NaNoWriMo meets real life

Well, November is nearly over and that anguished cry you hear (or more likely, the sound of laptops and tablets hitting the wall) means writers once again wonder why they thought they could do NaNo during November. After all, you have Thanksgiving, Black Friday (that now lasts weeks), family gatherings after a year-plus of Covid lockdowns, as well as other demands on your life. So how in the world are you supposed to get 50k words written?

Okay, maybe it’s just me. That is my usual response when I try to do NaNo. I start out will all good intentions. The life intrudes. Gawd knows, it intruded this year. But I found two things that helped me not only see the light at the end of the tunnel but the tunnel’s exit and I did it in less than 20 days. The first is having two books scheduled to come out in December. The second is entering the fourth week in a row of insomnia due to stress. It is amazing what you can get done when you only sleep a few hours a night.

But all this made me remember what my objections are to NaNo. Sure, the idea behind it is good. Find a way to encourage writers at all stages of their careers to sit down and write a novel in a month. If you break it down, 50k words in a month doesn’t look like it should be that difficult. After all, we’re talking 1,666 words a day. That’s not much more than some of my blog posts. So it should be doable, right?

Waggles hand.

The problems I’ve run into before (not counting the usual real life problems) are that I can’t always write every day. I’m rarely at the point where I can focus on a brand new project at the beginning of the month (which is why I usually do a modification of NaNo and simply aim for 50k words, not a new 50k word novel). I get popcorn kittens during Nano for some reason as well and want to stop the project of the month and do something else–NOW!

But the real problem for me and for a number of other writers is NaNo is a complete deviation from our normal way of writing. To push through and finish “the book”, most of us have to turn off the internal editor. We have to give ourselves permission not to write in all the details we usually put in during the first draft. We have to remember that what comes out is not the final product but is, at best, an expanded outline which will need another month or two to get ready for publication.

That’s not to say it’s bad. The key I learned during this year’s NaNo is to make sure I’m writing in the correct POV and I remind myself–sometimes on an hourly basis–that this isn’t an outline but the very rough draft. Which means sticking to the correct POV, tense, etc. In other words, it is very much akin to what I do when I handwrite a scene or chapter when I get stuck. And, in doing so, I got the 50k words accomplished in short(ish) order–again, thanks to insomnia that has me sleeping very, very little these days.

And, yes, I long for the day when my daily stress levels lower to something manageable and that may happen in a couple of weeks, depending on how Mom’s next doctor’s appointment and subsequent treatment plan goes.

cover6In the meantime, with the NaNo book completed, I’ve turned my attention back to matters at hand. My biggest issue is my brain is not wired right now for editing. So I am heavily relying on my alpha and beta readers as well as my paid editor. In the meantime, here is an excerpt from the beginning of Fire Striker, coming out next month. (Don’t forget Danger Foretold–Eerie Side of the Tracks 5–coming out next month as well. (This excerpt is unedited, so it will probably change some before final release.)


Three days ago, my handlers appeared at the door to my cell and asked what I wanted for my birthday. Not that they really wanted to know. It was merely another way for them to torment me.  A reminder of the years, I’m not sure how many, I’d been forced to live this hellish existence thanks to my parents. I may not know exactly why my parents condemned me to this existence, but I had learned a lot since my arrival. I knew not to rise to the guards’ bait. That denied them the chance to “discipline” me again. No matter what they said, I said on the edge of my bunk, staring at the floor, for all the world unaware of their presence. They finally gave up and left, securing not only the inner door but heavy metal outer door as well. Since then,  I’d been left alone, my meals appearing through a slot in the door.

A reminder I continued to live only at the whim of my captors.

I can’t say I was fine with it, but it was better than dealing with the guards. You learn to welcome the respites after so long. Just as you learn ways to occupy your mind or risk going insane. Not that I was exactly sane any longer. At this point, I’m not sure if I’d ever been sane. Some days, it seemed preferable to think these years were nothing more than the ravings of an insane mind. Otherwise, true evil did exist and I’d fallen prey to it.

Worse, that evil included my parents, the two people who should have protected me, no matter what.

At other times, when I knew this was real, I knew something else. I might not be exactly sane any longer, but I had a better grip on sanity than those  who guarded me and who took such pleasure in tormenting me and reminding me I would never again be free.

Damn them and damn my parents who put me here in the first place.

I lay on my cot, eyes closed, my mind replaying my latest plan for vengeance should I somehow manage to get out of this hellhole. There wasn’t much of anything else I could do. I learned early on I could exercise only so many hours a day. The guards who monitored me through the cameras set high into the ceiling refused to let me sleep more than a few minutes at a time unless it was the allotted “sleep period”. I hadn’t read for pleasure since being brought here and I knew every inch of the cell, every mar in the floor, every tile in the ceiling. That left only plotting my escape and vengeance on those who put me here to help pass the day.

The faint sound of metal grating against metal crept into the silence of my cell. I waited, listening closely. Someone had opened the outer security door. Curiosity mixed with concern and I turned my head, waiting. There had been a time when I would instantly stand any time it sounded as if someone might be at the cell door. But I learned, usually the hard way, to stay where I was. Because I didn’t look forward to another beating, I would take my cue from them. It was much safer that way.

Besides, it wasn’t like I could leave the cell without their permission. Even if I somehow managed to overpower the guards, I was stuck here thanks to the “doctor”. If there was any justice left in this world—and I doubted there was—he would spend eternity in Hell, suffering as he’d made me suffer.

Damn him!

