NaNoWriMo Day 4 and the Roller Coaster of NaNo

We’re several days into NaNo by now, and my word count looks like a nice smooth ride.  This is an illusion.

It really has been a good run in terms of words.  I started the month with 2,181 words on the first day, well above the 1,667 goal.  I always want to start strong—I have a slightly superstitious feeling that if I start out behind on day one, I’ll never catch up again.  I’ve hovered right around the daily word count, if slightly below, ever since, putting me almost exactly on target here on day four.

The content has been a bit more of a roller coaster.  I didn’t have much plot, remember, so I started out throwing some “how we met” scenes together on the first couple of days.  And that went reasonably well, even very well since I enjoyed my protagonist’s friend and love interest quite a lot…until this morning, when I realized I had themes I needed to build slowly and character reveals I wanted to do gradually and no idea what my characters should be doing while all that happened.  I needed a plot framework to hang all the rest of this on.

In a way I feel I have three novels here—one is a whimsical fantasy world we’re exploring, another is a school story, the third is a politics/resistance story, and I’m having trouble merging them together.

So I had my first NaNo freakout, and threw some random ideas around, and talked to a writing friend, and finally settled on a plan that meant going back and inserting a new chapter two.  I can probably keep the original chapter two (and all words count whether they stay in the final version or not), but I needed something earlier.

I decided I was too focused on the politics and needed to bring more school in.  And then I hit on a way to combine the two with a politically-motivated head of school, and now things are beginning to seem clearer, at least for a while…until the next NaNo crisis!

In the meantime, have an excerpt.


The door swung shut behind her, suddenly cutting off the light that had been falling across the room.  Indirect light still came from the doorways at either side, but the room at once grew shadowy and dim.  And she hadn’t yet spotted the light source.

“Illumination,” she said aloud, and was rewarded by a faint glow extending a few feet around her.  It was enough to find her way to the left-hand doorway.  She looked inside, had a murky impression of a kind of lounge area.  Curtains were apparently closed over any windows.  She tried the opposite doorway and found a much better-lit kitchen space.  She went that way.

Good words like health and tasty lined the upper walls, and the room seemed to have ample counterspace and a good sized ice-box.  She circled past a jutting counter, noticing Illumination written across its top.  She reached out a hand, touched the word and concentrated.  The entire support part of the counter lit up, amply lighting the dim room, and Alyse let the glow around herself fade.

Beyond the counter was a long wooden table.  Under it lay a very large sheepdog.

Alyse sighed.  She had agreed to a house that permitted pets, but she had hoped this wouldn’t happen.  “A dog.  Phinny is not going to like you.”

The dog cocked his head to one side, opened his mouth with a hint of lolling tongue, and asked in perfectly intelligible tones, “Who’s Phinny and why not?”

Alyse did not actually collide with the counter behind her, but it was a near thing.  “Oh—sorry, I didn’t—you must be…”

“A shape-shifter?” the dog prompted.  “Or a hudjinn, either term is fine.”  He lifted up to his four feet, furry back barely clearing the bottom of the table, and pushed out past a chair.  Out from under the furniture, he rose impossibly onto his hind feet—or would have, except that his front paws had barely left the ground before he seemed to shimmer.  Alyse instinctively blinked, and by the time her eyes were open again a tanned human about her own age was extending a hand.  “I’m Gil.  And you are?”

“Alyse,” she said mechanically, just as mechanically shaking his hand.  She had heard of shape-shifters, of course.  There had been one or two at her last school, but she didn’t think she’d ever spoken to them.  She’d certainly never seen them shift.  Not that it mattered, they were people just like anyone.  But it was slightly disconcerting to find one under your kitchen table.

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