Getting into trouble

What kind of trouble can my protagonist get into? What can complicate her story? These are just ideas, not sure which ones I’ll use.

Bad choices:

  • Dating a bad boy.
  • Telling off her disrespectful history teacher.
  • Skipping school.
  • Getting drunk at a party.
  • Staying out all night and not calling home.
  • Has sex, gets pregnant.
  • Has sex, then her asshole boyfriend breaks up with her.
  • Takes her mother’s car without permission.

Physical pain/illness:

  • Nasty sunburn.
  • Morning sickness.
  • STI scare.
  • Whiplash from a car accident.

Acts of god:

  • Power outage spoils all the food in the fridge.
  • A tree falls on the family’s only vehicle.
  • Her mother gets breast cancer.


  • Left the girls’ room with skirt tucked into underpants.
  • Pulled on her jacket to free it from the big guy sitting on it. He got up and she gives herself a black eye because she was pulling so hard.
  • Minor fender bender with mom’s car.
  • Sits down on a tack, held on her seat by another student at a school-wide assembly.

The ugly truth:

  • 17 and pregnant, she must make some important life choices.
  • She learns that she does need her mother.
  • When she reunites with estranged biological father, she learns she has three younger siblings, half brothers and sisters.

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Big realization

Monday Morning Warm-up:

This is a story about 17 and half year-old Janelle who must come to terms with her mother’s recent sobriety and how her mother tries to make up all at once for being a bad parent for many years. At first she rejects her mother’s parenting, figuring she doesn’t need a parent now when she hasn’t really had one all along. Eventually she realizes that her mother always did do the best she could with what she had and allowing her mother to parent her didn’t mean she wasn’t an independent young woman.

This story is important to me because I think it is allowing me, in an exaggerated way of course, to come to terms with my own daughter becoming more independent. She seems to need me less often these days, but when she does need me it is no small matter.

Writing Assignment: If your writing could talk back to you, what would it say about its own strengths and weaknesses?

If what I’ve written so far could talk back to me it would scream WRITE MORE. It would say this is good, not great. The word choice and plot are the best parts, but the pacing is all wrong. What you’ve written in a few paragraphs needs to be slowed down and you need to use more dialogue to tell your story. Now I’m not sure where I’m going to go. Do I want to plough ahead and make story/plot progress, or do I need to start now by taking what I’ve already written and slow it down?

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Sunday Reflection

I like to write outside, by myself. That isn’t always achievable at my house. My front porch is my favourite space, when it’s not too hot and there aren’t noisy children close by. I live on a not-so-quiet cul-de-sac with lots of young families.

I don’t care to listen to music with lyrics while writing. The very best background noise would be waves crashing against the sandy shore. However, as I don’t live on the ocean, I love to listen to the sounds of nature, birds singing, rain softly falling, leaves rustling, that sort of thing. Maybe I’ll get a nature sounds track to listen to in the winter, when writing outside is not an option.

I had two goals for the week. They were to write early in the day and to begin drafting my novel. I did begin drafting my novel, but I’ve found that my personal challenge to blog every day has cut into my novel writing time. I’m not willing to give up posting to my blog every day for the summer, so my goals for this week will be to ramp things up a bit. I certainly didn’t blog early and I missed doing my yoga on more days than I would have liked this week. Those two things seem to go hand-in-hand.

The pit of my week, the hardest part, was trying to write my blog post last night. I was tired and my brain didn’t want to cooperate. I wrote about my day, but when my day is good, but ordinary, that always seems like a cop-out. I guess if that’s the pit of my week, I should be grateful. The best part of my week was actually getting to start the draft of my novel, and even though I don’t have much, I love what I do have.

For the week ahead, my focus will be on starting early and getting my yoga in before I do anything else. I always accomplish more in the day and feel better when I don’t over sleep. My other goal will be to set aside a minimum of 45 minutes a day to write. I usually get this anyway, but I’d like to take this time before 1PM this week.

