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How to Win NaNoWriMo: Day One

To win NaNoWriMo, you must write a 50,000 word novel—from scratch—in one month. To break it up, you have to write 1,667 words a day, every day, for thirty days straight.

That’s a lot of words. If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year, how do you win? Here are five suggestions.

Olivetti-Underwood

I actually own this typewriter! Photo by mpclemens

1. Write With Friends

Community can provide positive reinforcement to help you dominate NaNoWriMo.

This month, why not write your novel with The Write Practice. We’ve created two resources to help you:

Check them out and introduce yourself.

If you’d like to help encourage your fellow writers, consider writing a post for the community area. We’d love to host several of these per week. You can get involved here.

2. Write Fast

Today, writing fast is the most important thing you can do. Quantity begets quality, so write quickly today.

3. Don’t Edit

Editing is essential. Don’t be one of those writers who submits their unedited NaNoWriMo novel to publishers on December 1. But November isn’t for editing. November is for writing. The Oxford Comma and misuse of your/you’re  can wait for December.

4. Use a Timer

Your inner procrastinator may try to convince you otherwise, but there are only so many hours in November. Spend your time wisely by using a timer (we like e.ggtimer.com).

Set it for thirty minutes and see how many words you can write. Take a five minute break. Then, set it for another thirty minutes and see if you can beat your word count from last time.

5. This Isn’t Just About 50,000 Words

This is about mastering the craft of writing. Instrinsic motivation is always more powerful than extrinsic rewards, and becoming a master at something like writing is intrinsically good.

Every time you feel your energy flagging and procrastination taking over, ask yourself, “How can I get better today? What can I do to become a great writer today?”

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Introduce yourself here and make sure to pay attention to our NaNoWriMo community area this month!

PRACTICE

Kick your NaNoWriMo off right. Set your timer for thirty minutes and write as quickly as you can. When you’re finished, post your first words here in the comments section. If you post, please be sure to comment on a few pieces by other writers.

Best of luck!

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • Gkboyd

    RE your suggestion #1, every time someone suggests that,  it’s about as welcome as the sound of a smoke alarm when you’re frying bacon in the morning.

    Here’s something you might find interesting:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.htm

    Gene

    • Oddznns

      HI Gene… the link doesn’t seem to go anywhere. DO you want to repost. Thanx.

  • Gkboyd

    Joe – Look up TED Talks. The speaker is Susan Cain. It’s her only talk.

    Gene

  • Marla4

    It is my house now, my mother gone, her ashes in a shiny brown
    box from the gift shop at the hospital where I bought her a boa the color of
    the sea and wrapped it around her neck and tried not to make a noose of it.

    I couldn’t stand to see her sick.

    She was born in this house. 
    She married here.  Six times.  The husbands are scattered now, even my
    father, who picked up the phone when I called with the news and said, “She
    turned my heart to ash when I was twenty.” 
    He cried then, the kind of crying that makes you think less of a man.

    He did not come to the funeral.

    Goodwill will be here soon, ready for the boxes that I have
    tossed many things into. Every slip is a sorrow, every sock is a shock. 

    Each time my mother married, she moved to another bedroom, so
    her things – and some of theirs – are scattered through the four floors.  Aramis cologne, cigar cutters, novels from
    the seventies.  It is a museum of failed
    promises.

    The house itself is a relic, in our family for 134 years.  When the plaster cracks we patch it
    ourselves.  When that fails we wallpaper
    over it.  When the wallpaper splits, we
    call in a carpenter.

    Goodwill is knocking.  I
    look at myself in the foyer mirror, retie the band that is holding back my long
    brown hair.  I’ve lost forty pounds in
    the last six months and the loss suits me. 
    If I put on makeup, if I put on heels, I’d look better than I have in years.  I am thirty-four.  I feel fifty.

    I don’t know who hires the Goodwill men.  I’d like to think they’re volunteers, do-gooders
    who come in gently and say wise things, but the guy on my front porch looks
    like he needs help more than the charity does. 
    Ripped cargo pants, wrinkled oxford shirt, running shoes without laces,
    a two-day beard.  If the Goodwill van
    wasn’t behind him, I might not open the door.

    “Good morning,” he says, when I finally do.  He holds a clipboard, and he scans it, pulls
    a pen from behind his ear.  “Lee
    Stockton?” he asks.

    “Leah,” I say.

    “Sorry, let me correct that here,” he says and writes in my
    name.  “I’ve come to pick up a donation.”

    I step aside and let him pass. 
    The house is impressive if you don’t know its secrets, and I watch him
    look around.  The room we’re in is
    painted pale yellow.  The drapes are white
    silk, with pale blue birds embroidered on the hem.  We are standing under the chandelier, a
    thousand prisms of light skipping across the cherry floors.

    “Here,” I say, and point to the table where I’ve stacked a dozen
    boxes from We Won’t Tell Liquor.  “Take
    these.  I meant to have more done but
    I’ve..”

    I stop then, unsure of what to say.  I haven’t been busy.  I haven’t been back to work at the courthouse
    where I file deeds and send out tax notices. 

    “I’ve been lethargic,” I say.

