Back in 2008 when I decided to try this thing I’d read about, this National Novel Writing Month, where you write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days, I was still employed full time in a job which typically saw twelve- to fourteen-hour days, six or seven days a week. Still, at 1,667 words per day, I felt it was doable.
At the end of October 2008 I was assigned two trips which would encompass thirteen days out of the thirty. The 1,667 words per day became 2,941 per day, but, hey, I easily knocked 5,000 or 6,000 words for congressional white papers on a near daily basis. Still doable.
In seventeen days in November 2008 I wrote 50,000-plus words. Some days were 4,000- and 5,000-word days, but I did it.
In seventeen days in November 2015, I’ve written 50,106 words and won my eighth NaNoWriMo, but, hey, I’m going for ten. Two of those much-edited (very much-edited) NaNoWriMo novels are now being reviewed by a publisher, so worthwhile? Definitely. If you’ve been wondering if you should give it a try, do it. It’s fun, exasperating, challenging, frustrating, and just about any other positive or negative adjective you can think of.
Oh, and this year’s novel? Not finished yet. Thank goodness I have thirteen days left to clear up all these dangling plot threads. And because I wasn’t done with the angst, here’s a mind-bending excerpt. Remember, I mentioned it’s not done yet. 😉
Mai hadn’t abandoned her usual method of analysis. Her papers, maps, and transcripts were scattered about her office, and she walked among them, barefoot, sleeves of her blouse rolled up, pencils poked into her braid like pins in a cushion. Grace Lydell got to the doorway, then turned to Nelson.
“I can’t do this,” she mouthed.
Nelson moued his displeasure at her and walked around her to the open doorway. He tapped on the door.
Mai looked up, her smile bright. “Oh, dear, my boss and my boss’ boss. Whatever have I done?”
“Mai,” Nelson said. “Sit down.”
She frowned, and Nelson read her expression. She knew but she wanted to deny it.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Sit down,” he repeated.
“No, you tell me what it is,” she said.
Nelson sighed and took a deep breath. He found the news he was about to deliver as incredible as she would.
“It turns out the intell we got on that Nazi was a trap, a KGB trap,” Nelson said.
“You’re talking, but you’re not saying anything,” she said. “What do you mean?”
“I mean that he’s gone,” Nelson said.
“As in back to Russia?” she asked, though he read the disbelief. Much as he had when he’d heard the news, she was grasping for any straw within reach.
“No, kiddo,” he said. “Alexei’s…”
How could he put those two words together to tell her and himself what they’d both lost?
“Alexei’s dead,” he said.
“How?” she asked.
“Just accept that he is,” he replied.
“How?” she persisted.
“Fuck it, Mai. You know the KGB better than any of us do. How do you fucking think? They walked him into a cell in the basement of the Lubyanka and put a bullet in his head,” Nelson said.
If her desk hadn’t been behind her, she would have hit the floor on her ass. Grace finally found her gumption and went to Mai’s side, embracing her.
“I want to see,” Mai said.
Nelson shook with anger, not at her ultimately, but for the enemies he was no longer physically capable of fighting. “The KGB doesn’t send the bodies back to us,” he said. “They have ovens for that.”
“Nelson, Jesus Christ,” Grace said.
“She asked, Grace. She’s a big girl,” Nelson said.
“And you don’t have to be a fucking bastard about it,” Grace said.
At first he thought Mai was going to handle it like a trouper, but a sound filled the room, one he’d only heard once before and never wanted to again. For the British once he’d observed an IRA funeral, and the woman had made this same noise, a high-pitched, ululating wail.
Mai had sucked in a deep breath and keened for her lost love. When she had finished, her face eased then hardened into a mask he recognized all too well.