a CEO of a medical device company. My own mother not only won ‘teacher of the year’ five years in a row for the Midwest region, but she started a non-profit to combat illiteracy in the inner-city.

10 Ways to Stay On Track with Your Writing Goals – Part 1

Points 1- 5

  1. Write down your goals. No, that’s a lie. I’m never that formal about my plans for writing. Your goals need to be in your mind, not on a paper or in a document in the Cloud. It does help to state what your goals are, and that is the first step. Have a plan. My goals this past year were to finish a second draft of a novel, submit some query letters, go to at least one conference, enter at least one contest with a short story, start a blog, and revise an old WIP in a highly marketable genre that I wasn’t that interested in. I accomplished all those goals except that last one. I changed my mind and instead wrote a new novel during NaNoWriMo. Which brings me to point two.
  2. Be flexible. You don’t know what life will throw at you. No one knew last January what would be happening in 2020. The pandemic didn’t thwart my creativity, writing was a refuge. But at the height of global shut down, I lost some traction on my revising as thoughts turned toward if the supply chain for basic necessities would shut down or if someone I love would contract the virus. Goals are good but they shouldn’t be dictators, and changing or not meeting them should not leave a residue of failure.
  3. Make up your mind. Either you want to write a novel or memoir or the secrets of pickle ball guide or you don’t. This is not the opposite of point two. What do you really want? Because if it’s important to you, you’ll be ready to commit to a plan and head in a direction instead of pointing up the road and saying, “I’d really like to go there some day.”
  4. Set yourself up for success. How do you do this? Figure out what are significant road blocks for you to write. Once you know these think about how to make a path around them. For example, a major road block to creativity is responsibilities to family. I’ve struggled forever with taking time away from kids, spouse, house , education, you name it, to sit with a laptop and work on what many people will tell you is a pipe dream. How do you sit and make up stuff about imaginary people when the laundry is piling up? If Saturday morning when everyone else is sleeping in is the best time for you to write, then state that to be your writing time and give yourself permission to do it. Writing is a craft. Like any craft it takes honing and apprenticing, to become a master.
  5. Similar to four, get the support of those around you. This is kind of funny. Whenever I ask my husband to give his opinion about something I wrote, he groans. It’s like pulling teeth, even for just a paragraph. He’s not a reader, which translates to ‘he is an alien creature’ because I can’t imagine not reading. Some how he makes it through life in this condition but he does not make a good writing partner. However, before NaNoWriMo started, I explained to him what it was all about, how I had a goal and would need to write 1600 words or so a day. I showed him the web-site. I wrote “NaNoWriMo” across the calendar in the kitchen. He knew something big was happening and when I said right after dinner, “I have to write”, there were no questions or silent complaints (those are the worst). It was like we were both in it and he wanted to see me succeed, even if he didn’t want to hear two sentences about the story.

Stay tuned for part two – points 6- 10 of 10 Ways to Stick to Writing Goals