“How’s NaNoWriMo going Chrissey?”

“Don’t ask.”

As NaNoWriMo draws to an end I find myself only just creeping over 15,000 words. It has not been the avalanche of creativity that I was hoping for. I would like to blame external influences and distractions, and that would be partially true, but really I just couldn’t find my passion for the story to begin with.

I’ve had a number of good days where I wrote 1500-2000 words, but I’ve equally had a lot of days when I wrote nothing at all. I think in this case the challenge arrived at an inopportune time when I had too many other things I wanted to be doing.

I have a few days left and I am going to try and hit 20,000 before the end of November. After that I’m going to do a more extensive breakdown of my experience and maybe see if I can answer that question about whether I am a pantzer or plotter.

I am only just starting to find my groove with the characters and the storyline, so I am going to continue straight into December and see how I get on.

Here’s an excerpt from the first draft of chapter 1 of Mime:

Sam turned her key in the lock and pushed but the office door only gave about an inch and she piled into it. She gave it an experimental shove with her shoulder, trying to judge whether it was blocked by something or someone.

“Elliot? Can you let me in?”

She listened at the crack for any signs of movement but heard nothing. With a resigned sigh she put her bags down by the step, set her shoulder to the door and pushed. It slid open a fraction more with each push until she could squeeze through the gap.

Once she was in she moved the three stacked boxes of printer paper off to the side of the hall and checked she hadn’t done any damage to the hinges. Then she collected her things from outside.

Elliot must have been in to take delivery of the paper and by deduction he must still be here because he’d couldn’t have moved the boxes in front of the door from outside.

The Weird News offices took up the ground floor of a converted Victorian terraced house. She’d always thought the kooky, musty little building was just right for what went on there.

She followed the smell of burned coffee into the little kitchenette and lifted the half empty coffee pot, heating since the afternoon before, off the hotplate. She dumped the brown sludge into the sink and ran some water to wash it down.

It was too early in the morning to be doing washing up. Instant coffee would have to do. She filled the kettle and set it boiling then reached into the overhead cupboard for a mug.

Another hand reached past hers, crumpled white shirt rolled up to the elbow. Sam tensed, her head unconsciously turning towards him and her eyes closing for just a moment longer than a blink.

Elliot lifted a mug down and set it on the counter while Sam waited for the strength to return to her fingers enough to grip one for herself.

“Morning,” he said as he inspected the abandoned coffee pot.

Sam gave herself a mental slap. “Don’t even think about putting that back on,” she said, grabbing a spoon for the instant coffee granules.

“Looks clean enough.”

She quickly took the pot off him and set it back in the sink. “I’ll sort it out later. By the way, do we have a poltergeist?”

He crouched down to get milk from the fridge. “Not that I know of. Why?”

“Because I find it hard to imagine you would do something as stupid as blocking the door with the delivery you’d just received.”

He looked up at her, frowning and then she saw the penny drop. “Ahh, yes I was going to move those.” He set the milk on the counter and stood up. “Sorry.”

“If I have to break in again I’ll start to think you’re trying to get rid of me.”

A brief, rare smile flickered on his lips and Sam looked away. She had a habit of reading too much into a smile like that, which only ever ended in disappointment. She was nothing more than a colleague to him. Which was fine.

With coffee made they took their mugs through to the main office. The big bay window at the front of the building let in plenty of light and Elliot had let Sam have the desk at that end of the room when she started eight months ago. At first she’d thought that it was a kind gesture, but he preferred the corner at the back of the room.

“Thought I’d go through the inbox today,” Sam said. As she walked to her desk she took note of the empty take out cartons on Elliot’s desk. “Don’t tell me you were here all night.”

“There was something I had to follow up.” He stacked up the cartons and dropped them into the waste basket beside the desk.

“Don’t put those in there,” Sam muttered. She deposited her bags and coffee on her desk and then walked over to retrieve the food crusted containers. “Elliot, Weird News isn’t exactly a daily publication, what could possibly be that important that you can’t go home and sleep.”

He slumped down into his chair and slapped his keyboard to wake his laptop up from standby.

“Spontaneous combustion,” he said, his eyes lighting up. “And there’s tens of eye witness accounts.” He tickled the mouse pad as if it would speed the machine up.

Sam set the food cartons on the filing cabinet by the door and drew up a spare seat.

“Someone died?” she asked quietly.

He looked up, the light in his eyes turning to a stab of guilt. Sam felt bad for bursting his bubble sometimes; she knew he mourned people’s suffering, his own grief drove his obsession. It just turned her stomach to see him revelling over someone else’s tragedy.

“Well, yes, but we can’t do anything about that.”

She nodded. “Go on then, tell me.”

“My twitter search picked it up first actually. About six or seven people tweeting about someone catching fire in Castle Park.”

“When?”

“Last night. Some time around nine pm. I picked up the search about an hour later.”

“So, what makes it spontaneous combustion and not regular combustion? Weather was nice yesterday, could just be someone with a barbecue or something.”

“All of the reports say the same thing. The man was walking and then he was on fire, just like that. And not just a smoldering sleeve, a real inferno, like he’d been doused in petrol.”

“Maybe he was, could have been some kind of gang attack.”

Elliot shook his head emphatically. “No, by all accounts there was no one near him.”

“Sounds like it’s worth investigating at least,” Sam said, settling back in her seat. “Do you need me?”

“Not yet, no point in both of us doing the leg work.” He looked up nervously. “Unless you want to come, of course.”

His reactions confused her at times. He paid her as an employee, and yet he often seemed uncomfortable giving her orders. She got the feeling he was expecting her to suddenly realise Weird News wasn’t really a legitimate career choice and leave.

“No, no, it’s fine. I should get on with some things here.”

She left him tapping away at his laptop and retreated to her own desk.

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