Whew, it’s been a long few weeks since NaNoWriMo started, and a lot has happened. I turned 23 and enjoyed a lovely birthday trip to the Cape with my boyfriend. I helped to organize and participated in a massive pub crawl throughout the town of Burlington (for an embarrassing picture of me in a dress, tiara and gun, click here.) And, oh yeah, I’ve also written 28,694 freaking words of my story so far. For those of you who read books, that’s 86 pages. In two and a half weeks.
Needless to say, it has been a marathon of writing, and without a doubt this week has been the hardest. I’m tired, I’m still not entirely sure where my story’s going, and it’s tough to sit down every single day and write for two or three hours after a long day at work. However, that being said, it has been extremely fun and rewarding too, and it’s gratifying to know that I enjoy writing enough to have stuck with it this far. Taking on any kind of big challenge like this is scary, especially when you’ve told everyone you know and some people you don’t that you’re doing it. There are a million reasons not to do it, to talk yourself out of it – your life is busy, you don’t have the time, you’ll try next year. But life is short and before you know it, six years will have gone by and you’ll still be giving yourself the same tired old excuses I’ve been giving myself for the last six years I haven’t participated in NaNoWriMo.
There comes a point when you just have to look yourself in the eye and say, “you know what? You’re right, this is scary, and I might fail horribly. But it might be awesome as well, and I might find I’m made of stronger stuff than I thought.” Succeeding isn’t even necessarily the important part of a challenge like this one – yes it’s great if you do succeed, but even better than that are reasons like:
1. It’s fun.
2. It’s an adventure
3. It’s fulfilling
4. It’s something creative and challenging that is not sitting watching tv until it’s time to go to bed.
There are lots of reasons to participate in crazy, difficult challenges, whether it’s climbing a mountain, running a 5k, starting a business or writing a novel. We all have that dragon we want to slay, that hurdle we want to overcome, and the fact that we’re all unified in that is a pretty comforting thing.
Below is an excerpt from my novel that I’ve had a chance to edit – please let me know what you think, whether you love it or hate it!
The men sat in a loose circle, and the sound of their raucous laughter reached her even from a distance. As she approached, she could see the thick bands tattooed around their wrists and throats like chains, impossible to miss in the bright sunlight. Some were the deep green of sea foam, a few the dark blue of the ocean before a storm, three were brown, and one was red as blood. None were striped. Criminals. She hugged Skoot close to her chest and then plopped him on her shoulders to leave her hands free, resting the right one lightly over the pocket carrying her knife.
Where were the guards?
As she made to pass them, the men turned to look at her, abruptly stopping their conversation. She kept her head high and her eyes straight ahead as she walked, ignoring the tattoo her heart tapped against her chest.
“Wot we got ‘ere?” growled a low voice. She glanced to the right. Brown bands – a child molester. “Pretty li’le fing, ain’tcha?” A few of the men laughed. Ava stiffened, her whole body rigid, listening hard, but keeping her eyes firmly set ahead and not breaking stride. Skoot bared his teeth, his fur standing on end.
“Wos your name, darlin’?” the man cackled, drawing jeers and laughs from his fellows. Ava did not answer, but continued on her way. “Oi!” he yelled, and this time she heard him get up. “I said, ‘wos your name!” She whirled around to face the group and forced all the authority she could muster into her voice.
“My name is none of your business, scum,” she said fiercely. She eyed the man up and down. He was dirty, wiry and strong looking. Not huge, but definitely bigger than she was, and with six mates behind him besides. “How long have you lot been aboard – four months?” she sneered. “That means I outrank you, so you’ll leave me be, or the guard’s’ll have you belowdecks so fast you won’t have time to take a last look at the sun.” The men whistled and laughed, and her harasser looked back at them with a smile.
“Did you ‘ear that, boys? She outranks us!” He howled, turning back to her. “The guards won’t care ‘bout no jumped up brat like you. Looks o’ you, you don’t live much further up the hill from us. On’y ones gonna care ‘bout you is ol’ mummy and daddy.” She backed away.
