Do You Dare To NaNoWriMo?

Just in case you haven't heard of NaNoWriMo, it's an acronym for National Novel Writing Month. Each November, intrepid writers of all ages and genres (including fanfiction) attempt to do something wild and adventurous -- write 50,000 words of a novel in one month. That works out to about 1,667 words per day in order to reach that goal. You can do word sprints with others to challenge each other to write more, hang out in the forums to chat with other writers and get inspiration and help resolving plot issues, even track your daily progress. Oh, and consume copious amounts of caffeine.

The classic way to do NaNo is to start fresh with a new novel, but you can also use your time that month to complete, or at least make a lot more progress writing, a novel you've already begun. And whether you reach that goal of 50,000 words or not, you can feel great about having participated. You'll have had fun, connected with others, and experienced the exhilaration of stretching yourself as a writer. You'll have written more amazing words than you otherwise would, or imagined you could, and you might even find the month has helped you develop a good writing routine that will carry over long past November. Oh, and in my inbox at NaNo, I just discovered they have a new goal tracker you can use to set your writing goals for other projects, like editing that NaNo novel, and track your progress toward your goal.

Did you do NaNoWriMo? If you did, how did it go, and what did you write? I'd love to hear from you. This was my third year doing NaNo. On November 1, I decided on the spur of the moment to jump in and start writing a Harry Potter fanfic that's been swirling around in my head for awhile and managed to achieve about 18,000 words, most of which came in the initial days of the month. I'm not the fastest writer, and it's super hard for me to turn off my inner editor. Here's the summary of my story and a little excerpt for you:

Fem!Snape Selena has other plans for her life than becoming a Death Eater, but her skills in spellcraft and Potions have placed her in Voldemort's sights. Meaning, she has to walk a fine line in Slytherin house and play politics if she wants to survive long enough to escape his clutches. For now. On her worst day, after THE fight with her best friend Lily, a new ray of hope comes into her life. Her mother is finally leaving the abusive situation with her father, and the Prince family has welcomed Eileen and Selena back into the fold. Now, with a new last name and a wonderful opportunity to complete her education on a Caribbean island that is the Prince's winter home, a tropical paradise far from Voldemort's reach, Selena may just manage to reach her dreams. Unfortunately, Voldemort's forces are not so willing to let her go, drawing Selena inexorably into the coming war.

