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Aspiring Novelist's Notes



Nearly three months into the process, with most of the first two months spent on planning, research and solidifying the concept for a novel, yesterday was an unusually slow writing day for a change. After three pages to Chapter 21, I mostly listened to music, reread and did light editing of already written chapters. The rest of the time was spent noting points of self-discovery during the process.


Here’s a partial list of what I’ve observed so far about writing my first novel:


1.   Research is important. In as much as my work is fictional, I decided to stay true to the time period, events and locations within which my characters navigate. I wanted to honor the essence of the story and my protagonists’ journey.


I would be remiss not to thank our brother/sister friends Ruben Lopez and Noelia Jimenez for making it possible to call Madrid, Spain a home base for my family. Because of them, I have lived short term in the locations in Spain that appear in my novel. (That’s as far as I am giving away about the budding novel).


2.   Influences: I have found this to be true of poetry I write, but I should have surmised it to be true of a novel. My heroes in poetry are Pablo Neruda, Edgar Allan Poe, Elizabeth Browning, Emily Dickinson, Toni Morrison and recently Jericho Brown (a recent Pulitzer Prize winner in Poetry introduced to me by my best friend Ken Miller who also thinks Walt Whitman’s voice sometimes shows up in my poems).


Writing this budding novel gives me pause about who influences me. Not surprising that my husband tops the list: my husband James Sobredo, professor emeritus/author/photographer/adventurer over the years has edited my creative and job-related writings. I have also proofread his writing when asked including his scholarly publications. He has taught me what accurate, concise and crisp writing is about.


And then my other heroes—Jane Austen (I have read Pride and Prejudice at least six times, never mind how many times I’ve watched several movie iterations.)


Then, there’s Ernest Hemingway, William Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Viet Thanh Nguyen and NVM Gonzalez. Viet is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer, a colleague/friend of my husband’s from UC Berkeley, and NVM is a celebrated novelist/poet and a conferred National Artist of the Philippines for Literature in 1997. NVM happens to be related to my Tumbokon family in Ibajay, Aklan, Philippines. Sadly, I never had a chance to take writing lessons from dear NVM before he passed away, but I’m sure he would be generous to give my writing a nod. He knows he could visit me in my dreams. He probably has.


3.   Workplan & Outline: I am a planner, trainer/instructor, and a former State Administrator, so meaningful work means having a written strategic plan, workplan, outline, script...All great tools at the start of the writing project. Then the writing muse takes over. Then, the characters have a mind of their own. And the story takes a life almost apart from me, unless it is the alter ego I didn’t know about. Maybe it is the Divine.


4.   Physical and Emotional Toll: I was worried about the physical toll writing would have on my Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)-ridden body. I had to pay heed to how much my fingers could manage since my muse could be unrelenting. RA has also adversely affected my eyes, so there’s an urgency to this creative project. So far, my body has kept up. But I’ve been known lately to forget to eat lunch, but I snack more, and walk less with no gym access for my aqua aerobics because of the pandemic in our time.


Unexpected is the emotional toll. I have dreamt of dialogue that made me get up at ungodly hours. I have written lines while fighting back tears or tears pouring on my face. I have been extraordinarily affected by emotions of my protagonists. I am beside myself. I think I avoided writing yesterday as I knew the dialogue was potentially heartbreaking. Dang, am I too involved?


5.   The Process: The process of writing a novel has a pace all its own. The chapters pretty much write themselves when the muse is active, and luckily the muse has been active. I am grateful for the creative and the Divine, for guiding me through this journey.


6.   Literary Lifeline: I have learned to be good editor, thanks to my husband and my son who have helped edit my work over the years and I sought to learn from their recommendations.


But I could not have written 20 chapters so far without my best friend patiently and expertly giving me feedback. Thought provoking and uplifting comments and recommendation. His background in English Literature and love for the written works show through. Thank you to my bro and best friend Ken Miller who has been with me throughout my creative work and life journey for the last 32 years, especially these past months. It helps that he knows what makes me tick.


