Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Lost in New York City, or Writing About Somewhere I'm Not

Okay fellow writers, here's a head scratcher for you. Sure, I wouldn't be in this predicament if I were a plotting plotter, but this is the dilemma my pantsing has led me to. I hope someone out there has some advice, or at least some tea and sympathy. Or even just some tea.

My current project has my main characters running around New York City. I'm 54k words into the project, so New York is staying put as the location. Right now, I need to get my characters from Harlem to Queens. They're following some bad guys in a car across the Queensboro Bridge. They NEED to cross this PARTICULAR bridge, but when I tried to get a good location view on Google maps, it jumps around between the upper deck, the lower deck, and the surface streets of Queens below the bridge as I tried to trace the route visually. THIS IS SO FRUSTRATING I WANT TO CRY!!!

I just need to know what the first possible exit street from the lower deck of the bridge is. My MC needs to be waiting there to pick up her surveillance on the bad guy's car. AND I CAN'T FIGURE THIS OUT!!! GAH!!!

Are any of you familiar with the Queensboro bridge? Or know someone who is? Can you ask that person to let me know?

I sincerely appreciate it. I will reward anyone who can share this info with me. I'll buy ten copies of your next book. I'll name my next pet after you. I'll climb up on the roof and sing a song about your gloriousness and post it on YouTube. Whatever you want! I'll do anything! You name it!

Can you tell I'm desperate here?

I've never had this kind of trouble before. My first novel in this series was set in places I'm very familiar with (Miami, Washington, DC, Boston, Maine), and the second was set in parts of Europe I was able to do a massive amount of research on. This third novel I had to go and set in a city I'm marginally familiar with, but haven't spent a huge amount of time wandering around. At least, I haven't spent a lot of time studying exit ramps from the Queensboro Bridge. Who the heck would do that? Well, I should have.

I'm about to the point where I'm going to take a day and drive up there, cross the bridge, maybe have lunch somewhere in Atlantic Beach, and drive home again. Talk about a long, boring waste of a day just to see what the first stinking cross street is on the Queens side of the bridge is! :)

UPDATE: While trying to copy an image of the Google Map to this post, I realized I was being a nincompoop. I just had to get them to travel across the upper deck of the bridge instead of the lower, and ALL THESE PROBLEMS ARE SOLVED! *doing the victory dance*

This is what happens when tired writer tries to write tired. From now on, I will hash out all my problems in blog post format, just to torture my few loyal readers. It seems to work! :)

Queensboro Bridge: Image from

Now that I've solved my own problem, it's time to go fix the MS.

Have any of you ever had difficulties writing about a city other than your hometown? How did you go about solving your difficulties? I'll probably have other location problems at some point in the future, and not all of them might be solved this easily!

Thanks again, everyone!

Happy writing!

Oh, and the Progress-o-Meter is running well lately:

Words: 53,650
Pages: 178

Though, these stats are only valid BEFORE I fixed the problems listed above.


  1. See if this might help:

    I am working on more info and will get back with you.

    1. Thank you so much! I really needed this! I swear, I was on the verge of tearing my hair out last night, and this site is perfect! Thank you again! Wheeeee!

  2. Ok, so I heard about your research plight, and since I'd JUST written about research stress in my last post, I had to mention you on my blog. It links back to you, so don't kill me. ;)

    I'm glad you've got your exit issue solved. That picture of the bridge is beautiful. And, last but not least, how hard was it (being tired as you are) to type "tired writer tries to write tired?" Because that was hilarious. :)

    1. Hey, thanks! I used to be a medical transcriptionist, so I didn't even realize the difficulty level of "tired writer tries to write tired." It's nothing compared to "spondylolisthesis" or "necrotizing fasciitis" when you're trying to get the letters out in the right order.

    2. *snort* "necrotizing fasciitis" - sounds like something you'd catch from dead fascists. ;)

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. *laugh/snort* dead fascists. (I had to remove/correct my last reply because I laughed so hard I mispelled fascists.)

    5. Yeah, but there's nothing funny about necrotizing fasciitis. It's the "flesh eating bacteria." Ick.

  3. So far, I've avoided locational problems by only providing fake streets in real cities (albeit in real neighborhoods, so the reader gets the feel of the place). Mostly because I'm lazy. Glad you were able to find your answers. Another problem solved by the internet! Huzzah!

    In other news, a bowl of Rice Krispies walked into a bar. Thanks for the suggestion, Laura!

    1. I usually write about fake locations/streets in real cities, but when characters need to travel between actual towns, and the journey itself is a mad dash to follow a suspect in order to save someone's life, they have to travel real roads. Unfortunately, I picked a route that's iconically well-known. Gar!

      Serves me right. But I think the story is better for it, so it was well worth it. Back to inventing fake places, though. Their destination is only reality-adjacent, so I'll have a bit of leeway with the rest of their journey.


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