    The Goodwill man smiles. 
    “I’ve been lethargic,” he says. 
    “On several occasions.  Lethargic
    sucks.”

    I start to laugh, and then hiccup, and finally cry.  It is such a messy meltdown, but he doesn’t
    seem unnerved by me.  Instead, he reaches
    out and rubs my back, between my shoulders.

    “I’m sorry,” he says. 

    “My mother,” I say, and he nods.

    He is used to the aftermath of death, I suppose, the shedding of
    worldly goods to make way for what exactly? 
    When I empty out the rest of her closets, what will I fill them up with?

    The thought sets me off again, and I lean into him, and he takes
    me in his arms.

    “I’m violating about twelve of the twenty rules Goodwill made me
    sign off on,” he says. But he holds me anyway, and we work our way to the sofa
    and we sit together and he lets me cry.

    “Leah,” he says.  I wait
    for the rest, but that is all.  Just my
    name, and I hold still, waiting for him to say it again.

     

    •  Wow.  I can FEEL the space, heavy with emotion.  Great writing style!

    • Oddznns

      I can feel this going to be a new beginning even if it’s about an ending. Marla… can’t wait for what you’ll deliver.

  • I’m young, healthy and active.  I eat my daily recommended vegetables and
    stay away from sugar, fat and salt.  I
    bike the four mile trail at Lansbury Park each morning.  I can do push ups, squats and lunges.   The last
    time I went for a physical, my doctor said I was (and I quote) “a paragon of
    health and wellness”.  I never get sick,
    and I’m always encouraging others to ditch the red meat and soda and consider
    fish and water.

    Of course none of that really matters now, because I am
    dying.

    I am on my back in the middle of the street. 
    There are noises, people screaming I think, but it’s all very muted and far
    away, like I’m trying to hear them across a large body of water.  The water soaks up their words and their
    shouts, and all I get is a comfortable thrum of background noise.  It reminds me of being alone in a crowd, you
    might catch individual snippets of conversations but you never hear the whole
    thing, and that in itself is kind of comforting.  You’re with people without really being with
    them.  I turn my head and can see the
    mangled wreck of twisted metal that was once my bike.  I bought it used from some granola guy in
    Portland, who swore it was the best bike he’d ever owned.  I remember he wore Birkenstocks and needed a
    haircut (and a shower), but I’d have to agree – it was a fantastic bike.  Smooth and responsive.   When
    the truck came barreling at me, when I saw in his eyes he’d missed the red
    light and we were on a direct collision course, I twisted the bike at the last second
    and it obeyed, willingly turning away from the oncoming cab.  But it wasn’t enough.  There was a loud sound and a corresponding
    bright flash of light, and then I felt the wind get knocked out of me.  That’s an understatement, like someone saying
    “I got a little wet in this rainstorm”.  Dots
    appear before my eyes and dance there, small flashes of blue, red, gold and
    white.  Honestly, it feels like someone
    has punched my kidneys out the other end but aside from the sheer force there isn’t
    any pain, and for one brief, blessed second I think, I’m unscathed.  I will be the one-in-a-million person who
    survives a crash with a semi truck.  I
    will spend a few days in the hospital but my body is strong, and will
    mend.  I will go back to biking and
    working out within the next month.  Light
    repetitions I’m sure, and probably nothing like my four mile biking endeavors,
    but I can work my way back up to that.

    Then I see all the blood. 
    It’s splashed over the crosswalk and smeared down the street, violent
    streaks of red and burgundy.  Some of it
    is splattered on the yellow caution sign that marks the sidewalk.  For a terrible second I think, did someone
    else get hurt?  Then I realize no, nobody
    else did.  I want to scream, because that’s
    when I realize it’s not the blood, it’s my
    blood.  I can’t wrap my head around
    this.  No pain.  Blood everywhere.  Nothing is adding up; I feel like I’m trying
    to figure out a puzzle where I’m missing half the pieces.

    A few hundred feet away, the truck is jackknifed against the
    sidewalk, clicking and groaning as it cools down from its cross-country trek
    from wherever.  The door to the cab has
    been flung open, and I can see the inside. 
    Fast food wrappers, soda cans and papers everywhere.  Shania Twain is on the radio, singing it’s
    gonna be all right if we hold on a little bit longer.  Her words float through the air, wrapping
    around me.  Hold on a little bit
    longer.  People have gathered around me,
    and I can see in their faces that I’m in a bad place.  It’s gonna be alright.  They look at each other helplessly, some with
    their hands over their mouths, some crying softly.  People on their way to work or daycare or
    running errands, whose lives have been changed by this terrible accident.  Though not as much as mine is about to
    change.

    As I drew my last shuddering breath and a man I’ve never met holds my
    hand and tells me it will be okay, the ambulance will be here soon, all I can
    think of is how nobody ever told me how much life enjoys irony.

    You see, the truck that hit and killed me that day was carrying frozen beef
    patties to the fast food restaurant down the street.

     

    •  Your writing style transplants me at the scene.  Excellent work.

    • Oddznns

      Great intro KP.  Love your style.

  • Newbie nanoer

    Alicia
    slammed the phone and took a deep breath. What the hell just happened?  Did Ian just break up with her on the phone?

