NaNoWriMo: Day One

It seems absurd to want to join in a month-long frenzy of novel writing when I have already subjected myself to the pain and anguish of a year-long frenzy of novel writing, but we writers are crazy folk. Frankly, I will take whatever motivation is readily available to help put words to screen.

In case you haven’t heard of it, NaNoWriMo is an annual (November) novel writing project that brings together professional and amateur writers from all over the world. “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!” they proclaim on their site, as folks who feel they have a book in them try to squeeze, wrench, pry and jackhammer it out over the course of 720 grueling hours. That guy who cut his arm off after a mere 127 hours knows nothing of our suffering. No time for editing. No time to reach for a thesaurus. Just write, write, write.

My modus operandi does not often result in linear storytelling, so I shudder at the idea of trying to patch together dozens of disjointed scraps of scenery and dialogue into a publishable piece in just 30 brief days. However, I do like the immediacy and panic of the thing, and the sort of wartime “we’re all in the trenches” mood brought on by thousands of disenfranchised literary souls striving together to carve their letters into the shining firmament, etc. etc.

So, in honour of this month of extreme creative force, I will try to post some writing tidbits for the enjoyment of the public, in a serial fashion, just like early Charles Dickens only with fewer coal scuttles and absolutely no monetary compensation for my pains. Here is today’s short piece (about 600 words), brought forth by my excruciating afternoon encounter with a car alarm. Enjoy!


The car alarm had been going off for two solid hours now, blaring away, a demonic metronome. Drew stood, teeth clenched, eyelids narrowed, and glared out the window at the street below. The offending Audi was flashing its hazards on and off, on and off. It reminded her of the annoying light show at a downtempo rave she’d attended during her unfortunate teen years. No menacing thief skulking nearby, no apologetic owner fiddling with the lock; no silence in sight.

She wanted to run outside and wreak havoc on the car with a blunt instrument. In her mind, she envisioned the baseball bat or broom handle or rolling pin smashing down on the hood, breaking through the windshield with a satisfying crunch, peppering the dashboard with shattered glass and all the while, hitting, hitting, the flailing rhythm of her devastating blows keeping perfect time with the incessant honking like a mad animal percussionist.

The pounding would continue until her makeshift weapon ploughed deep enough into the car’s circuitry to find and destroy the Central Honk Apparatus or whatever that damned evil source of noise was called. Then, bliss, as the honks hushed to a hoarse flatulent whisper, falling out of tune, and at length the three-thousand pound steel music box from Hell would wheeze its last foul breath.

It was probably for the best that she had a turkey slow-roasting at 325º, and water boiling on the stove, as overseeing the kitchen meant Drew could not follow through on her dark fantasies of vehicular annihilation. Snap! On went the oven light, a quick bend at the waist, and she peered upside-down into the greasy darkness. The bird was browning nicely, oozing clear juices into the pan where they bathed waiting carrots and parsnips, releasing a pungent smell of sage and pepper into the air.

Striving for holiday cheer, Drew took a calming breath as she straightened up, and exhaled into sudden, peaceful silence. The racket had finally stopped! She peered out the window, but the driver was nowhere in sight. Either the coward had used a remote-control keychain to deactivate the alarm, or else the kind manufacturing engineers at Audi had built a pity-timer into their anti-theft system.

Drew gathered a dishtowel into her hand, reached over the front burner, and lifted the heavy lid to check on the potatoes. Hot clouds of steam billowed forth, revealing dancing vegetables bouncing up and down in their salty, starchy tub. Done. Boiling water was sluiced off into the sink, and the resulting roar seemed to resolve itself into the resurrected rhythm of the car alarm.

“Lord, no!” Drew thought, “Please not again.”

She held herself rigidly still and listened, muscles tense with expectation, but the alarm was no more: it was only the ghost of the dreaded sound, haunting her. Sailors often feel waves under their legs long after leaving the sea for the steady shore; so did Drew’s ears now play ventriloquist’s tricks on her, projecting phantom sounds into her brain. Time to quit cooking and take a walk, perhaps.

Checking the turkey with a fork, she covered it with tin foil and let it rest. Nothing else needed urgent attention; broccoli could be steamed later, cheesecake was chilling in the freezer. Pulling off the apron her brother had given her last Christmas that read, “I like cats, too! Let’s exchange recipes,” she washed her hands, pulled on her black pea coat and purple mittens, and decided to treat herself to a seasonal latte. Something spiced or maple-flavoured, full of syrup and joy.

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