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Confrontation scene


Problem: I haven’t started writing. There was an option for this. I could have rewritten a scene from the novel I’m reading. While it seems like a worthwhile exercise, why not simply write the original confrontation scene? This is the teachers’ write assignment that finally gave me the kick in the butt to stop ‘planning’ my novel and just start writing. Now that I have a scene, I can write from the antagonist’s point-of-view. I’m happy with 688 words for my first session. If I could do that five days a week for a year, I’d have my draft finished next year this time! That’s exciting.

Aw hell no! No fucking way! No fucking way she gets to pretend she’s got her shit together and start telling me what to do. For 17 years I’ve wanted nothing more than for her to be the parent that she’s never been capable of being and now she’s six weeks sober and she wants to start telling me what I can and can’t do, who I can hang out with and where I can and can’t go. I don’t think so. I’ll be 18 years-old in eight months, and I’m not saying it’s been a piece of cake, but I’ve managed to get by, take care of myself and I haven’t done too shabbily. I screamed at her, “Fuck you, Denise!” as I slammed the back door to our dumpy little single wide. Cursing was commonplace in our house, but I knew calling her Denise would cut deep. The only other time I called my mother Denise was during a particularly bad argument the summer I was 12. She had gotten so angry that I have never said it aloud again until today. Even though I call her mom, to me she’s been Denise ever since I realized that she didn’t act like a mother.

A few weeks ago, Denise had a come to Jesus moment in the middle of the day. When I came home from school and she was crying and screaming; she apologized to me over and over for being a shitty parent. She swore she was going to sober up and get her act together. Of course, I’d heard this before, never with such emotional fervor, but it was a new tune with the same old lyrics. I figured she’s just had too much to drink, I mean, more than usual, so I tried to put her to bed. Usually, when she gets all emotional that works. Not that day. I ended up bailing and hanging out in the park until it was getting dark, because she just wouldn’t calm down and I didn’t know what to do. I just sat on the swings texting my friends for hours, until my phone battery dies. When the street lights came on, I figured it was time to go home. When I walked in, at first I thought she had passed out, but she was on the couch with my laptop. She barely looked up when I came in. I didn’t want to know what she was doing. “Night,” I said over my shoulder as I kept walking through, “I’m going to bed.” I didn’t want to make eye contact, but clearly there was no danger of that.

When I got up the next morning, mom was passed out with my laptop precariously balanced on the end of the sofa. I picked it up, to pack it in my bag for school. “Great!” I muttered, “dead, just great!” Hopefully Mr. Jacobs would let me charge it during bio, because Mrs. Mathers would eat my face if I tried to tell her I couldn’t work on my memoir during second period English Lit because my laptop battery was dead. I was in no mood for one of her tirades today. Usually when Denise was out cold like this I could do anything and she wouldn’t wake up, so I wasn’t being gentle or quiet.

“Oh good, you’re up,” she said as she rolled over, groggy and almost fell onto the floor. “Janelle, I have to tell you something,” she said expectantly, a smile starting cross her sleep lined face.

“Whatever it is, it’ll have to wait,” I said. “I’m late for school and I can’t miss the bus.” I picked up the pace and hurried out the door. I didn’t even have breakfast and I wasn’t really late, not that Denise would ever know. She was almost never awake before 11:00AM. I took my time walking to the bus stop. I shouldn’t have been so short with her. I didn’t really know what she was going to say. That was my imperial flaw; I always gave her the benefit of the doubt. Well, not this time.

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Key points of change

Seven key points of change in Denise’s (Janelle’s mother) life:

When she was five her father died from a massive heart attack.
From the age of 9-14 she endured both physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her step-father.
At 14, she started drinking to escape the pain, then moved out of her mother’s house to escape the abuse.
At 15, she began dating an older man who introduced her to drugs and prostitution.
At 20, she got pregnant and had her daughter.
At 21, she took a job as a waitress but couldn’t kick her drinking & drug habit.
When she was 26, she married a long-haul truck-driver she had met at the diner she worked at. She stopped doing drugs, but started drinking more heavily to compensate.
At 35 she separated and divorced her husband because her daughter said that he kissed her and tried to grope her.
At 37, she joined AA to finally quit drinking and turn her life around.

