NaNoWriMo: How did I do?

In October I proclaimed I would be writing a 50,000 word novel in November to take part in NaNoWriMo.  So, how well did I do?  If you’ve been following my blog you’ll notice a complete lack of updates after I posted this.  Yes, that’s right, I made it as far as two days and 1868 words before I stalled.

Two days.

After those two days I had decided I didn’t actually like the story.  In fact, I’d started worrying about that before I even started writing it when I was doing the plot outline in October.  I’m not going to blame that for my lack of writing though, nor am I going to blame the cold I had early on, or the worry about my visit to the dentist.

Basically, I didn’t really enjoy writing.  I enjoyed thinking about the plot and coming up with ideas and problems, but I didn’t enjoy the process of converting those little ideas into a story, developing them.

I’m not sure if that means anything.  I just wanted to say it.  Anyway, for those who care, the 1868 words show up after the link (or right NOW if you’re using a feed reader).

There was a loud chirping noise. Jack rolled over, pushing Fritz onto the floor, and hit the snooze button on the alarm. But the chirping noise didn’t stop, and now it was joined by Fritz mewling loudly. Jack tried to concentrate harder. Maybe if I opened just one eye, he thought, I could check the room but not wake up totally. Fritz rubbed his nose in Jack’s face and then meowed, making that noise hungry cats make which sounds like a pretty good approximation of a crying baby. The chirping noise was still there as well.

Jack finally woke up and picked up his phone just in time for the chirping to stop. Both eyes now half open he sighed and put the mobile back down on the cardboard box that masqueraded as a bedside table.

Maybe I could get a few more minutes rest. It was a fleeting thought, and Fritz was having none of it. The mewling intensified, and the cat hopped onto the bed and sat on Jack’s pillow. Jack’s second sigh of the morning turned into a groan as he slid his legs out of the bed and gingerly stood up.

By the time he was dressed and in the kitchen Fritz was already circling the bowl on the floor and making his tail shiver at the end. Jack tossed some dried biscuit into the bowl and then checked out the missed calls list on his mobile. 7:22am and 7:50am both from the same number, a mobile he didn’t recognise. Must have slept through the first call. Jack didn’t give out his number to many people, and he made sure people knew not to pass it on. Which meant it was either a wrong number, or someone had spoken to Archie and he’d told them to ring, and that meant it was probably some wild goose chase of a story that Archie felt was worth covering.

Archie’s phone rang twice before he answered. “Hey Archie. You’re echoing, sounds like you’re in a toilet cubicle or something. Oh, you are? Right, you want me to call you back or something? No no, fine no problem.”

Jack flipped the laptop open and settled into the only soft chair in the flat. “Had a couple of calls this morning Archie, from a mobile I don’t recognise. You give anyone my number recently? Thought so. What’s the story? Sorry didn’t catch that, er, I think the flushing noise drowned you out. Ah ok, and he can’t remember anything? Lost the last few weeks or something? Shit, 1978? Yeh yeh, ok, I’ll talk to him.”

The laptop eventually finished booting. Must get some more memory for this thing. There were a couple of e-mails from Rebecca about articles he’d submitted which needed a few edits, he could get around to those later. He let the continued news about the credit crunch wash over him as he dialled the mobile number.

“Hi, Philip? Yeh, it’s Jack Richards. Archibold gave you my number yesterday? Yes. No you didn’t wake me, really it’s fine. It’s no bother. He said, yeh, 1978. And you can’t remember anything until a few weeks ago? Wow, that’s, well, weird I guess. Yeh sure. So it’s probably easier if we meet somewhere you know, save on our phone bills. Hah, yeh. Yeh sure. Rockwell Court? I can find it, yeh, I’ll see you at 2ish then.”

A few hours to kill then, might as well finish up those edits. Jack launched a web browser and stuck the term Amnesia into Google. Might as well do those edits, and some research.

Finding somewhere to park wasn’t easy. Despite Rockwell Court being council owned sheltered housing there were plenty of cars in the car park. Eventually opting to park on the street, Jack walked in and buzzed through to Philip’s flat.

Philip was not what Jack was expecting, and his firm solid handshake as he invited Jack in confirmed it. “If you don’t mind me saying so, you look pretty good for a guy who’s nearly 70 Philip.”

Philip sat in one of the two paisley covered chairs. “Yes, yes. I feel physically pretty good. I’ve obviously been … keeping busy.” He looked uncomfortable, the pause obvious. “You were expecting something else?”

“Well, honestly? A guy loses his memory for 30 years, I was expecting you to be pretty rough, you know, pretty thin. I guess my fault for making assumptions.” Jack sat down in the second of the two chairs, it was as uncomfortable as the paisley covering promised.

“Yeh, “ Phillip continued, “I was surprised as well. It’s all so odd. So weird.” He stood again, making Jack feel like he should stand as well. “Can I get you a drink? Tea, something else?”

“No no, it’s fine. Shall we just start at the beginning?”

“Yes sorry, “ Philip sat down again, clasping and unclasping his hands. “It was, well, it was June 1978. I was cleaning windows, you know, on a ladder and everything. Was a pretty bleak time, so you know, we did what we could to make some money.”

Jack nodded.

“So anyway. I fell off. And that’s it.”

The end of the sentence left Jack hanging. “That’s it? As in?” Jack pushed for more.