Outside of Ken, James and son Adrian (whose input on storyline and dialogue involving young characters in the novel is invaluable), my other big supporter, cheer leader, spiritual sister/warrior is Prosy DelaCruz.


Prosy DelaCruz is an amazing writer/author herself. When she gets excited over the process I experience and more recently reading some snippets of my drafts, I know I am on the right track. Before we know it, I might just have a hit song from having written lyrics crucial to the protagonist in one scene.  She was compelled to connect me with musical talents for possibly putting music to my lyrics. I am overwhelmed by the inspired response. A little daunting and heady, I must admit.


7.   Dreams are for Everyone: It’s never too late to act on one’s dreams. After a fairly successful career that helped me grow as a professional and a human being, I have my fantasies of performance.


Thanks to my Auntie Lucy/Mama Nene for ballet and singing/voice lessons; my Mom Pattie for piano, painting and tennis lessons; and my poet Cousin/Auntie Aurora Silverio who gave me my first Therausus and was my first influence at poetry writing in my youth; and my Uncle Juan Tagle was a prolific poet who wrote in Hiligaynon/Ilongo.

Juan Tagle wrote under a couple of pen names in his time, whose spirit seems to visit me more often lately. Unfortunately, his manuscripts were eaten by termites according to my niece, his granddaughter in Cebu. Some of his works should still be in libraries in Iloilo and other places in the Visayas where readings of his poems over the radio for years could be heard. So, this budding novel is invariably infused with poems and songs to honor my elder Juan Tagle, same bloodline whose Spanish ancestors came from the Cantabrian region of Northern Spain.


By the time this novel is completed, published, launched and hopefully  devoured in many corners of my life, I would have fulfilled the biggest of my dreams, to write a romantic comedy with a conscience.


So, to all of you whose creative works, in addition to those I have already mentioned above, I thank you. Most names could appear in multiple categories, so the grouping is random. Blame my muse.


Thank you to the writers, poets and community activists: Vangie Buell, Vicky Santos, Edwin Lozada, Lisa Suguitan, Tess Cresini, Janet Stickmon, Enrique Dela Cruz, Abraham Ignacio, Al Robles, Tony Robles, and Mike Gonzalez.


Thank you to the artists, photographers, dancers and musicians who awaken  my spirit. They are in California, Eastcoast, Philippines and Spain and some in Heaven: Nancy Hom, Carlos Villa, Alleluia Panis, Florante Aguilar and Fides Enriquez, Eve Juteau and Miguel Juteau, Thierry and Alicia Juteau (scientist/author and painter respectively), and Penelope and Manuel Flores (Penelope, professor emerita and author, musician is included here for her painter persona).


To my dear artist friends/family in Stockton: Steven Montalvo, Carla Bomben, Wendi Maxwell, Joshua Washington, Mel Suguitan, and of course my cousins Joan May T. Cordova (professor now in the Philippines via Cambrige/Philidelphia/Bay Area) and Dawn B. Mabalon (my late cousin was professor/author/community activist/our-miss-dynamo).


Maybe there are others, forgive me if my memory failed me at this writing. Thank you all for your warrior spirit. Your written works, photography, painting, dance and music are like food to my soul.


NOW... I need to get back to my own writing. The protagonists are waiting for their next lines...


Essay ©Lu Sobredo

Photo ©James Sobredo

Title of Photo: Footprints to Our Dreams



Lu Sobredo is the publisher of LuTravelsAbroad, a blog dedicated to those afflicted with illnesses that limit mobility. A Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferer determined to function in her new normal, she traveled often before the pandemic. During the pandemic her love of writing has resurfaced and served her well having traveled through her minds eye; her journey reflected in several of her new poems and her first attempt as an aspiring novelist. Watch for her first fictional novel in 2021. 






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