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NaNoWriMo, day three

NaNoWriMo is an intensive writing boot camp that costs nothing but late nights, blurred vision and sore wrists.

I discovered it through a group of friends I met while studying Creative Writing with the Open University. Three of my novels (the entire Starblood Trilogy) and one novella, Basement Beauty were started during the frantic month of November. The point is to write uncritically at least 50,000 words during one month. The point is to give your imagination free-reign, not allowing yourself to edit or delete anything. For your pains, if you succeed, you might have a very rough first draft, and if you’re very lucky you might be able to edit the hell out of it later and turn it into something both imaginative and unique.

I didn’t even try and do it last year. If you have no idea for a story it isn’t fun typing crap onto a blank page hoping something will emerge, although some people do. In fact it is encouraged. I’ve heard of people typing diary entries and shopping lists into their NaNoWriMo documents. It isn’t even against the rules. I tried it one year. It wasn’t for me.

The year before I had a rough idea for a story, but I couldn’t get to grips with making a novel out of it. The seed idea grew into a short story called Dead aHead that I included in Broken Mirror and Other Morbid Tales, so it wasn’t a waste of time, even though I felt frustrated that month.

This year, so far, feels like the first few years I won NaNoWriMo. In three days I’ve already written 7350 words. While I know the draft is rough I think there’s an exciting idea there I can use later. What I have noticed, and I’d like to know if all authors have the same problem with first drafts, is that I am throwing info dump after info dump at the page and watching it stick in some sort of gooey pattern of bad writing. Still, that’s rule number one of NaNoWriMo, if it goes in it stays in, at least until December.

Breaking from my usual horror and dark fantasy, I’m writing speculative fiction this year, a sort of near future dystopia. They didn’t have speculative fiction as an option so I called it sci-fi. There will be some science involved, but it hasn’t made its way into the manuscript yet.

I’ll share the first 1000 ish words with you, but don’t expect too much. This is after all, by its very nature, unpolished. If you are willing though and want to read please leave a comment to let me know whether the idea I’m trying to present grabs you and whether you are able to see and/or understand by main character, currently known as Cerys.

So here you are, an excerpt from the first draft of Venus Virus.

Day 1

Cerys clutched the duffel bag. It was her shield. Here in the midst of all these men, many of whom were already drunk, she felt more vulnerable than ever. She was a diminutive looking woman, with dark blonde hair, cut short into the neck, and metal rimmed glasses. She was hardly what some might call wank material. She just had to be brave and they’d leave her alone. The other women had more to fear.

Men surrounded her on every side as she stood rooted to one spot on the stairs that led down towards the pitch. So many dangerous men. Groups of three could make her quiver in fear. There were thousands here. She didn’t know whether she could do this. Every instinct told her to leave. But they were relying on her, the other women, her group. She would not let them down. Not now they were so close.

It hadn’t always been this way. Her grandmother remembered a time, back in the twentieth century, when women’s rights seemed to be taking off. Women had the vote, they had careers, albeit the most powerful heads of industry were still male. There was a joke that there were more male CEOs called John than all the female CEOs put together. It was almost funny now, that joke. So much had changed that to think of women in business suits, with well groomed coifs, was a joke in and of itself. It hadn’t happened quickly, either. It had taken decades to bring women back down to where they felt blessed if they had a family to run. The mothers were the lucky ones. The ones with social status. Everyone else found it much harder. Cerys found it much harder.

Unwilling to give up, some women worked together in secret. One of those secrets was waiting in the duffel bag that dug painfully into her stomach.

Servants, that’s what they were now. That’s why she didn’t stick out amongst all these sports fans waiting for the football match to begin. Women served. The burgers, the beer, the souvenir t-shirts, the air horns, like the ones in her bag, that would be used to deafen each other in celebration of a goal. As if these people weren’t deaf enough already. But then what did they have to listen to? Their own self-congratulatory posturing perhaps? They certainly didn’t listen to their wives, their mothers, their sisters. Those voices were silenced. They didn’t hear the “please no’s” or the “I’m sorry’s” or even the “I love you’s”.

But not everyone had given up. Some women had a plan.

Cerys wondered what would happen. How quickly would things change? Would it go to plan? The virus and the delivery system had been thoroughly tested. Sacrifices had been made along the way, all in secret. Maybe soon those sacrifices, the heroines of the revolution, could be celebrated. Cerys hoped so. She also wondered whether she would be one of the many martyrs to the cause.

Ten of them were here. One working each stall. Air horns at £5 a shot. Some had suggested giving them away, but it was quickly decided that would attract too much attention. The license had been difficult to obtain. But they had it now. All ten were licensed sellers of 200ml air canister horns that would blast sound and virus simultaneously. Now it was time to sell them. Hers were painted in the Chelsea colours. It was a Chelsea vs Manchester match in the FA cup semis. And it was sold out. 10,000 football supporters gathered to cheer on their respective teams. A lot was riding on this event.

“Hey mouse. What have you got for me in that huge sack?” a muscular skinhead leered across his neighbour towards her. The neighbour, a younger man with pimples, noticed her presence and his fingers grazed her thigh. That was the normal greeting. It made her shudder and feel nauseous, but there was nothing she could do to stop it. No one she could complain to. No legal recourse. The law wasn’t there to protect women, only to keep them in line.

“Chelsea air-horns,” she answered. Forcing an ingratiating smile onto her face that she hoped didn’t look more like a sneer. Although the chances were it wouldn’t be noticed. They hardly glanced at her face.

“How much?”


“I’ll take one,” the first man said.

“Me too,” his neighbour agreed, reaching into his jeans.

As the money was handed across her fingers were squeezed. She’d anticipated this too, although not the painful crushing that attended it.

She reached into her bag and handed two horns to her first customers. It had begun. She pocketed the notes and descended the steps to the next row.

By kick off her bag was empty. She hurried away towards gate D where they had agreed to meet. Six women were already gathered. They all looked angry and afraid. They all looked as though they had just escaped from hell. Arms reached out to hug her. Damp faces gazed mutely at each other. Three more comrades were still inside. Horns sounded. An early goal perhaps. Where were they? Cerys hoped they’d get out soon.

Mica joined them, covering her nose and mouth with her sleeve. She coughed and shook her head.

“Are you okay?” Cerys asked.

“I’m fine. It smells worse than we expected. I hope that won’t matter.”

“Cripes!” Anna whispered. “It isn’t supposed to smell at all. That’s the point.”

Another blare of horns pierced the sky behind them. They all exhaled noisily. Cerys giggled.

“I guess your sense of smell is more sensitive than theirs.”

“Thank fuck for that,” Mica said.

They all blushed, and looked around. No one had overheard, thankfully.

“Sorry.” Mica stared at the ground. “That was stupid.”

“No one heard. It’s fine. But we should be careful out here. You never know who or what is listening.”

“Here’s Daisy, at last,” Anna said.

Daisy exited the stadium. She looked around the group. “Where’s Lou?”

“She hasn’t got out yet. What’s it like in there?”

“It smells. It isn’t supposed to smell.”

Mika nodded. “We know.”

“I hope Lou comes soon,” Cerys said. “This standing around together isn’t good.”

Daisy rubbed her fingers. “How long should we wait?”

“I don’t know, but keep a look out. If any of them spot us ...”

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