    She stood
    up and walked across the room to face the window. What the hell had happened? They
    were on their way to being engaged, they had spent so much time talking about
    the future. And last month’s trip to Belize had sealed the deal – they wanted
    to be together forever.

    Looking down
    from her third-floor apartment, she saw the preschoolers gathering in the yard
    that faced her building next to the park. She always enjoyed this time of the
    day. There was innocence about children taking their first stab at making
    friends, inventing games, crying for their mommy to soothe an injured body
    part. It was enchanting and comforting, unlike her own childhood. But there was
    nothing enchanting about today. A pang slowly formed in her stomach and her
    hand quickly wiped the tears that were forming and threatening  to fall.

    She turned
    and surveyed the room though blinded eyes. Last night’s pizza remnants lay cold
    and hard on her desk. She’d worked late, until 2am to finish sketching a shoot
    for next month. Picture frames hung all over the apartment like scattered
    pieces of a documentary of what she once had with a man whom she loved and who
    had convinced her to trust him. But this was the last time.

    Grabbing
    her jacket and handbag, she locked the door and ran down the stairs, too
    impatient to wait for the elevator. Besides, elevators were for sissies too
    lazy to walk, like Lance Frobisher from 209. Athletic and in his 30s, he
    diligently walked his Great Dane twice a day and would shamelessly squeeze himself
    and his best friend into the four by four elevator in the middle of rush hour. Prick.

    • Bruce Humphrey

      Provides an interesting read. For a short story, it would tell not enough, but as it is for a novel, we’ll have plenty of time to see where it is going.
      Keep up the good work.

  • Missaralee

    My baby’s first steps, I give you the maiden voyage of “General Disorder”

    I’ve found you here again in our place. We collide like ships drawn into the swirling pull of the other. I drag you down as I sink under darkening waters, and you rip the steel from my punctured hull. What fresh hell have we found, tied together with crimson thread and always drawing the blood of the other. Today you are a general, a dictator, freshly ascended to the dizzying heights of power. Power you seized in a coup. Smoke and mirrors, your oldest tricks, plied against the aging tyrant.
    I wanted him overthrown. You know I did. Bringing him down was my life’s work. With words and posters and rallies, I railed against him. Making myself the enemy, while your diligent boots extinguished our rebel fires over and over again. He trusted you because of the skulls you crushed for him. He loved you for your lust for blood. And now his blood has stained your boot heel. Are we still enemies then? Do I now take up the cry against you, my oldest friend, my oldest foe?
    —–
    “Alex!”
    Dry leaves and crisp twigs raise a fluster of sound as I saunter over to my freckled friend. “Alex, why didn’t you wait for me by the old oak?”
    And then, pointing at the dead pigeon at his feet: “Did, did you kill that bird?”
    “It was spying on me, carrying messages to my enemies. Look at the band around its foot.”
    A lump has tightened in my throat. “Alex, that’s an identifier band that ornithologists use to estimate bird populations. And, I don’t think people use pigeons to carry messages anymore, spies or otherwise.”
    “Are you saying I’m paranoid? Delusional? Crazy? Go ahead, Diana, tell me more about how I’m an unsettled youth with a reality disorder. Maybe you can have tea with my parents and titter about anti-psychotics and calming meds.”
    “Your words, not mine. You really shouldn’t have killed that poor bird, Alex.”
    Grabbing me by the hand, “come on, I want to show you this neat cave that I found.”
    Alex half drags me, like a sled directed by tethered dogs, toward the stream and making a sharp right pulls me through a thicket of hazels and dog strangling vine.
    “Ouch, Alex, watch it!” He turns, touching the fresh scratch on my cheek.
    With sudden tenderness, “I’m sorry Diana, does it hurt terribly?”
    Thinking I’d never seen this expression in his black eyes before, I look quickly away and draw a sharp breath. “Crystals!”
    “It’s salt. It seeps out of the stones see? There are cracks and shelves all through this place. I brought my dad’s police flashlight down last night to check it out. See the fossils in the darker rock? I think these animals used to live in the ocean.”
     “Do you think anybody else knows about this place?”
    “Naw, I doubt it. All these fossils woulda been cleared out by now if those snoopy phoneys out there had anything to do with it.” With his eyes on his shoes and tracing a finger along an ancient specimen of Macoma balthica, “I thought this could be our place, you know, like a club house.”
    “You know I can keep a secret, Alex. This can be our club house, you have to be President.”
    All shadow finally banished from his face, he grinned, “you can be Treasurer.”
    “No way, I’m head of security. All intruders, threats and spies will be dealt with, in a humane and balanced manner.”
    I was too enraptured with the sparkling cave to be bothered by the dark look he shot me. He saw me as a threat even then.

    • Juliana Austen

      This is great!!! This baby has so much potential!

    • Oddznns

      I’m getting into this already Missaralee! Like is this kid for real or does he have a personality disorder? Great.

  • Bruce Humphrey

    Cold fog slowly crawled upwards towards the assembled human army, making horses and riders nervous. Every human could feel death calling their name, Agnarr’s army was coming. The Eternal King had vowed to conquer the free lands, and so far had succeeded. A conquest for land, not of the people, wherever his undead hosts had been, they left nothing alive. After the armies came the vile necromancers, Rayjoy and Cos’edal, and they used their foul ungodly magic to add more undead to the armies.