“I warn you, I’m armed.” She said, her hand hovering over her pocket. He scratched his scruffy chin, considering her. Then he smiled, and reached for her.
In a flash, Ava’s knife appeared in her hand and sliced upward. With a horrible cry of pain and rage, the man fell back, clutching his face. He lifted his hands and Ava saw the deep gash she had cut across his left cheek and part of his nose. Blood ran down his face and over his mouth, and he spat it out before standing up again.
“Why, you li’le bitch!” he roared, starting forward. Ava backed away, her knife still in her hand. Her mind raced as she searched for a way out. The other men were standing now, some looking excited, others bored or nervous. There was no where to run. She squared her shoulders, preparing to fight. Suddenly, a shadow fell across her face, and she looked up to see the biggest man of them all standing in front of her – the one with the blood red tattoos. He was facing her attacker.
“Enough, Asher,” he said.
Something in the giant’s deep voice seemed to stop Asher in his tracks. He glared around the man’s back at Ava, still trying to stem the steady flow of blood from under his eye.
“Did you see wot that effing slut did to me face?” he yelped, using a dirty sleeve to mop up the blood. The man folded his arms.
“Yeah, I did. I also heard her tell you she was armed. Seems to me you deserved everything you got.” The man shifted his weight and Ava could clearly see Asher’s face, now as red from anger as from blood. He spat a gob of bloodied saliva, directly between the giant’s two green leather boots. Ava wondered where he had gotten boots like that.
“You lookin’ t’ rumble ‘ere, Nord? You think them tattoos makes us scared o’ you?”
“‘Us’?” He said. “Exactly which ‘us’ would you be describing?”
Asher glanced to his left and right. The other men remained seated, leaving him alone in the middle of the alleyway to face the giant. He turned back, less certain now, but not ready to back down.
“It seems to me,” Nord continued. “That there is no one here but the two of us. So this is what is going to happen. The girl is going to leave here with me. You all are going to stay.”
An ugly look twisted Asher’s already gruesome face. His cheek and eye now looked puffy, and the cut had developed a dark crust. “Why do you get t’ keep th’ girl?” he pouted. “She’s got a lot of fight in ‘er, and I’d love t’ teach ‘er some proper respect.”
Before Ava could think to be afraid, Nord had flexed one humongous fist and connected directly to the side of Asher’s face not covered by Ava’s cut. He landed on his knees, and a tooth skittered away across the uneven ground. Blood flowed afresh, this time from Asher’s mouth. He still managed to spit out a string of impressive swear words. Nord leaned down so he was inches from Asher’s ruined face, forcing him to look him in the eye. He quailed.
“You don’t get to take her because she’s not yours to take. I’ve claimed her now, and if I ever see you near her again, you lose more than just a tooth.” He looked up at the other men hovering nearby, watching. Nord raised his voice, “and that goes for all of you.” He straightened up and turned, leaving Asher in a messy puddle on the ground, cradling his aching face in his hand.
“Come, follow me,” he said to Ava, and, not knowing what else to do, she obeyed. As she followed him toward the end of the alleyway, she looked back at Asher. He glared at her.
“Your li’le friend won’ always be around, bitch,” he called. “An’ the mo’ ‘e’s not, I’ll be there.” Ava shuddered, and hurried to catch up to Nord’s long strides. She had no idea what to say to him, still unsure whether he meant her harm or not. He was new to the island – she would use him to get her safely away from the thugs, and then, if need be, she would lose him in the labyrinth of the city. Though he was larger and definitely stronger, no one could match her knowledge of the island.
After about ten minutes of walking, they had left the alleyways and come to a more secluded part of the city. Nord turned. “The name’s Nord Bastrom. Do you know how to spit?”
“What?” she asked blankly, still not sure if she should be running now, or not. Was this some kind of trick?
“Spit,” he repeated clearly. “Do you know how?”