As it’s November and I’m busy trying to complete NaNoWriMo for the sixth time; I thought that it would be a good idea to show you some extracts from previous years NaNo projects. I actually wrote all these posts a while ago, so I would have a clear schedule for the challenge.
We’ll start with 2014, my first year of participation. I was still employed as a pilot by the Port of London Authority, but I was on sick leave, having hurt my shoulder. In fact, I had an 8mm bone spur in the joint, which prevented full movement of my arm. I was later to have surgery on the joint to remove it. I didn’t know it at the time but my career was over. I’d already self-published one novel, Freefall and was thinking of writing a second. I saw an article about NaNoWriMo online somewhere, it seemed like an interesting premise and the time off gave me the chance to have a go.
With time on my hands and an idea in my head (a what-if moment based on an experience I had while still at work), I wrote the first draft of Ribbonworld, just over 60,000 words in the month. It was finished enough to send it out to a few people I trusted, to get honest opinions. Their comments were encouraging, so I rewrote it using some of the suggestions I got back, along with the things that I wanted to change. In the end, it came in at just over 70,000 words.
One of the best responses I got was from Helen Hollick, an author who I dared to ask the opinion of.
Well now I’m going to be blunt and firm, since you asked.
You want the truth? You did ask for the truth.
I don’t quite know how to put this but I’m not very impressed with you Richard.
You do realise I have now spent over an hour reading your bloomin brilliant book, and not getting on with my own work, don’t you? LOL
I rarely like first person, the exception is Dick Francis. I usually struggle with first person because the story often comes out as ‘tell not show’ – but I was hooked into yours straight away. I was there in that (Premier Inn / Travelodge) room – I’ll now never go into another without checking the bathroom first! It has pace, impact, interest… I want to read more”
Is this a one-off or are you planning a series? I hope a series… this has potential!
That was the thing that encouraged me to carry on, Freefall had been out for a while and was not selling very well. If I had received a more negative reaction to Ribbonworld than positive, I was contemplating giving it all up.
Here’s an extract from Ribbonworld. As Helen referred to the bathroom in her email, we’ll start there. Our hero has arrived in his hotel room but can’t get the bathroom door open. He’s called room service and fallen asleep while waiting.
The door buzzer woke me with a jolt. Looking at my watch I saw that I had been asleep for almost an hour. “Coming,” I called, thinking it must be the repairman. I was feeling a bit disorientated from the dream so I didn’t look through the spyhole, I just pushed the lock release by the door and stood back.
The door slid open and there were two of them, in crumpled looking suits and wearing worn expressions. I could tell straight away that they weren’t repairmen.
“Who are you?” the taller one said, waving an official-looking card at me. His gaze travelled over my shoulder, taking it all in. I had déjà-vu; this was just like it had been in my dream, and before that in my reality.
“I could ask you the same,” I replied, suddenly very awake.
“We’re the police,” said the second man, shorter and more rotund, with dark hair and a beard, “Detectives Flanagan and Chumna. We got a tip-off.”
I had a sinking feeling. “I didn’t call you, I called the desk – I can’t get the bathroom door open.”
They came into the room as I backed down the corridor; the one called Flanagan took a small multi-driver from his inside pocket and levered open the control panel for the room electronics. He fiddled around for a while, and the bathroom door started to slide open. When it reached the obstruction, it didn’t shut; it stopped with a six-inch gap.
The motor kept whirring as the two detectives put latex gloves on and held the edge of the door. They both pulled, grunting with the effort. Whatever was in there wasn’t giving up easily. Slowly the door slid open until Chumna was able to squeeze through the gap. He disappeared. There was a dragging sound and the door opened fully.
The light came on, just as he called out, “Barry, get in here.”
Flanagan disappeared into the room. “Don’t come in,” he called to me over his shoulder. Fair enough, but by going to the open door I could see what was going on in the mirror. And I was still enough of a journalist to be nosey.
A man’s body was lying in the shower stall, with one leg flung out against the door. He was about my size, early middle-aged and muscular, his flesh slackened in death.
There was no blood, or obvious wound, but as my gaze travelled over his body, I saw that the neck was mottled with blue and black bruises, below light stubble.
His eyes held my gaze, open wide, bulging from the skull and staring ahead in a shocked expression. The tongue had swollen up and forced the lips into a cross between a grin and a snarl. The detectives turned the body, patting the pockets, and Chumna pulled a wallet from one of them. I could see that it was full of paper money. He extracted an ID card and held it up to the face. The two exchanged knowing glances. One of them called out to me, “Do you know someone called Nic Stavriedies?”
That could be difficult to explain. I sort of did, but until I knew a bit more about the situation that I found myself in, I didn’t feel happy admitting it. So I said nothing.
They both emerged from the bathroom. “Who did you say you were?” said the tall one.
“I didn’t. I’m Miles Goram and I’ve only just got here.”
He consulted his notebook, nodding.
“That’s what it says here,” he said, “but you haven’t answered me, do you know him?”
“I know who he is, was, but I’ve never met him before, only talked to him, that’s why I’m here.”
“And why are you here?” This came from the short one, Chumna or whatever it was.
“I’m a writer, and I was supposed to be doing a piece about Nic Stavriedies and his hotel.”
I hope you enjoyed that, please leave a comment below. Ribbonworld is available as a single novel or as part of The Balcom Dynasty box-set. If you’ve enjoyed the extract, grab a copy for the full story. And if you do read it, please leave a review.
Next week, I’ll be telling you about my 2016 NaNo project, which turned out to be a step in a completely different direction.
Meanwhile, I’ll be back with a progress update on Thursday.
If you’re attempting NaNo this year, I hope it’s going well.
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