    Princess Jessica Krueger stood on her faithful white mare in the front row, ready to lead the charge. Neither princess nor mare showed any outward sign of nervousness, they had been training all their life for this fight, the most noble of fights for a paladin. Her silver armor shone under the pale moonlight. Selene, her faithful squire, offered the princess her shield, her coat of arms a silver full moon on a black field, “no retreat, no surrender” its motto. Once the shield was strapped to her left arm, her squire gave her a thin battle lance. The first cavalry charge must cut through the army of ghouls if they where to have any hope of killing the puppet masters.

    The fog parted to reveal the ghastly undead army slowly hobbling uphill. Fiery arrows flew from the human archers and burnt many ghouls, but for every ghoul that became a pile of ash, two took its place. An unending tide of undead seemed to be coming at them. Jessica straightened her lance and lead the cavalry charge, at the head of the wedge formation, the light of the moon goddess shining her blessings over them. The strength of the powerful warhorses behind made the lances penetrate three or four ghouls at a time before breaking, the thundering hoofs of the horses draining the sickening noise of steel cutting through putrid undead meat. Some horses fell under the poisonous ghoul nails, its riders eaten alive by a ravening horde. They where lucky, they could not be raised as undead to haunt the lands they defended with such zeal.

    Such a powerful cavalry push had taken them just where they wanted to be, in front of the Putrid Puppetmasters, lesser necromancers that gave instruction to the ghouls who where now clashing with the swords and maces of infantry. Jessica got of her mare and threw her shield to the ground as she wielded her sword. It felt good to swing a bastard sword. Most warriors, male, didn’t expect a lithe woman such as her to be able to wield a 20 pound sword with such ease, and that was a definitive advantage. In her case, it needed a two handed grip, unlike some hulking brutes who could wield them with one hand as if they where a matchstick. The steel of a shield could do nothing to stop the foul magic of a necromancer, so there was no tactical advantage to use one and a lesser sword. Jessica wanted to do as much damage as quickly as she could, giving no time for the enemy to cast its deadly spells.

    A quick descending cut cleaved the first necromancer from left shoulder to right armpit.

  • Alright, below is the result of my first day writing for NaNoWriMo. I am cheating, as I have already written the first chapter of my NaNo book, as well as the first couple pages of the second, so keep in mind that this is not the introduction to the story, but certainly the beginning. 

    As a side note, I think I am going to be keeping notes for my second draft as I progress. I get that NaNo is about quantity over quality, and I am not going to go back and edit anything until December, but I have a terrible memory and I want to keep track of the changes I think of as I go along. Much of this following passage is…abysmal, but bare with me. Words: 1810

