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NaNoWriMo, day twenty

I have been a member of NaNoWriMo for eight years and competed during six of those with varying degrees of success. 2015 was a particularly difficult year. I averaged just 700 words per day and failed to complete anything more than the bones of a short story. While from 2009 – 2011 I managed to pen the first drafts of all three books in the Starblood Trilogy.

I think a lot of it depends on how well the story you’re writing grabs hold of you, and what other things you need to complete that month – writing, work or family wise. My rule of thumb is whether I start dreaming about my characters. When that happens I know I’m onto a winner. NaNoWriMo gives me the motivation and conviction to brush aside everything other than writing. For one month per year I do not need to feel guilty when I put my writing first. As most mothers may know, guilt is the killer of creativity. When you’re a mother, a partner, or an employee other demands on your time and energy take precedence. November is the month I try and reverse that, and manage to do so more often than not. So far I’ve written three novels and one novella during NaNoWriMo and this month I should finish with the first 2/3 at least of my first draft of a brand new novel – Venus Virus. Although part of me is tempted to change the name to #NotAllMen.

On day 20 of NaNoWriMo2017 I already have 43,052 words towards a novel that is likely to be somewhere around 80,000 words when it is finished. The story has evolved significantly from my original idea for it. I guess that’s the thing with us “pantsters”, writers without a strict plan to follow, so called because as the great Stephen King calls it – we write by the seat of our pants, what we think we will write about and what we actually write can be worlds apart.

When I imagined the concept behind this book, some years ago, after a conversation with a friend and fellow writer, Hilary Kerr, who has been by my side throughout this process, it was simply the idea of men dying out. What I am writing now is more about how that happens and how powerful people try to prevent it happening, rather than what society is like once men are gone. It’s a murder mystery on a global scale if you like, set in a dystopian near future where society, or at least 50%+ of it, have sacrificed their freedoms to avoid an ecological disaster.

Some women are not content to return to their roles as domestic slaves, deprived of education and freedom of movement. Some women fight back.

The first draft has been separated into three parts. In two of these the female freedom fighters/terrorists tell their stories, up to day 7 after the virus is released. The third part centres around a male government investigator who is trying to find out what is happening and who is to blame, while learning how naive he was about women’s submission to the new regime. Everyone seems to have secrets and it is his job, although not his alone, to untangle these secrets and save mankind.

Previously on days three and eight of NaNoWriMo2017, I discussed my progress and shared unedited sections of the draft manuscript. I shall share some more today. Between these three blog posts you can read the first 3000+ words. However, this is a rough draft, and is unlikely to resemble the finished book. You can tell it’s raw by the amount of “telling” I do in the section below. Info dump city ahoy!

If I work at my usual pace, that won’t be ready for eighteen or twenty-four months. Then I will start the process again of searching out agents and publishers, in a new genre now, no longer horror, but speculative fiction (Sci-Fi).

In this excerpt we return to Cerys as she walks around the only grocery store in her neighbourhood. We get an insight into the workings of their society in here, but I feel the writing is inelegant and requires much work to perfect. But that work will happen later, as per NaNo rules.

Excerpt from the first draft of Venus Virus, by Carmilla Voiez.

Could such luxuries justify the cost to 53% of the population? 53% and climbing as Cerys had heard rumours that 70% of live human births were girls even with planned conceptions becoming more popular. 80% of miscarriages and still births were boys. A crisis not admitted publicly although those in the know claimed that millions of credits were directed towards research and the care of pregnant women with hope of reversing the trend. Even without the plan, men might soon become extinct.

Here Cerys could give space to her thoughts, her theories. The world had gone mad through fear. In the late twentieth century it was fear of world extinction by ecological disaster. Now perhaps only humans faced extinction, in spite of their scrabble to recycle and use renewables. The focus had been on simplifying the world and to that end women’s rights were sacrificed at the altar. Slavery was embraced again as a revolutionary idea. Things were produced locally and family units were sacrosanct. Those who hadn’t married lived with their parents, and in Cerys’s case, their grandmother as well. The women kept the house clean and the stomachs full and the men kept the wheels of environmentally friendly industry turning. The world gasped a final breath and cooled a little. Time was bought.