Philip stood, and then sat down again almost immediately. “That’s all I remember. I fell off the ladder. In June, 1978. Then a few weeks ago, maybe 5 or 6 it’s still a bit blury, I sort of, woke up. Although obviously I wasn’t asleep because I was just standing outside the hospital. But I couldn’t remember anything.” Now that Philip had started, the words came faster and faster, his hands gripped tight to his knees. “So, I walked into the hospital and just told them. I knew my name, Philip Hanson, and I was from here, from Nottingham. But I couldn’t remember how I got old and I didn’t know what year it was. They told me it was 2008, I couldn’t believe it. Just passed out. On the floor in the hospital.” Philip stopped, suddenly, as if he was going pass out again.

“You ok? Philip?”

“Yes, sorry. Not much else to say, they took care of me, set me up here but I can’t stay for long because I’ve got no money, or at least, I don’t know if I’ve got money, can’t remember having any.”

This time it was Jack who stood up. “Ok, wow. So yeh. It’s just, I’m not sure why you got in touch with Archie or why he gave you my number? You know. It’s not the kind of thing Archie usually covers in the magazine, it’s usually more mysterious stuff like goblins and faeries being spotted at the bottom of gardens?” Jack laughed, and was glad to see Philip joined in. He’d gone white when he finished his little speech but seemed a little more relaxed now, his hands relaxed their grip on his knees.

“Okay Jack, okay. I guess I’m leaving some stuff out, but it’s hard to talk about. Don’t want to think about it really. But I suppose that’s why you’re here, why Archie sent you. After a couple of days, after I woke up again in the hospital, after that, I started to have some dreams. But really vivid. Horrible vivid dreams. I could see me in them.” Philip paused, stood up and mumbled something about getting a glass of water.

While he was out of the room Jack waited patiently, taking the chance to have a good look around the little lounge. Two uncomfortable paisley chairs, a table, an oil space heater and a cheap mobile phone. Nothing else.

Philip returned with a glass of water, or maybe vodka or gin, Jack didn’t think it was wise to ask. He stayed standing and sipped while he talked. “Ok, so I could see me in these dreams, doing … things. Terrible things. But it was like I was watching it happen to someone else. Like I was there, but not … ah I can’t explain it.”

Jack watched the pained expression on Philip’s face. “It’s ok Philip take your time. I hear a lot of stuff people find hard to explain, I’m not in a rush.”

“Okay, thanks. Yeh, I guess you get to hear some really odd stuff right?”

“Yes, a couple of weeks ago Archie had me chasing a story about a kid who swore her dog could levitate and would spend the night sleeping above her bed.”

Philip laughed, “Ok, no floating dogs.” The phone on the table rang, Philip visibly jumped and rushed to pick it up. “No, I think you have the wrong number.” and he put it down again. “Sorry, I’m still not used to those. Can’t believe they made them so small and no wires.” His smile faded. “One of the dreams, I saw someone, a woman I didn’t know, she stabbed me with something. And then I, in the dream, the me I was watching … stabbed her over and over.”

Jack waited, he knew there was more. Philip turned to face Jack and lifted his shirt. “This is where I saw her stab me.” He pointed to a thick ugly scar.

“Maybe you got that in the ladder fall?” It was a lame comment and Jack knew it, but he wasn’t sure what else to say.

“No, I’ve had that dream again. Twice.” Philip shuddered and sat down, placing the glass on the table, his hands returned to gripping his knees tightly. “Each time she stabs me there. I’m sure of it. But, I wouldn’t do these things. In the dreams I’m older than when I fell from the ladder, but younger than now. I don’t know where I’ve been, what I’ve done. Who I am.” The tears started slowly but by the end of the words Philip was crying freely.

Jack wasn’t sure what to say, he waited, hoping that his silence would be taken as comfort enough.

“It wasn’t me Jack. I see those dreams through my eyes, but it wasn’t me. I told Archibold that, he said you could investigate, see if things really happened. Help me understand?”

Hopeless, some guy loses his memory, probably has a change of personality due to the injury, does some horrible stuff and is now trying to repent. “Okay Philip, I’ll see if there’s anything I can find. You’re obviously upset, how about I come back tomorrow, we can have another talk? I’m going to need to know where you lived, what you remember that kind of thing? Details about the dreams, a lot of details?”

Philip sighed, “Yeh, sure. Tomorrow. I’ll try and write some stuff down? If that will help?”

Jack stood, “Yes, yes exactly. That will be a great help. We’ll start there and see what we can make out.” They shook hands, Philip’s grip still firm and confident, in contrast now to his ruddy and puffy face.

Jack rang Archie as soon as he got back to his car. “Doesn’t sound too mystical Archie? Just amnesia maybe brought on by Philip realising he’s done some bad stuff and now he’s trying to repress it. Yeh, I’ll talk to him again tomorrow but I honestly think we’re going to come up empty with this one. Well, you’re the guy paying me, I’ll spend some time on it. I’ll do 3 days, usual rate and expenses and then you can decide if it’s going anywhere? Okay. I’ll be in touch.”

2 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo: How did I do?”

  1. That was a good start to a story. A bit of polishing and it would great. I’d certainly be interesting in reading more if you ever feel like completing it.

  2. I found it engaging and I want to know more now damn it 🙂

    Comments – agree with Leigh, needs a slight polish in some areas. If were your editor things I would suggest:

    1) Rename Philip – Philip doesn’t work for me, the only 70 year old (ish) Philip I know is the Duke of Edinburgh. Perhaps, Ted, Bob – I dunno really, but not Philip.

    2) That aside – Philip’s character comes across strong and clear, as does Jack’s — like them both.

    3) Archie – you’re having a laugh with that name aren’t you? I was just about OK with that as a name until you used the full form of it. Gavin, he’s a complete Gavin !! 🙂

    But seriously – and as you know I am very much a “have to work hard at it” kind of reader – but this had me hooked right away.

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