This is, unapologetically, a NaNoWriMo post. I would have begun with an apology to all those who are not taking part in NaNoWriMo, and especially to all those who actively dislike NaNo, since lately it appears fashionable to knock the whole endeavour.
But NaNo is a big thing for writers. It is a good way to start, for those who have never written before. It is a good way to focus, for those who are casual, sometimes distracted. And it is a good challenge for those who write anyway.
Rather than dismiss NaNo as something detrimental to the craft of writing, why not celebrate it as a means of awareness? Is AIDS research any less important for the other 364 days just because there is an awareness day for one day a year? Does one day of awareness harm the cause of research?
Of course not. So let NaNo be a form of consciousness-raising about writing. Yes, it is crazy for anyone to turn in their manuscript to a publisher on December 1st and expect it to be published. Yes, there ought to be a greater push towards revision and editing. But you know what? You can’t edit or revise, nor even submit anything, if you don’t write something first. And that’s the point of NaNo.
Here endeth the lesson.
Now, this post is entitled “beginnings”. And that’s what I want to share with you, and in turn I’d like you to share with me. The London NaNo forum has a thread entitled “what’s your first line”. Better than that, I’d like you to share your first 500 words or so. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter. Let’s hear what you have to say. Here’s mine.
“Where is the Duke?”
“Gone up to town sir, business at Parliament.”
Abberline stared at the body lying face down in the dirt, three large gashes running down the length of its back. Blood had oozed out of the wounds and pooled around the body, mingling with the mud to create a bloody quagmire that clung to the body.
“Hell of a mess, not sure what kind of weapon would do that…”
“Seen it before sir.”
“Canada sir, went across with the Duke when I were younger, touring his estates there. Went out hunting, found a deer carcass with cuts just like that on its flank. That’s a bear caused that, sure as I’m standing here.”
Abberline looked at the old man and shook his head. “A bear. Did this. In Isleworth.”
The old man took a pipe out of his pocket, and began to stuff it with some loose tobacco. “All I’m saying sir, is I seen that before. Three big nasty cuts, deep and ragged, one next to the other. Seen it before, and it were a bear did it.” He struck a match, and began to puff on the pipe until the bowl glowed. He blew the smoke straight up, and pointed the stalk of the pipe at the body. “A bear.”
“Mister…?” Abberline began to speak, but realised he didn’t know who he was talking to.
“Callum. Just Callum, that’s what everyone in the house calls me.”
“Callum. There haven’t been bears in England for five hundred years, I hardly think-”
“Now sir, I’m not telling you what did it. Only what it looks like. Maybe there’s a circus, maybe one of them down in Petersham has a menagerie and one got loose, I don’t know. But that’s what it looks like, and that’s all I’m saying.”
Abberline knelt down by the body. One arm was outstretched towards the gates of Syon House, the Duke of Northumberland’s London residence. Abberline lifted the head gently to reveal the face. He wiped the mud away from the face, revealing a face contorted in terror.
Callum sighed. “Ah Joe my boy, that’s a sorry end for you.”
“You know him?”
“Ay sir, that’s young Joe Parsons.”
“He have business at the house?”
“Ought not to have been out of the house sir, he’s one of the kitchen boys.” Callum puffed a few more times on the pipe, and nodded towards the road the body was lying in. “Must’ve snuck down to the Apprentice. Might have come back by the main road or…”
Callum pointed to a narrow track through a field. “Might have come back by Cut-throat Lane. Avoids the main gate see, less chance of being seen.”
“Then I suppose I’m heading to the Apprentice to make some enquiries.”
“When you’re there sir, make sure you speak to Jones the carpenter. He’ll tell you a few things about bears and Cut-throat Lane.”
“And I’ll find this Jones at the Apprentice?”
“Since his little fright, he won’t leave sir. You’ll find him there for sure.”