NaNoWriMo 2023. The winning project is.

NaNoWriMo is a month-long creative writing challenge that takes place every November.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been trying to decide which project I’m going to work on for NaNoWriMo this year.

I’ve looked at all three. And I’ve made a decision.

The project for this year is,

Where’s Lizzie?

A Psychological Thriller.

He was only away for an hour, he left his wife and baby daughter in their broken-down car, parked in a layby.

When he returned, his car had moved. Now it was against a tree, a mile further down the road.

His wife had hit her head and lost her memory.

Worse than that, his one-year-old daughter was missing from the back seat.

The idea for this one came from a drive home along the A303 in England, through the Blackdown Hills. I saw a car that had crashed into a tree and wondered what series of events had led to it happening.

The whole story sort of grew from that. I have around five thousand words of notes so far, and a few ideas, so I’m ready to see where it leads.

I have a feeling that I’m going to find a family with secrets and a tale of twisted revenge!

Wish me luck!

Here’s another teaser. It’s from a little later in the story, with our hero waking in a hospital’s casualty department waiting room. His wife, Romily, has been brought in unconscious from their wrecked car.

“Douglas, wake up.” The voice was familiar, interrupting my dreams.

I opened my eyes, forgetting for a moment where I was. Rom was standing in front of me.

Then, I remembered. I was in the hospital, the car was wrecked. Rom had been knocked out, the ambulance had brought her in. But now, she was alright. Relief washed over me, they’d fixed her while I slept. Did she know how worried I’d been? Did she know about Lizzie, that she was missing? Would she remember what had happened? Together we would have a much better chance of finding her.

“Rom,” I said, reaching out to take her hand. “you’re OK.”

“You’re confused,” she said. “I’m Bec, where is she?” Then I saw Rom’s parents, standing behind her.

And the nightmare began again.

“Where is my daughter?” Rom’s father, the brigadier, barked the question. He never even bothered saying hello. That was him all over, his forty years in the Army had made him expect instant obedience. He was arrogant and cold in his dealings with me, even with Rom, her twin Bec and his wife. Maybe they had got used to it. I hadn’t.

“I don’t know,” I snapped. “Someone is supposed to come and tell me when they’ve finished doing scans and tests. I must have fallen asleep.”

“That’s not good enough,” he muttered, shaking his head. “I’m going to find out what’s going on, like you should have.”

He marched off. Rom’s mum shook her head as he departed.

“He’s got worse,” she said, giving me a hug. “Hello Douglas, I’m so sorry.”

“He can’t bear it if people aren’t saluting him,” said Bec. I’d found her hard work at first but she had a great sense of humour and I’d grown to like her.

Archie came back, he was red around the face, “cheeky girl,” he said. “Told me to wait. I explained who I was, she said she didn’t care. She said that this was her ward and that I had to sit down and wait, she’d tell me when there was news. Didn’t look old enough to run a bath.”

“Now dear, you have to let them do their job,” Angela said.

“I told her I knew the health minister, she offered me her phone to call him. Cheeky.”

I looked at Bec, as we both tried not to laugh.

“Well, Douglas?” he said, “perhaps you can explain what happened, how you failed to protect my daughter and my grandchild. You had one job to do.”

“Dad,” said Bec, “that’s harsh, he’s lost Lizzie too.”  

“It’s OK,” I said, determined to try and keep the peace. “I understand your feelings but I thought I was doing the right thing. We discussed it, she was in a locked car, safe in a layby while I walked to a garage. Neither of our phones were working.”

“You could have waited till the café opened,” he said. I’d had enough of his attitude, his constant finding fault with everything about me.

“Here’s an idea for you,” I said. “Instead of jumping in to blame me, how about wondering why Rom opened the locked car door and let someone else, someone she didn’t know, drive a broken down car a mile down the road and into a tree, before removing Lizzie from the back and vanishing? Isn’t that more important?”

He said nothing.

A tired doctor came over. “Mr. Enders?” He said. “I’m Doctor Nevis.”

Archie pushed himself between us, “what’s happening?”

The doctor looked at him, “I understand you are concerned, sir,” he said “but I’m talking to the patient’s next of kin. And I’d appreciate you being more considerate to my staff, they have a difficult job and deserve your respect.”

He moved to one side so he was facing me, “now, Mr Enders, would you like to come with me?”

“Can my wife’s family come?”

“I suppose so.”

We trooped off to a bay, Archie in front. Rom lay in a bed, a bandage around her head and a drip in her arm. Lines danced across a screen and machinery bleeped.

“She has bruising across her chest from the seat belt,” the doctor said, “but no broken bones. I’m more concerned about her head injury, there’s no evidence of bleeding on her brain but she seems to have lost her memory. I’ve arranged for the on-call neurosurgeon to come and have a look at her. He will order more scans. You’ll have to excuse me, I’m very busy.” He turned and walked out.

I took her hand, “Rom,” I said, “are you awake?”

She opened her eyes and looked straight at me, “Who are you?” she said. “Nobody calls me Rom, except family. I’m Romily. I want my mum.” Shocked, I stepped back.

“I’m here,” said Angela, moving to her side. “With your father and Bec.”

“What am I doing here? I remember a strange man, and being in a car accident.”

“Who was it?” Archie asked.

Her brow furrowed, “I can’t remember,” she said. “Do you mean the first man or the second?” She looked at me, “That’s him, he was the second man,” she said.

“That’s your husband,” said her mother. Her face fell, “for the last time, I don’t have a husband, the nurses kept on about it too. Surely I’d know if I did? Bec, back me up here. That’s the man I saw at the accident. He’s something to do with what’s happened, I’m sure of it. Keep him away from me.”

Her father turned to me, “it would be best if you left,” he said, “she doesn’t know you, your presence is only upsetting her. We’ll take it from here.”

I could see that he was right, at least for the present. What choice did I have?

I hope you enjoyed that.

I’ll be trying to get as much of the story told as I can through November. I have a self-imposed deadline with my editor. Look out for updates on my progress in all the usual places.

Why not comment below and give me your thoughts?

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