Yeah, that’s nine. I know; I can count.

Now that I have these key points of change for the protagonist’s mother, I’ll have to make some decisions about which ones to reveal and from whose point of view. I imagine these details about her mother’s life being revealed through conversation between mother and daughter as they begin to build a relationship.

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But underneath that…

Monday Morning Warm-up:

The Rosie Project
This story is about a socially awkward middle-aged man with Aspergers searching for a wife.
But underneath that, it’s a story about a one man’s need to love and be loved, just like everybody else.

My work–the story of Janelle Grace
This story is about a girl who wants to change her life, but she has many obstacles to overcome and her newly over-protective mother, who has recently decided to become a parent now that she is in a 12-step program and putting her own wreck of a life back together.
But underneath that, it’s a story about a girl and her single mom who both have the inner strength to overcome every obstacle that life presents.

Writing Assignment:

For today’s writing assignment, here’s a list of writing projects I’d like to explore, as though I have unlimited time and energy:

  • A novel, my working title is Janelle Grace, that’s the protagonists name (see above)
  • I’d like to write a blog post for the nerdy book club (I’ve applied)
  • A series of children’s picture books about Great Canadians.
  • An anthology of poetry
  • I’d like to write an article for a professional journal
  • I’d like to write a book about teaching reading to high schoolers

This list is as exhaustive as I can make right now without making stuff up. I’ve already decided that I’m starting with the novel because it really does scare me the most and would likely leave me feeling accomplished whether or not it gets published. I think the reason that it scares me the most is because of the length, the job is so big and overwhelming that it makes getting started the hardest part. I was about to write that I’ve always dreamt of becoming a published novelist, however this is a dream that has evolved during the last ten years of my life. In fact, if you had told me when I was a teenager or young twenty-something that I’d ever aspire to write a novel, I would have told you that you were wrong.

The next part of the assignment is to write the dedication of my novel, so here it is:

For Mom and Savanna. Mom, thanks for being everything that Janelle’s mother was not. Savanna, thanks for being the first to give me the experience of being a mother and for using all that ‘hip lingo’ and having a few quirky sayings of your own from which I borrowed liberally.

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Sunday Reflection

This is the first summer I’ve really participated in Teacher’s Write. I’ve lurked and started, but never really committed to it. This week I’ve followed along and have completed the tasks/assignments. Additionally, I’m blogging every day of the summer on my personal blog. I did this previously in 2011 and it was one of the best summers in recent history. Right now I’m tracking my writing progress by each blog post. Basically, everything I write gets published to my blog. I’d like to start working on my first novel. Part of my problem seems to be goal setting and following through by setting time aside to write. When I challenge myself with something like posting to a blog each day, it kind of forces me to spend time writing. It’s a lot like exercise; sometimes I do it early in the day and it comes easily and at other times I squeak it out just before midnight.

This week I’ve been posting to two blogs, my personal one and my professional one. I’m using my professional blog to publish everything I write for Teacher’s Write. I celebrate my progress by sharing my blog on facebook and responding to people who comment either on my blog posts or my facebook posts. I love that interaction with my readers.

The highlight of the week for me was my blog post about my daughter’s cliff jumping adventure, while the most difficult part of my week was writing my blog post on Friday night. I left it until late and had no idea what I’d write about. I was beginning to nod off at my computer before I finally posted it. One other notable part of my week, and the part of Teacher’s Write that I found most helpful, was writing my word hoard. I haven’t started my novel, but I think I’ve got a premise and I’ve started working on my protagonist. The word hoard was helpful with characterization and I think it will help me get started.

My issue right now is this… I’m writing, more now than I ever could during the school year, but it’s all short pieces for my blog and Teacher’s Write quick writes/assignments. I need to get out of the blog trap and start on something more substantial. Last summer I didn’t blog with the intention of setting time aside to write, but without the public committment to post, I didn’t stick with it. For the week ahead, I’m planning on doing my blogging and participating in Teacher’s Write early in the day, so I can carve out some time to begin writing/planning my novel. Wish me luck!

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