Just thinking of him sent cold fingers of fear down my spine. From my first day here, he made sure I understood who was in control. Drugs, beatings and worse were his tools of choice. Then, maybe six months or a year after my arrival,  he added another layer of what he called “defenses” to everything else he had done to me. This time, he implanted a small capsule, barely larger than a grain of rice, at the base of my skull. Then he gave me a demonstration of what would happen if I tried to leave my cell without permission.

God, I still had nightmares about what happened that terrible morning. Guards entered my cell and forced me to my knees. They made quick work of securing my hands behind my back. Then two guards stood on either side of me, making sure I didn’t climb to my feet. A third guard took his place behind me. Gloved hands held my head on either side, forcing me to look straight ahead. None of them spoke, even when I asked what was going on.

“Watch and learn. This is the only lesson on this matter you will receive.”

The doctor appeared in the corridor outside my cell. I watched—what else could I do when my head was held in the vice of the guards’ hands—as he did something to the wall opposite my cell. The stone of the wall seemed to shiver and then it dissolved and I found myself looking at a heavy metal door identical to the one that cut me away from the world. Until then, I hadn’t known there was another cell directly across the hall from mine.

Kneeling there, fear turning my insides to water, I swallowed hard, mouth and throat suddenly dry. The “doctor” looked back, his expression one I knew all too well. Someone was about to be hurt and I prayed it wasn’t me.

If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have prayed for something very different.

“Make sure she doesn’t look away or you will join the demonstration,” he ordered the guards.

The doctor placed his palm against a scanner panel next to the cell door. There was a soft hum that intensified when he bent slightly and placed his eye up to a second, smaller scanner. A moment later, the outer door slid open.  Then the secondary door, nothing but bars with a lock plate, opened. The doctor glanced back into my cell, making sure the guards held me where I could see. Then he turned back to the other cell.

“It’s all right, Three. You can come forward. I want you to step up to the doorway.”

He held a hand out, encouraging someone I couldn’t see to come forward. I wanted to yell for whoever it was to stay where they were. Before I opened my mouth to do just that, the guard behind me clamped a hand over my mouth, his fingers painfully biting into my cheeks. The message was clear. I was to watch and nothing else.

I wanted to close my eyes. If I did, they would find some way to force them open. I didn’t want to think about how they might do it for the consequences of doing so. So I watched  as the doctor coaxed the person, a man near my father’s age, to come forward. From the blank look in the man’s eyes to the way tremors shook his entire body, his terror filled the area. But he obeyed. You always obeyed the doctor. That was the first lesson learned upon arrival here.

One slow step after another, the moved toward the doorway. Just before stepping into the corridor, he looked at the doctor, his eyes pleading. He knew what was about to happen and could do nothing to stop it. That haunts me as much, if not more, than what happened next. The doctor retreated down the corridor as the man took his first step out of his cell. He never took another. I watched, forgetting to breathe, as he stiffened a split-second before his head exploded.

I pissed myself and vomited as bits of brain matter and blood and bone struck me. By the time I had myself under control, the doctor was back. His message went straight to the point. That would happen to me if I ever tried to leave the cell before the signal keyed to my implant was deactivated. I got the message, not that I haven’t considered more than once using the implant to end my time here.

But I guess you could say I’m stubborn. The truth is simpler than that. I’m a vindictive bitch. These bastards and my parents before them made me into one. I’ll die one day, but not before I’ve made every one of those responsible for putting me here pay dearly for what they did. Until then, I would bide my time. If nothing else, these people taught me patience.

And I can be very, very patient if I have a reason and they’ve given me a very good one.

11 comments

  1. At this point in NaNoWriMo, my goal is not to write 50k. It’s to keep writing to the end of the month and get 5 or 10K, which is more than I would have done without it. If I can get that by going back and doing a little rewriting to get a better feel for what the story really is and where it’s going to go instead of spinning more fluff, then so be it.

    1. My goal most NaNos is just to write, hopefully a little each day. With very few exceptions, when I’ve actually tried for the 50k, I’ve blown it big and something horrible usually happens.

  2. I did better than I’d thought with NaNo, but at the expense of some physical problems (bad posture, among other things). Lesson learned – I can’t use a laptop in my lap for extended periods, not in a place set-up for writing by hand, on a desk surface.

    1. Preach it about laptops. I can manage about three hours at my desk–the height isn’t quite right for the laptop. Most of the chairs in the house are good for an hour or two if I get up every half hour or so and stretch. Of all the places, my recliner is the best for long-term laptop usage. The problem there is I tend to go to sleep.

      1. When I’m at my home desk, the laptop is on top of a stack of four books. That puts the screen at eye-level, and lets me use my big keyboard to type on. I overload the built-in laptop keyboard when I really get going

  3. Some proof-reader feedback:
    I said on the edge of my bunk –> I SAT on the edge of my bunk
    held in the vice of the guards’ hands –> held in the VISE of the guards’ hands
    the moved toward the doorway –> HE moved toward the doorway

  4. Best wishes with your mom.
    My dad is in the hospital, dying by inches. Maybe he’ll make it out to rehab. My mother is not handling any of this well and they’re in another state.

    Does this affect the writing? You bet it does and you are not alone.

    God be with you.

    1. That’s pretty damned good, Dot. Congrats. (And don’t get me started on the “goal” for NaNo. I used to tell our crit group before Covid put an end to it that they needed to ignore the 50k and set their own goals. They knew what they usually wrote. So use November to try to improve on that . But the goal is always to just write.

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