So Cerys couldn’t go to university and study science, but she could smell the apples and oranges. She guessed that was something. At least if the plan worked they’d inherit a healthier world for their pains.

It was only yesterday she was smuggling the virus into the football stadium and being paid by her victims for the effort, but it seemed weeks ago. Her group had decided to part until it became obvious what the full effects of the release would be. It was no use risking discovery and capture now. As Amy had said, now they needed to play the waiting game. Whether it was days or months before the virus would take hold wasn’t clear from their research. It behaved differently with different species and no human males had been tested on. The human females, those who were exposed to the more recent altered batches and survived, grew ill after four days and recovered after thirty. It was equivalent to a nasty cold, now the serum had been perfected. The male rats, rabbits and apes who had selflessly given up their lives had all died within sixty days. The virus targeted testosterone. The more virile the subject, the faster it killed.

She picked up an orange and checked the skin for discolouration. She held it to her nose and breathed deeply. The smell warmed her soul. Satisfied she placed it carefully in the trolley and checked the next.

“Hi Cerys. How’s your mum?”

Cerys turned around to see Michelle behind her. Michelle lived in the same apartment block. Last month when Cerys’s mum had taken sick, she’d brought a wonderful vegetable broth. She hadn’t married yet either. She was in her early twenties and exceedingly pretty but had somehow managed to avoid any proposals. They both knew that it wouldn’t stay that way forever, but they enjoyed each other’s company while it lasted.

“She’s much better. Thank you. How are your parents?”

“Doing well. Father got his promotion so we’re considering a holiday this year.”

“That sounds wonderful, Michelle. And how are you?”

“Keeping my head down and my shoulders up,” she quipped.

Cerys smiled. “The oranges smell lovely today.” Her voice sounded dreamy. It wasn’t what she wanted to tell her friend, but it was safe. She wanted to ask how Michelle’s poetry collection was shaping up, but that was forbidden. That question would have to wait until another time and Michelle understood this without being told.

Michelle bent over and sniffed. “You’re right. I’ll grab some for dessert.”

They strolled around the supermarket together. They weren’t the only friends who used this as an excuse for social gatherings. Pairs and trios of shoppers walked and talked together. The daily shopping trip was a time out. Cerys figured that this was the pressure vent. It kept them docile and gave them some illusion of freedom and choice. You couldn’t stand on a person’s throat for too long before they fought back for survival. Here the boot was lifted a little. But even that small amount of freedom was a dangerous illusion. It was too easy to forget the danger they were in, if only for an hour. They had to stay vigilant, remember the rules. Cerys recited them silently.

No gatherings of women in numbers larger than three unless accompanied by an equal number of men. No swearing by women. No alcohol for women, although this one was regularly ignored inside the home, except for the very devout. No smoking. No littering. Curfew for women was 9pm except for those working unsociable hours where their permit would need to be carried at all times and shown on demand. No prostitution outside state organised brothels. No contraception. No abortion. Even miscarriages would be investigated and charges of murder could be brought against women who were not careful enough with their unborn child. All children from ages 3 to 15 to attend single sex state run schools. After 15 only males were entitled to further education. No mutilation of flesh, which included ear piercing, was permitted. Disabled children were sterilised before puberty. Women could work, but only in the service industries. All other work was available exclusively to men and Britain was now close to full employment. All men were considered equal. The only class was gender and only mothers could achieve a social status that provided certain rights of personhood. If a mother was attacked charges might be brought against her assailant, even if the attacker was male. If Cerys was attacked she had to accept it. Even fighting back was illegal. The prisons were full of women who couldn’t or wouldn’t follow the new rules, and the only way out for these women was pregnancy, and so being a prison warden was an attractive career choice for men. Even sexuality was regulated. Homosexual men and women had to keep their relationships secret. The government claimed that homosexuality was a thing of the past, and no one dared dispute that publicly.

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