17 August 2018

Cheating on a Novel

by O'Neil De Noux

I was 27,000+ words into a novel (about 1/3 of the way through) when two writer friends put up submission guidelines for anthologies. I stopped the novel and wrote two stories. Two drafts each, which came out well. I’m letting them ferment before I go back to a final draft. It’s a process.

I returned to the novel and got this from it –

“So, where have you been? Wait. Wait. Don’t tell me. I saw it on the same screen where you write me. You cheated on me again, didn’t you? Not once, but twice. That police story with the woman with the long, sleek legs and the historical mystery with the big-eyed redhead. I watched you. I sat here steaming in anticipation of your fingers gliding over the keys to soothe me, quench my thirst for more. More what? More of me.

“And now you’re back. I'm hard to write now, aren’t I? Getting back in the groove, touching the keys to restart me. You come back smelling of cheap perfume with lipstick around your cheatin’ lips and expect me to just fall back in line. Well, mister. It isn’t that easy.

“I had a long talk with Hold Me, Babe and Saint Lolita and Dame Money and Lucifer’s Falcon – you remember them, your latest novels and they told me you did the same thing with them. The ONLY novel you didn’t cheat on, as far as I can tell because some of the others won’t talk to me because they think they’re better than me because I’m NOT a mystery, is that big historical epic about the Battle of New Orleans. She crooned how you were so faithful to her.

“So, I spoke with your wife who tells me you haven’t been the same since you wrote BATTLE KISS and lived in 1814-1815 for TWO YEARS writing a book so big the battlefield people won’t carry in their bookshop because it’s too large. Doesn’t fit on their shelf.

“What did the National Park Lady who did not read the book say? “The book’s too long. Nobody reads big books.” Did she ever hear of GONE WITH THE WIND or the Harry Potter books?

“Wait. What was I talking about? Yes, your wife. She calls herself a writer’s widow because you are always daydreaming and rarely listen to what she says. Didn’t she buy you that T-shirt which reads – SELECTIVE LISTENER? You live in a dream world.

“Well, mister. You better focus your dreaming on me because I’m gonna be a good one.”

 Jeffty lives in a dream world as well.

That's all for now.


  1. I think the pic of Jeffty says it all. btw, there's a character named Jefty, played by Richard Widmark, in a pretty good noir called Road House.

  2. Love the picture of Jeffry! My composition cat has returned to his real home in Chicago and I haven't written much since.

  3. Console your novel with the knowledge that you came back. You could have gone off, found another novel, and started a new, long-term relationship.

  4. Great piece, O'Neil. Been there, done that. And I love the name Jeffty. Is he a Harlan Ellison fan?

  5. Ah, the lure of the virgin project! Yes, I'm notorious for interrupting the novel-on-deadline by writing short stories. I guess that proves where my heart really lies (but don't tell my publisher.)

  6. Ah, another person who gives voice to inanimate objects and then holds conversations with them. Good on you.

  7. Love the cat! And if I were you, I'd concentrate on that novel. She sounds tough.

  8. Look, put on some soft music, dim the lights, pour your novel a drink and put the moves on her... Promise her you'll never look at another story, at least until she's all done.

    As for the National Park Lady, I keep thinking of the thousands of pages in the Outlander and Game of Throne series. Still can't figure who has THAT kind of time.

  9. Jeffty is named for Harlan's story "Jeffty is Five." We found Jettry and his sister on the street when they were @ 2 month old. They were clean but hungry. Some human dropped them off. They hadn't been living outside (no fleas). My daughter took the female and we took Jeffty to add to our clowder. Funny, Michael "a new, long-term relationship." As for concentrating on the novel, I seem to no matter what I'm doing. Once I start the relationship, once the characters have thieir voices and move, they are always with me. Napping sometimes, re-starting conversations some times. F. Scott Fitzgerald was right when he said writers are a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.

  10. Sheesh, O'Neil. Funny AND scary!


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