    Sparrow tried to not rip the old leather straps of Bosco’s harness as she struggled to secure it. The hound licked at her face, its tail tucked between its legs as she rocked him back and forth in an attempt to pull the strap through its final loop. She stood up after it finally gave way and Bosco inched away. Sparrow looked down at the dog with her hands on her hips. “Coward,” she said and Bosco made no attempt to correct her.
    Craig was standing at the top of the stairs into the kennel when she looked up. “How long you been watching me?” Sparrow asked.
    “We’re rolling out,,” Craig said and walked away.
    Sparrow had no doubt they would leave her if she wasn’t moving shortly. The dogs sat patiently before her, strapped both to each other and to a branching harness that tied them to her small trailer. The three youngest, strongest, hounds were unharnessed, waiting at the front of the team. “Alright kids, let’s go.” 
    She gave a single snap of her fingers and the dogs lunged against their straps, pulling the trailer effortlessly up the concrete ramp out of the depression to the ground level of the building. Her three hunters kept position at the sides and front, with Sparrow following at the tail. In the trailer, the caravan’s medicinal supply rocked back and forth in wooden crates.
    They met up with the rest of the caravan outside the old tower. Ancient trucks stripped of their motors were leashed to workhorses, men and women sitting in makeshift seats where the engines used to be. Some drove newer wagons, built of wood and newly cast metal, pulled by the family mule. Lookouts with rifles and bows and spears walked alongside the caravan. They were at ease inside the town, but she knew all too well how quickly the bravado would fade in the forest.
    Townies made room for them as they pulled north up Main Street, toward the Wildwood. Sparrow liked Kimber, the people didn’t ask any of the right questions and were easy to milk an extra coin out of. A little girl ran up to her on the street, eyes wide. 
    “Wow! I’ve never seen so many dogs! Are they all your’s?” the girl asked, running alongside the trailer. One of the free hounds circled around her, sniffing until Sparrow waved it off.
    “They’re friends,” Sparrow said with a smile. 
    The girl smiled back. “I have a dog too. He’s really nice!”
    “That’s good. Make sure you treat him right.” Sparrow didn’t say You don’t own him.
    One of the dogs barked and then another, until the entire team was riled up. The girl ran off with a squeak as Fergus approached. Sparrow groaned. “You check the shipment before you left?” Fergus asked.Sparrow sliced a hand through the air, silencing the dogs. “Fuck off, Fergus.”He was roughly two feet taller than her, with greasy brown hair hanging over his face, pooling along his shoulders and waterfalling down his back to end just below his shoulder blades. When she met his eyes, her stomach turned. There was nothing good to be found there.“You talk to my dad this morning?” He licked his teeth subconsciously.“Is this the ‘I’m top dog now that the old man has stepped down’ talk?” Sparrow asked.“More of the ‘you’ve got no friends out here’ talk.” He slowed his pace and took hold of a passing truck, pulling himself into the bed. “So watch your fucking mouth. Is the shipment accounted for?” “I wouldn’t have left if it wasn’t.” She whistled and the dogs slowed, letting the truck pass them. She had had enough of Fergus for one afternoon.III They were three days out of Kimber when they spotted their first wilderkin.
    “We’ve got company!” one of the lookouts shouted down the line. 
    A sharp whistle brought Sparrow’s team to a slow and she jogged to the front, where her regarded her with somber eyes. He was an old mutt, with a shaggy red coat and a net of faded gray scars marring his face. When he looked at her, there was only reverence.
    She mussed up the fur between his ears and smiled. “Keep the peace, Leo,” she said.
    Up ahead, Craig was gathering several caravaneers into a hunting party, jabbering about wilderkin blood on their spears. Sparrow joined them, no weapon in hand. 
    “This ain’t your problem, boy,” Craig said.
    “I think that’s exactly what it is,” she said.
    Craig grabbed her by the arm and pulled her away from the group. “If you think I’m bringing you out there, you’re out of your fucking mind. Stay put or-”
    “Shut up, Craig. Just shut the fuck up.” She nodded a head toward the group. “We’ve got maybe five good men with us this year, two of which are missing some manner of important limb. The rest are newbloods, scared shitless at every rustle of leaves. You want to go in there and kill some wilderkin, fine. I’m certain they have the same plan for us, but you’re not getting anywhere without someone who knows how to track them.
    “You’re welcome to wander the forest, wasting our time and resources, but I highly advise you consider bringing your best tracker with you. Even if he is wildblood himself.”
    Craig sighed. “Fine. You’re in.” 
    They rejoined the group, where the men were telling stories about caravans past. Rude, a big man with arms as hairy as a bear’s and little in the way of teeth, fully extended his arm above him, holding his hand out flat. “I swear, I saw one tall as a fucking tree, I did.”
    Newbloods rolled their eyes, laughing nervously. When none of the vets corrected Rude, they fell silent. 
    “Alright, we’re fanning out northwest after that deer fucker. If you see anything, keep your damn mouth shut and meet up with Sparrow and I.”
    Fergus tensed at Sparrow’s name. “You’re bringing him?”
    “You know how to track wilderkin?” Craig asked his brother.
    That put an end to the argument. Craig left Fergus to watch the caravan and put Sparrow on point, with Rude covering their rear. The man who spotted the wilderkin led them up a hill to where he had seen the tribal. 
    “Saw him right here. Big as a truck, he was. Looked like a damn monster,” he said.
    “Likely in hunting dress. Antlers?” Sparrow asked. What the hell are we doing out here? she thought, This can’t end well.
    “Small rack of em, strapped to his head. I was takin’ a leak when I saw him sightin’ me with his bow. He ran off that way.” The man pointed down the hill in the opposite direction of the caravan.
    “A scout. You’re lucky you saw him when you did. The Stag tribe likes to pick people off the caravans to bring back for ransom. Or…other things,” Sparrow said. She tried not to think about it.
    The man’s face turned pale. “How do you know that?” he asked.
    “The wilds and I go way back,” Sparrow said and sighed. If the scout was Stag, they were probably in the clear if they just kept the caravan moving, but there was no way Craig would let that happen. 
    “So you think he’s bringin’ friends?” one of the newbloods asked.
    “No. Stag isn’t a warband, purely extortion. If we keep everyone close, they’ll leave us be.” 
    “Now wait a minute, what the fuck do you mean, ‘the wilds and you go way back?’ “ the other man was looking at the blue knots tattoo’d down her arm.
    Sparrow rolled her eyes, “What do you think it means, rookie?”
    “You’re-” He looked to Craig and then to Rude, unsure if he should continue. When both men refused to meet his eyes, he fell silent.
    “We should get back to the caravan. Now,” Sparrow said to Craig.
    He shook his head, “Not gonna happen. There’s tribals out there, I want it taken care of.”
    “It is taken care of. Did you hear what I said? There’s no way Stag would attack a fully armed caravan. If we press north, get out of their territory, we’ll be fine.”

    “Now hold on! That son of a bitch was aimin’ to shoot me and drag me to his lair! You sayin’ that’s ‘fine?’ “ the rookie said.
    Craig nodded, “They’ll pick our people off, we don’t deal with this now.”
    “Are you listening to me? We bunch up, keep everyone from wandering off for a piss,” Sparrow eyed the rookie, “and we press north. Or do you really think sending a war party wandering through their woods is a better idea?”

