NaNoWriMo 2012: Victory Lap

I can’t validate my ‘win’ yet anyway.


Well, I’ve done it. Last night I hit 50,000 words, meaning if it weren’t for Wednesday’s computer troubles (yes, again) I could have finished NaNo in two weeks this year. I feel a vague sense of anticlimax, and I guess it’s because now I’ve cheated myself out of the full month of intense struggle and looming deadlines. Hard to say, really.

I’m not ‘finished’ with NaNo, though; I’ll continue to participate in Philly’s in-person and on-line events to cheerlead my comrades. How do I proceed? Do I double-or-nothing, and press on for 100K with this story? Do I do what several other winners have written about, and start a whole new novel? Do I pare down what I’ve written and try to kit 50K of actual good content? Assuming this same blistering pace I’ve got a day or two to think on it before committing to one of those options. What do you think?

For fun, here’s another excerpt from what I’ve written so far. Rather than dealing with Evie and Manon, this deals with Evie’s best friend Claude and his firsthand experience of the inglorious truth of war. Again, it’s a super rough draft, but if you’re into works in progress, check it out. I’d love to hear some opinions on it.

I’d also be thrilled to hear what other NaNo writers have to say about their own progress. What’s your favorite sentence/paragraph you’ve written so far? What are you finding easiest and most difficult to write? Dialogue? Action? Exposition?

The ringing in his ear wouldn’t stop. It had persisted since the morning, when one of the battle’s first cannon blasts had exploded perilously close to his head. He rubbed it with rueful consideration, trying to remain alert and finding it more difficult without his hearing to aid him. The cries of his men were muffled, and the big ebony gelding beneath him fidgeted and quick-stepped around the scattered carnage. The smells of blood and excrement mixed with acrid clouds of powder and smoke. It all combined to make his horse edgy. Claude murmured soothing words and patted the animal’s sweating shoulder;  though he was a fine horseman and accustomed to spirited animals, he wasn’t eager to test his limitations.

A horn blast squealed even through his muted hearing, and Claude twisted in the saddle. His company’s Captain was gesturing the men to rally so he urged his horse on, trotting through the mess toward the man. At the faster gait his side ached; raising his arm revealed blood staining the gray wool of his shell jacket, and he could see the woven cotton lining through a ragged new tear. Shrapnel. The injury stung in response to his notice. Claude began composing a letter in his head like he often did to keep calm in moments of stress. Ma chere Evie, Today I was struck by some shrapnel, and sustained a glancing wound. It’s not severe, so I do hope it will not cause you unnecessary concern. Can you love me so disfigured?

His mind phrased the letters in ways he could not possibly commit to paper, lest they be read by someone other than his intended recipient. Claude composed hundreds of missives in this fashion, spelling out his love for her in songs and poems when simpler admissions fell short. He made promises, described the beautiful house they would have and the pleasant life they would share together. He invented arguments over whether to visit Paris or London on holiday. He even went as far as to detail the wedding they would never have. It was inspiring for brief moments in time but swiftly grew depressing, reminding him of all that he couldn’t have even if he survived.

Evie’s letters arrived with the same faithful regularity as before his last visit, though unless he was deluding himself there had been a subtle shift in their content. They were longer now, more involved. She no longer worried about boring him, and instead wanted to draw the letter out longer like it might buy them extra time. His heart ached with mingled gratitude and sadness each time he read her tidy script on an arriving envelope.

For now, Claude heeled his horse to a canter. He had more dire problems than Eveline. The keen hum was proving to be a great hindrance; two men had ridden almost to his left flank before he noticed them, and he knew with intact hearing he would’ve heard them approaching much sooner. His revolver was loaded, though, and his eyesight was as clear as ever in spite of the smoke. Trying to keep his hand steady by anticipating the rhythm of his mount’s stride, he sighted down the barrel and shot.

The first, a reedy ebony-skinned man in crisp Union blue, fell from his saddle. Claude aimed for the other, a waxy-faced older man with a bushy mustache and yellow sergeant’s stripes on his coat. The sergeant’s long rifle was tangled in his reins and Claude capitalized, firing before the other man could get his weapon free. The man reeled in the saddle but didn’t fall, and Claude swore. The lurch jerked the Federal’s horse. It bumped shoulders with the riderless one, who veered to avoid further collision and tangled with the body of its former rider. With a sickening crunch from somewhere around the horse’s spindly grey legs, its hoof lodged in something immovable and a foreleg broke. The animal screamed, adding to the abattoir chorus of the battlefield as it fell to the ground and flailed into Claude’s path.

There were bodies all over. He had been trusting his horse’s instincts to avoid them on its own path, but with this new obstacle right before them at such a speed there was no time to change course. All he could do was sink his heels deeper to keep his boots in the stirrups and grab a fistful of ebony mane so he wouldn’t jerk the poor beast’s mouth when it landed. He was barely settled before the horse gathered its hindquarters under it and leaped to clear its struggling compatriot.  Claude squeezed his eyes shut, an instant silent prayer darting through his mind My dearest love today I jumped a horse over a horse over oh God.

Can’t get enough?


4 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo 2012: Victory Lap

  1. Beth Parks Aronson says:

    Wow, if this is what your really rough drafts read like, I would love to read the polished prose. This is wonderful. I hope I will get to read the whole thing at some point!!!

    I’m at about 28000 words. I did a little polishing last night when Katie was lying on my arm and I couldn’t really type. I read the beginning to my husband, and he is enjoying it, but he’s not, obviously, a particularly critical audience. I haven’t been brave enough to post an excerpt anywhere yet. Maybe soon. I’m pretty sure I will win this year (my first), but i’m not sure the novel will be complete when I hit 50,000. Either way, I definitely want to keep working on it, editing and strengthening til it feels like something I can be proud of.

    My vote is for you bringing your tale to a logical conclusion, if it’s not there yet, and then starting something new. Save the editing for later on when we do a Philly Edmo, and give yourself some more to edit there with the new piece.


    • fissionerror says:

      Thanks Beth! My story is definitely not complete yet so I probably should force through the rest of the plot 😀

      I’m really eager to read an excerpt from yours when you feel comfortable sharing. You talk about it with such love and enthusiasm. Congrats on setting a great pace!


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