Novice to Novel: Part 4 – Anxiety and Repugnance Edition!

I just got back from a miniature writers retreat. I went to Vegas! Rooms are extremely cheap right now. Also, I just went through one of the busiest months at work I have ever experienced, so I figured I could use a little escape. Thanks to my lovely and understanding wife, I took off on Monday and came back Wednesday.

First, the stats:

  • Words: 54,855
  • Chapters: 25
  • Words written this week: 2,548

Version 3, Rough Draft

Alright, so this will be a mix of my writing journey and my usual travel journal post. I am excited and I hope you are as well.

I booked the room as a spur-the-moment/possibly manic decision only 5 days before I left. I had convinced myself that I needed to get out and recharge my creative juices. Luckily, I was right.

With my wife’s blessing – she helps me decide if my spontaneous decisions are sound or chemically imbalanced – I left at 8am on Monday. The earliest check-in at the Linq that I could get was 1pm so I decided to try and plan my journey accordingly. I arrived at 1:17pm which was not that far off, but there was a reason.


The hypnotic groove of the road lulled me into a false sense of security. My car is extremely good at guessing the cruising range of my journeys. It had never failed me during the 2 years I drove for Uber! In this case it had betrayed me. My little blue prius told me that I should make it to Vegas with 60 miles of cruising range to spare, which is more than plenty of a margin of error. Apparently that assumption was wrong.

I crested the last hill through the Nevada desert and I had the skyline of the Las Vegas Strip in my sights. I was singing happily to a spotify playlist and planning my itinerary for the next 45 hours when an unnexpected and alarming beep came from my car. I looked at my dash and the gas light was on, the fuel gauge was blinking with no bars, and my cruising range said 0. What The Fuck, what happened to my 60 miles?!

Looking back on it I think what had happened was that I was a little too in the zone during the last stretch of freeway and was probably eating up all the gas going 80 mph up the long hills of the 15 when I was getting close to Vegas. My mind was elsewhere.

Terror gripped me in a way I had not felt in a long time. I white knuckled the steering wheel and as lightly as possible graced the pedal with my shoe to try and maintain downhill speed. I saw that there was gas 2 miles down the road, which my cruising range of 0 miles told me was 2 miles too much. I put my faith in the electric side of my engine and prayed to the Universe for the first time in a long while; and even though I had to stop at a red light just a quarter of a mile away from the gas station, I made it! I filled up and hoped that that was the last of my stress of the trip.

I made it to the hotel and discovered my luck was just beginning. I found a perfect parking spot near the elevators and soon found out my hotel room elevators were right next door. When I left on wednesday it took me 10 min. from leaving my room to check out and drive away from Vegas, It was THAT close.

I checked in, unpacked my stuff, and set up for productivity.

Here is my set-up:

The room.
The Battle Station.
The Supplies.
The Fuel.
The Inspiration.

The writing started off slowly. I wanted to read the last few chapter, 22-25, to get a better feel for where my character was at and to see if there was any changes I needed to make.

Horror. To say that what I saw was a dumpster fire would be an understatement. Writers can tell you that sometimes when you go back and look at what you have written in the past, rough drafts in particular, it can make you question why you write in the first place.

I technically only wrote 168 new words in the next 3 hours. That is not an accurate statement as I felt the need to basically go through and clean up all of the horrid sentences that I had slung together. Chapter 23 in particular felt like each paragraph was written by a separate author with only a tenuous grasp on the plot, theme, or what the previous author had written.

It took so much work just to get to a starting place that I had to go blow off some steam. I won’t bore you with all of the details but my journey consisted of:

  1. Slots at the Wynn
  2. Brief poker game at Encore before it broke up (2am and not enough players)
  3. Craps at Harrahs
  4. Roulette at the Flamingo
  5. Slots at Linq
  6. Sports Betting

Before I knew it I was delirious from free drinks and a GSC vape pen I bought on the strip, sitting at a slot machine while 3 drunk Boomers woke me up singing what sounded like sea shanties and trying to hug/tackle each other to the ground at 5am. I love Vegas so much. I went to my room, chugged water, took an electrolite pill, and passed out.

I woke up the next day a little hungover. I got some breakfast and got to work.

This day went much more smoothly. I had gotten the chapters to be coherent and I focused the plot so that it all made sense for where the character was headed.

I had an “Aha!” moment about half way through the day when I went for a quick walk down the strip. While thinking about Vegas and the thought of how everything is geared toward pleasure and minimizing pain, I realized that that was where my novel needed to be.

As I said last week, in screenwriting terms my novel is right at the end of the “Fun and Games” part of “Story B,” and just about to return to “Story A” with the Big Reveal ( or Midpoint of the book). Then there would be the rapid descent to the “All Is Lost” phase. My character should have some fun and try to learn from what he had went through during “Story B” because it was all about to go to complete and utter shit for my protagonist. I should put him on a brief upward trajectory, or the false climax as I like to call it; that way the fall to the “All Is Lost” phase will be all the more dramatic. Bring him up to slam him down even harder.

Based on all of that I decided to have some fun with the character. He is telling himself that he is moving on from all of the trials and tribulations of the first part of the book and ready to start life over. I also let him fall in to a bunch of money so he could let loose with few regrets. This plot line also gives me a chance to show the reader that my main character hasn’t really learned anything during “Story B” and has a way to go before any true growth can happen for him by the end of the book.

That is why I was thinking about putting the upcoming scenes in Las Vegas, but it may seem a little too forced? What I mean is that Las Vegas is the cliche choice for bad choices. I think the narrative shift would be a little too jarring. I still haven’t ruled that idea completely out yet though.

I think that the other reason I am hesitating is because it will mean that the Big Reveal probably happens in Las Vegas instead of San Diego like I had originally planned, and already written. The first chapter starts in medias res, or just before the big reveal of which the character finds out that he is going to die in 2 months. I like that beginning a lot and have worked on it for a while. The thought of having to rewrite it, although it may turn out to be good for the story, is a little daunting. I have some big decisions to make.

Back to the trip. I got on a roll that night and wrote a little over two thousand words which put my total at 2,548 for the trip. It was short of my three thousand word goal my friend set for me, but the effort was worth it.

I made a little money back betting on the Clippers. I always bet on the Clippers when I am in Vegas because I always win. They just perform better when I bet on them. They beat the spread every time. That is why besides betting on the game that night, I also bet $25 on the Clippers to win the NBA Championship this year. 75 to 1 odds and who knows, PG13 and Kahwi still haven’t been ruled out for the season. If they come back I could be $1,875 richer.

And that would mean Anxiety and Repugnance 4: Money 2 Burn.

I left at 9:30 that morning. I got Starbucks and listened to Slaughterhouse Five on the car ride back to San Diego (It is the same amount of time, I finished it 15 min. after I got home).

Beautiful Rest Stop

That is it for this weeks post. I truly and sincerely appreciate you taking the time to read this blog. It really means a lot to me and keeps me wanting to write.

Please comment if you have any writing advice or want to share your thoughts. I always try to respond and I definitely appreciate any input you may have. Do you think my character should go to Vegas to let loose and then find out that his life is a lie while he is there? Let me know.

Chris Joy

Categories: Fiction, Humor, Novice to Novel, travelTags: , , , , ,

1 comment

  1. Looks like a great time you had there! Always awesome to see ‘real’ posts, with pics to boot, and I spot Christopher Vogler’s book right there too. Anyway, thanks for this share!

    Liked by 1 person

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