    Craig scratched his chin and looked out toward where the wilderkin had run off to. After a few feet, all that waited for them was a wall of green and the unknown. Sparrow shook her head, “We’re a week south of Bentley, with nothing, but Wildwood and wilderkin between here and there. Do you want to lose men hunting some chickenshit slavers, or do you want to be ready when the real trouble shows up?”
    He gave a deep hmph and turned back toward the caravan. Rude and the others followed after him. 
    “Wait! That motherfucker would have killed me! We’re just going to let him get away with that? What if it was one of you!?” The rookie stood his ground, watching them go. 
    Sparrow smiled, “You might want to keep your voice down, before he comes back.”
    Suddenly aware of his surroundings, the rookie looked back as if he expected the scout to be sighting him once more, but there was only the forest. Calm and unending. Sparrow gave him a gentle shove and the man broke into a run. When he caught up with the others, they all laughed. 
    Standing alone on the hill, Sparrow pulled a small wooden medallion up from where it hung beneath her shirt. It was a thick knot of lines, carved from pine, with large hole punched through it. She looked from the Knot to the cluster of trees the scout had run off to.

    Hunched low in the shade of a black spruce, a silhouette of a horned man watched her. She took the Knot off and held it up into the air for him to see. The antlers tilted, the man cocking his head in curiosity. 
    “I thought the idea was for everyone to stick together!?” Rude called back to her.
    Sparrow draped the Knot once more over her neck and tucked the medallion beneath her shirt. The Stag held up a hand, his middle and ring finger spaced far apart to resemble the cleft of a deer’s hoof. She didn’t return the gesture, only walked back toward the others, her head hung low.

    • Oddznns

      Jeff, Sparrow’s an intriguing character already. What does she look like. How does she come to be doing what she’s doing… whatever they’re actually doing. And a “horned man”…. wow!

      • Sparrow is a woman with a very manly body. Her chest his flat, her shoulders broad, to the point where everyone thinks she’s a man, and given the state of the world, she doesn’t correct them. Her hair is chromatic, meaning it looks something like a rainbow, from shitty dyes she’s used in the past. Tattoo’d down her right arm is a series of blue lines, twisting in and out of knots. I feel free to tell you all this outright only because it’s mentioned in the story BEFORE this point and I don’t want to cheat anyone here out of the description 🙂

        Right now, she is traveling with a caravan out of the town of Kimber, north toward Bentley, bringing them supplies. Most of the northern lands the book takes place in is covered in what they call the Wildwood, where tribals rule. I won’t tell you how she got there, because that hasn’t been revealed yet 🙂

        I’m glad you like Sparrow, Oddz, she’s a favorite of mine too! 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  • Ckschleg

    Disclaimer/Introduction: 
    I’m not sure what I’ve gotten myself into here. The messages in my inbox implored me to write for 30 minutes, so I did. The “practice” called for  submitting my first words, so I am. 

    I can’t say as I thought I’d write a novel. I’ve just wanted to improve the time and quality of my writing. that’s why I’m here. However, when faced with the whole 30-minute task, I dug back to where i’ve always told my stories, teh fictional Minnesota town where a boy grows up and has a life comprised of the adventures every boy wishes for his summer vacation. Here’s how it begins, all 880 words/30 minutes of it:

    We weren’t a good team, but we had  a lot of fun together.

    The fourteen of us clicked, which is unusual. Typically on nay team there are a few outliers, and often they stray into varied directions. Not so on the Monty Mustangs.

    When you grow up in a town the size of Monty, you can’t help but grow close to your teammates. Otherwise, you’ll become so aggravated with your peers that there’s no hope for your team whatsoever. That said, I don’t think we could ever have transcended  mediocrity. We just weren’t that good.

    You’d think that with all the time we had spent together running the lake streets of Monty, riding through the wooded hillsides surrounding the town and surrounding countryside, and swimming in the slow pools in the bends and below the riffles of the Zumbro, we would have been a unit o contend with. Yeah, you’d think that. But, this was Monty, Minnesota, where soccer simply wasn’t as big a deal as it might be in more culturally well-heeled areas such as Rochester to the south, and the Twin Cities to the north.

    No, in Monty Minnesota, soccer was an after thought. Perhaps that’s what drew us together. Myself and Howie Mars, along with Vince Cobert and Randy Walker grew up in the Milburn county recreation system where we played against kids from as far away as Viola, Plainville, Elgin, and even Millville. We even had a chance to play a Rochester team or two comprised of kids who, thanks to the MAyo Clinic’s international roster of physicians, came from countries weren’t even able to find on a map in early elementary school.

    Over the ensuing years, into middle school, we picked up a few other stalwarts of the local 11 – Wang Vang arrived in third grade when his family took over the old Duchess and renamed it Vang’s, naturally. Caleb Front and Mitchel Bailey joined Wong back in 5th grade. What the latter two lacked, initially, in knowledge of soccer, they made up for with a zeal for learning new skills and the general tactics of the game. By the time we had finished 8th grade, the starting 11 had been rounded off by Jack Frost (yeah, he caught heck for that name. What were his parents thinking, eh?), Hunter Milburn, José Avila, and Kayla Linderman. Yep, we had a girl on our team. 

