Today I met with the ruler of the universe, Jessica Zafra, for a small get-together with her and the participants of the Write Here, Write Now workshop. We met late last year and worked on our novels while Jessica did her best to make us realize the sorry state of our creative writing. Of course she gave us constructive points. We were supposed to come up with our manuscripts last Sunday, and I was able to send mine three minutes before the deadline passed.
My story is all about losing and how to deal with loss. It’s about a black Jewish lesbian midget from Mississippi who lost her kitten, and how she battled rednecks who took it from her.
Kidding aside, it’s about a depressed college student who tried pulling himself together amid guilt and self-loathing, and how something that happened in the past left him jaded toward an opportunity to start anew. That’s all I can say about it right now, because we’ve yet to work on the final draft. I can say, though, that the story is set in the University of the Philippines around 2009, and the characters are based on some of my friends and people I know. I used real places and inserted pop culture references around that time, because well, I’m the author.
Jessica said writing Bildungsroman novels especially in the first person point of view usually falls into the thinly veiled autobiography territory, and that scared me a little because I’m quite the private person and I don’t like giving people an idea of how weird I am. I tried my best to distance myself from the main character.
The story begins with these two paragraphs:
“The road to heaven is paved with cigarette butts and regurgitated dinner,” Ralph told me as we climbed the stairs to Drew’s, avoiding puddles of puke along the way. We skipped spots of vomit on the grimy steps- alcohol and spit mixed with mangled hotdog, rice, bits of barbecued chicken intestines and whatever it was that those sissy drinkers weren’t able to keep in their tummies that night.
We reached a table beside the bar, where an industrial fan did its best to clear the atmosphere of clouds of cigarette smoke. It’s where people go to catch cancer. The floor was sticky from cocktail shots secretly poured onto it by drinkers who already had one too many, but couldn’t outrightly refuse prodding from friends. I knew because I did it before. The place was throbbing with electronic dance music; there’s a song with a title that I no longer remember. I sort of wished the place played more songs from the nineties. It was a Monday, the day before school started in 2009. In our university, we didn’t have classes on Mondays.
I’m still working on adding some more paragraphs and chapters for the final draft, and all I can say is that writing a novel is a really, really difficult thing. It’s like being in a committed relationship, and every writing day is not always a nice day. Because I have a day job, I write in the evening or during weekends. There are nights when I just end up browsing the weird regions of the internet, and there are days when I skip lunch just to write.
I brainstormed with myself in the toilet, bought a few books on how to write better, read books and saw movies in the same genre, talked to myself and daydreamed a lot. It was weird.
When I was writing the novel, I did some Internet research about things, turning my otherwise wholesome browsing history into a creepy collection of links that would probably disturb my friends. I also randomly talked to people about stuff I wouldn’t normally ask them about- HIV, marijuana, sex and other things that happen in college. I had to constantly remind them that I was doing it for research and I could only wish they believed me. On a few occasions I tried things I usually wouldn’t do, but let’s not talk about that.
I’m not sure when the novel will be published, or if it’s even going to be published in the first place. But I’ll try to make that happen.