Saturday, November 29, 2008

National Novel Writing Month - a personal account

I was busy over the Thanksgiving holidays, which is why "C.E. Conversations" didn't have any new posts since Wednesday. If you noticed the little icon in the sidebar, you knew I was participating in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) competition. And yes, I completed the challenge. I started and finished a 50,000-word novel in thirty days.

Wednesday evening I had written a little over 40,000 words. We were visiting family over the holidays, so locking myself in a room until I finished my masterwork wasn't an option (family time is very important to me). So, I got up early Thanksgiving morning and cranked out about 6,000 words before 8:00 AM. And while other early risers were storming the mall Black Friday, I finished my novel and uploaded it to the NaNoWriMo for confirmation (they verify word count, not literary quality).

I have to admit, it was a blast. I wrote a pulp-style novel (in homage to the masters of the genre, such as Walter B. Gibson, Lester Dent, Norvell Page, Paul Ernst, Emile Tepperman, et al.) My particular piece of deathless prose is entitled "The Purple Doom," ostensively the lead novel from the August/September 1936 issue of "Raven Mystery Magazine" (as I explain in the introduction to the story).

It needs a little editing (and some serious spell-checking), but I promise to make the finished novel available with an appropriate Creative Commons license. To whet your appetite, here's how the actual story starts:
Fifteen minutes to midnight! Amos Kensington dabbed the nervous sweat on his forehead. Pacing the floor of the study, he quickly checked the latches on the room’s windows. The stout latches were securely locked, but the information didn’t seem to comfort the young millionaire. The grandfather clock in the hall ticked with stately resonance. To Kensington, each tick seemed like a stroke of doom, bringing him ever closer to his fate.

Kensington thrust his silk handkerchief back in his tuxedo’s breast pocket. Gathering his courage, he returned to the study’s oak desk and eased himself into the red leather chair behind it.

“Steady on, old fellow,” he murmered to himself. “It’s just a lot of nonsense. They’re trying to scare me into silence, but it won’t work!” He glanced at the small clock on the study’s marble mantle piece. Ten minutes to midnight!

“We’ll know soon enough,” Kensington whispered harshly. He took a deep breath and opened a desk drawer. On top of some papers lay a polished automatic. Kensington lifted the gun carefully out of the drawer. With a practiced hand he popped the magazine into his hand and inspected it briefly. Nodding with satisfaction, he replaced the full magazine and shoved it home. It seemed an incongruous sight, this young scion of wealth, impeccably clothed in evening attire holding such a sinister weapon. Yet Kensington was well acquainted with the firearm, having spent many hours on the firing range honing his skills until he could place every .45 slug fired from the automatic with deadly precision.

Kensington thumbed the safety off and drew back the action. With a bullet now in the chamber, he laid the gun carefully on the desktop, within easy reach. For the first time that evening, Kensington allowed himself a smile.
...and eventually builds to passages like this:
“It’s Raven!” someone shouted. The crowd of mobsters reached for their guns. Raven spun on one leg, his other extended straight out, toes pointed. Two gangsters were bowled over, knocking three others temporarily off balance. As the crowd pressed in on Raven, he suddenly dropped to the floor, then shot straight up again, his arms crossed over his head.

Crooks fell backward, interfering with those behind them angling for a shot at the blue-black clad intruder.

“Take care of this,” the hooded man barked to Marco. He jumped off the rack and quickly made his way to the office. Crow was already in motion towards the fight, and saw the hooded man make his escape. He reached the edge of the roiling mob, and skirted the edge of it. Occasionally his path was blocked by a gangster, but each one was quickly dispatched in a matter of moments.

A loud crash! echoed through the garage. The doors exploded inward, sending a shower of splintered wood flying towards the gangsters surrounding Raven. A large dump truck roared into the garage, shoving the rest of the ruined door aside. Stanley pulled the brake handle and the truck lurched to a stop. He slipped out from behind the wheel.

Some of the gangsters turned at the sound of the truck ramming the door and started shooting at the invader. Bullets splayed off the hood of the truck as Stanley took cover behind an old tool chest.

Crow was also distracted by the arrival of Stanley. He looked to the door just for a moment, but when he returned his attention to the hooded man, he was surprised. The man had almost been at the door of the office when the truck had burst into the garage. But now the hooded man was nowhere to be seen, and the office was empty!
Great art? No, but great fun.

We'll get back to regular posts on Monday.

- Ralph


  1. Amos Kensington is an awesome name for a pulp fiction hero. Congratulations on writing 40,000 words.

  2. Patience: Thanks! Actually, Amos Kensington gets killed off in the next chapter. He's one of six wealthy men (the others being Clifford Warfield, Willis Burberry, Michael Fenton, Kevin Stratton and Thomas Woodrow) being blackmailed by the Purple Doom. Raven is actually a shared identity of two brothers, Raymond and Carlton Barr (when both assume the Raven identity, Carlton's referred to as Crow, which is his nickname).

    It was a wild ride for sure! I'll look forward to in-depth criticism when I post the whole thing.

  3. Congratulations! Now we need a National Radio Theater month. Can we adapt your work?