    The eleven of us made up the Monty Mustng soccer team from 8th grade through our senior year. Together, year-round, we trained, sometimes seriously, but most of the time just seriously enough to avoid the consequences from Coach Horst.

    For us players, Monty was and likely always would be home. Many of us had families whose roots descend deep into the soil in and around Monty. We were the descendants of bankers, merchants, and farmers who carved Monty from the hardwood forests flanking the Zumbro. But our coach was different. He was a foreigner in every sense of the word.

    Coach Horst arrived in Monty the summer before 8th grade, an import in land of Chevy’s and Fords; a coupe in a lot full of 4×4 pickups. Friedrich Wilhelm Horst was as  German a man as you could find. Six-foot two, wispy blond hair parted across a pale rectangular forehead. He had a stoic affect that came off cold, even callous. Perfect for a high school counselor, huh? We didn’t think so either. Yet not long after his arrival he could be found prowling the parks for soccer players, kindly coaching them unsolicited, the strange man with the odd accent issuing directives to players who weren’t his, and who likely had no clue what the screams of “through,” “overlap” and “switch” meant. Not to mention the fact the accent made them almost indecipherable. 

    Clad in a long-sleeved FC Bayern jersey, Adidas trainer’s pants and a pair of oiled and well-worn adidas “boots,” Coach Horst would push a ball up and down sidelines, his feet keeping control of the ball while his eyes scanned across the pitches for any talent whatsoever.

    We learned later that what sold Coach on Monty was the administration’s willingness to let him augment his pay with a coaching stipend. Better still, he was given the authority to create our team from scratch, from the pitch up, as he was wont to say. And, let’s say that you cannot get more bottom than 8th grade when forming the makings of a varsity soccer program.

    So, as I entered  summer vacation between 7th and 8th grade, that magical summer in Monty when you emerged from the uniquely structured 5-6-7 middle school onto the doorstep of the Monty Secondary School, I walked right into a future with football on my mind. Not American football as most of my peers would identify with; instead it was fútbol that became my identity, athletically. All because of the Elgin Area recreation Services Summer Breaktacular Soccer Tournament. and the ever-present Teutonic Shadow casting

    Early June in Minnesota can be one of two things cool and rainy, or rainy and humid. As the number of days remaining on Monty School 7th grade calendar tumbled into single digits, the temperatures tumbled into the forties and the rain fell.

  • Oddznns

    Here’s the beginning. I was thinking of writing it all in dialect, since a masseuse in my country wouldn’t speak English. But I’ve sort of writting it in upmarket dialect — so it’s more accessible.

    1. First there’s pain

                            When
    I start, there’s always pain.  They will
    say softly “sakit”, then “sakit” again, but louder. Sometime they
    groan, sometimes it’s sometime more…  Later
    there’s the release, a big ‘aaaah’. After that they’re happy. Bliss, one Korean
    customer says.  Yes that’s what I give
    them, but only when I come to the end.

                            First, there’s pain, my
    elbow and knuckle inside their knots, my fingers kneading and pressing and
    squeezing, squeezing so tight white skin turns red, dark skin turns white. Everyone
    of my customers in this city accept that first there must be pain. Everyone
    except my husband Selva,  that stupid man who doesn’t let me touch him.  Even Mak
    who taught me everything and whom I massage so soft and so gentle now, now
    she’s old; even Mak can endure the
    pain, sabar until she gets release.
    But my Selva, he doesn’t want something so hard, he says.

                            The
    Kling with his beautiful shining black Tamil skin like mine takes the pain like
    nobody else. Never says a word, the whole session. But he’s almost dead already.
    Every single thing about him mati and
    gone, except for breathing. Maybe that’s why he’s so quiet. But even with him
    almost dead, I’m respectful. I don’t pinch him or scratch even if my mood is
    bad, because that sombong,
    hoity-toity Filipino nurse is telling me to watch out for his feeding tube
    here, jaga his breathing hole there.
    “The body is a work of Him, the Almighty,” Mak
    used to tell me and tell me. I don’t forget that.

                            “He can maybe hear us,”
    Dr. Loh tells me. He says there’s something called shut-in sickness “He might
    hear and feel everything but because he can’t control his muscles, he can’t
    respond.”

                            This would be worse than
    being stuck in solitary on drug withdrawal, like my foster brother Ahmad. Worse
    even than what that ustaz man who
    visits Mak likes to threaten – burning in
    neraka.

                            “Maybe like a story from
    one of my Christian customers, about a rich man in hell who can see everything
    in heaven but cannot taste even one drop of water?” I check with Dr. Loh to
    make sure I understand him.

                            He nods. He’s polite,
    even with a low educated masseuse like me.

                            It makes me bold. I tell
    him, “Mr. Raj isn’t like that. Brain or not, a body that’s alive will answer.
    Mr. Raj… his body doesn’t talk.”

