I'm going to try to write a chick-lit novel in less than a month. I need your help.

Novels, stories, and more.
Sept. 8 2009 11:09 AM

Saving Face? Or Losing My Mind?

I'm going to try to write a chick-lit novel in real time. In less than a month. And I really need your help.

Read Saving Face  as it unfolds.

(Continued from Page 1)

A note regarding shoes: I can make no promises.

My plan is to write at least a chapter a day, probably more if I want to finish this. Because I am, first and foremost, a Supreme Court reporter, I turn back into a pumpkin on the first Monday in October, whether I finish this book or not. In addition to writing the book itself, I am going to annotate as I go along. To follow along, just look for this symbol:   That means that in addition to reading the novel, you can also read about how I came up with ideas, why I am abandoning a character, or what chick-lit convention I might be honoring or jettisoning. I will also try to file something longer at the end of each week, detailing how the project is going, what I am struggling with, and whether I have yet taken to drinking at noon.

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Is it completely insane to try to finish a first draft of an entire novel in three weeks? I think so. Have I mentioned that as of this writing, our child care situation has gone from bleak to hopeless? Is there something quintessentially chick-lit-ish about trying to do something patently impossible and overreaching? Yes! But that's where you come in. This project will rise or fall with your reader feedback: plot ideas, character ideas, funny stories about your nanny, funny stories about your wife or your e-mail. Suggestions for names, locations, twists, and resolutions are desperately sought. Send me your thoughts, encouragement, or dire warnings via e-mail, or post to our Facebook page. For instance, the first person to e-mail me the (not patently absurd) name of the protagonist's divorce-lawyer husband at savingface.slate@gmail.com  gets to name the guy. Seriously. It will appear in Chapter 1. Same for the family pet. First name gets it. I am leaning toward a cat or a rabbit. (Your name will be published unless you specify otherwise.)

Also, I will have questions. Like, given that virtually every chick-lit novel is set in New York or London (or has a protagonist who jets merrily between New York and London), what does a writer do if she lives in a small college town with only one escalator? Do I set the book in Manhattan and fake it? Or do I put her in a small college town and acknowledge upfront that to the extent there's an obligatory shopping spree chapter, it may have to happen at Old Navy? ("Oh," sighed Eleanor, shrugging into the soft folds of her ancho chili belted cardigan, "do you think I can wear this to Davos?")

One other thing: I am hardly the first to observe that there is a bizarre trend toward decapitation in chick-lit cover art. The standard mommy-lit cover happens in silhouette, from behind, or, more and more in recent years, artfully lops off the protagonist's head. (Click at the bottom right for a slide show on the subject.) I don't have a clue why so much of women's literature features women without faces, but I did pick my working title, Saving Face, with a mind toward some kind of corrective.

The whole purpose of these Slate sabbaticals is to drive us out of our comfort zones, and I confess to being deeply uncomfortable. And also crazy excited. The only hard and fast rule about chick lit I have learned while researching this enterprise is that the happy ending is absolutely nonnegotiable. So perhaps we can all be assured that this will turn out OK. For at least one of us.

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