                            I didn’t go to Secondary
    school, barely passed Primary Six. Dr. Loh teaches at the university, why they
    call him doctor even if he’s a dentist, his wife Christine told me first time I
    met him.  I shouldn’t be arguing with
    him. But Mak taught me to listen to
    the body and hear it answer – a muscle knot pulling back like a seashell when my
    finger touches it, how it gets more and more stubborn the harder it’s pushed,
    then explodes like a cuttlefish full of  black sotong
    ink, angry and hot against my knuckles; the angin,
    the dirty wind stuck below the skin like marbles, biji-biji that run into each other and melt once my palms start to press…
    but only the palms are flat; how water around the stomach and under arm-pits fight
    back if I try to push it back into the body, but if I massage the muscles
    underneath softly with all five fingertips, I can trick the muscles to  open and suck all the water in like a sea
    sponge.  This is learning from the sea, Mak said, the Java Sea all around her family
    kampong. God he made the sea, the
    sea-animals. I believe my Mak. That’s
    why I can talk to Dr. Loh like that. Straight. Not ashamed. Not shy.

                            “He’s got no knots. All
    his muscles are relaxed already. As for water and wind, his muscles are not
    absorbing. I can’t do anything for him,” I tell Christine the first time she
    brings me to work on Mr. Raj.  But she still
    wants me to work on him.

                            “My husband says touch
    is important. It helps circulation, keeps his skin healthy so he won’t get bed
    sores. And maybe, we hope, the stimulation will help him wake up.”

                            She’s not happy with Dr.
    Loh touching that Kling’s smooth black skin like mine, his chest that’s got no
    hair.  She thinks it’s better I do than
    her husband does.

     

    #

     

                            Christine’s been my
    customer for more than three years already. I go to her house and massage all
    the stress she gets from her job every Friday. I know her body. But this few
    months, I can’t disappear away her unhappiness. Not even when I agree to be the
    one touching and stroking Mr. Raj.

                             

     

    #

     

                            Hati sakit, muram. In a woman there’s only one reason for heart
    pain, for sadness. Even if she drives to work in a BMW, even if she has a house
    on a hill with two maids, even if she lies in an air-conditioned room on her own
    special massage table from Australia and has me rubbing lavender oil into her
    cellulite and stretching her left leg thigh muscle up and her calf muscle down.
    Even if she’s got all this, still there is only one reason.

                            “Can you tell if a man
    is gay?” Christine asks.

                            Sometime it’s hard for
    me to know what Christine means. She used to stay in America before her parents
    divorced  and only came back her with her
    Chinese mother after she grew up. After she learned to talk funny.

                            “If a man is happy?” I
    ask her.

                            “A homo, a pondan,” she explains. “You’ve lots of
    experience with bodies. Do they respond differently when you touch homosexuals
    compared to other men?”       

                            Ah, she wants to talk about
    Mr. Raj and Dr. Loh.

                            “Everything is automatic
    lah,” I rub some more oil onto her left leg and on her buttocks. “Even if you
    don’t like girls, if I rub like this,” I demonstrate, “you’ll still feel
    something, even if you’re uncomfortable and geli
    about it.”

                            I stroke the two cheeks
    of her bottom, softly. Sure enough, she gets geli. Goosebumps come out all over.

                            “Oh stop it,” she says,
    a bit rough. She’s that kind of woman, the bossy type, used to ordering people
    here and there. And Chinese people, they are not halus anyway, not fine like the Malays I was fostered to,
    especially the Javanese like Mak.  No point to get angry at her. I stop it like
    she wants.

                            “You see,” I don’t let
    her win so easy.

                            “Pondan or not, I massage their bums and when I turn them around,
    the flag pole is up. And when it goes down again, I start on the stomach and
    there it is again – Majulah Singapura!”
    I hum the beginning of the national anthem for her.

                            “You’re so funny Lina,” Christine
    says. But she’s not laughing. She hides her head in the hole of the massage
    table. “So, you can’t tell if Jeremy’s gay?” she asks.

                            “You’re his wife. If you’re
    asking me, who’s there for me to I ask?”

                            This is not my problem,
    how her husband strokes that Kling’s cheeks and hair.

                            I move to her lower back.
    It’s egg bags and womb underneath there. 
    Everything there’s still very tight, I know. Unused. Christine has no
    children. Maybe she’s right to worry… And she’s got big strong legs, wide
    shoulders, a half ang-mo body from
    her American father; a body as big as a man, bigger than her husband’s.  I’ve never massaged him but I can see. He’s
    tall and thin, fair skin like a girl. Halus,
    so polite. Maybe …

                            I go up to her shoulder
    blades. She looks at the computer too much. And carries that laptop two times a
    week on the plane. And walks up and down the hills in Hong Kong on her high
    heels, she tells me. Her legs and her upper back, her  shoulders – they’re always knotted up terrible.   

                            “Why are you worrying
    now? You’ve been married so long already, twenty years plus. Nothing to worry about
    before, nothing to worry about now…” I sayang
    her in my baby-girl voice the way I sayang
    Mak when her stomach’s too painful and the medicine hasn’t started working yet.
    Christine’s shoulders relax a bit. Maybe I make her feel better.

  • Samii

    can i use harsh swear words? it also helps bring out the character in the novel.

  • kathunsworth

    Ready and eager to start, love the tips I plan to write 2000 words a day It will take me about 2hours as I time myself. I have my structure ready and a file on my characters so I know what they think, say, wear and do. It could all go pear shaped but I hope with my buddies we can encourage each other.