Chapter 1: The Worst Day
The sun burned into Selena’s back as she trudged across the grounds of Hogwarts to her favorite tree by the lake. Echoes of the Marauders' taunts at the end of their Defense Against the Dark Arts OWL followed her, crowding out any joy or pride she should be feeling right now after acing the exam. Her greasy, hooked nose had been buried in her paper as she wrote, they’d said. All that black hair hid her ugly face like a mop of moldy limp noodles, they’d said. She had skin as pasty as the school ghosts, and any day now she’d start to float away with them – not like the ghosts would want anyone as horrible as Slimy Selena  among them – they’d said. It made her blood simmer and bubble, a poisonous potion corroding her insides. Okay, so she wasn’t pretty, vivacious, and sparkly like her best friend Lily, but her marks placed her near the top of their class, right up there with Lily. Sure, Potter and Black did well enough without even studying, but Selena far surpassed them in intelligence and magical skill, not to mention an insatiable appetite for learning, and they all knew it.
Oh, how she loathed the Marauders! They’d made her life at Hogwarts, a place meant to serve as her haven, her refuge from her drunken father’s abuse, almost as miserable as her so-called home life. Just the thought of what awaited her when she returned to Spinner’s End in a few days caused knots of anxiety to twist in her stomach. Selena did not want to return there, not now, not ever again, but she had no other option. Some of the Slytherins had offered to have her stay for part of the summer. That would get her out of her predicament for maybe a week or two here and there, if her parents let her go. It wasn’t enough. Her father, as controlling as Tobias Snape was, wouldn’t allow her to get a job to escape the house. No, he wanted her there under his thumb, helping her mother Eileen keep the house and prepare his meals. Which really amounted to it all falling on Selena, as had been the case for the past few years. Her mom had become so beaten down by life, by her father, that she’d become an empty shell of herself and tiptoed through life meek as a mouse, as though she’d break into pieces at any moment.
Just two more years, she reminded herself. Two more years and she’d never have to see them again.
Selena reached her tree and heaved a sigh of relief to find it unoccupied. She slung her tattered backpack, with its faded grey and black stripes and tattered seams, off her shoulder and dropped it to the ground. Unburdened of its heavy weight, she sank down beside it and rested her back against the tree trunk. Tomorrow, she had her Potions OWL, her best subject next to Defense, so this year should end on a high note for her. Maybe she should find a way to quit listening to anything the idiotic Marauders said about her. Or did. After almost getting killed by Black’s thinly disguised murder attempt, which they tried to pass off as a stupid prank of all things, she probably should ignore them. What did she care that Lupin was a werewolf, anyway? If the Headmaster wanted to risk the lives of students because of some bleeding heart need to see the spineless prankster get an education, far be it from her to argue. Selena cared little what he was. What she cared about was that he was too weak to keep his even more monstrous friends in check, which led to their latest prank that could have gotten her killed. Obviously, Lupin had already forgiven them for setting him – and her – up, even though it could have cost him everything, too, by exposing him as a werewolf. A killer.
Having time to herself to think about all these thoughts swirling around in her mind was giving her a rather nasty headache. Selena rubbed her temples before reaching into her book-laden backpack to retrieve her Potions text. Finishing an exam early had its advantages, as it gave her the chance to get a head start on studying. Not that she couldn’t recite the exact recipe for every single potion they’d covered this year, and every single interaction among the various ingredients to an intuitive degree way beyond any of her year-mates. No, Selena didn’t have a need to study Potions. She had a need to distract herself, and immersing her mind in one of her favorite subjects was the best way to do that.
“Hey, Lena,” a cheerful voice called sometime later, drawing her out of her reading. The owner of that voice plopped down beside her in a flash of red hair, brightened to a golden glow in the afternoon sun. Lily grinned at her, tossing her books onto the grass between them, already forgotten, and leaning back onto her hands with her face tilted upward toward the sky.
“Lils, hey.” Selena returned the grin with a true, genuine smile of her own, one rarely given and only in the company of her best friend. The two girls had been drifting apart in recent years, their friendship strained by their housemates pulling them in different directions, trying to poison them against each other. More and more, it seemed to be working, so it came as a relief that Lily had actually come over to talk to her. “Took your sweet time finishing up, I see, not that you had to.”
“How did your exam go?” Squinting, Lily turned to her, sitting upright now that the subject had come up. She twisted her hands together and worried her bottom lip. “Not that I need to ask. I’m sure you got top marks, and don’t think I didn’t notice you were one of the first ones done. I’d have been out here sooner, but it just made sense to take the time allotted to check everything over first.”
That was Lily, exuberant and carefree in spirit, yet meticulous and detailed when the situation called for it.
“Well…yes,” Selena admitted, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “It did go well. Hey, don’t be nervous, and stop fidgeting, will you? I’m sure you scored almost as high as me. Are you ready for Potions tomorrow? I was just starting to study.”
Lily waved away the question and lay back on the grass with a sigh. “Argh! Can you think of nothing but exams? It’s getting me all anxious when I really need to relax before I even start thinking about the next one. Let’s talk about something else.”
Selena chuckled. “You have no reason to be anxious because you’re more than ready for tomorrow, but fine.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Lily said with a snort.
Laying back next to Lily, just like they’d done years ago, when they’d whisper their secrets to each other, Selena grew serious and met Lily’s skeptical but amused gaze. “It’s true. Anyway, believe me that I have way more than mere exams on my mind. Listen, Lils, there’s so much that I want to tell you about what’s really going on. What my plans really are.” Now, before too many other students gathered out here, especially the ones she could ill afford to overhear this conversation, seemed like the perfect time.
Following her lead, Lily’s voice fell to a hushed whisper, “Like what?” Shock and confusion warred for dominance in Lily’s brilliant green eyes, and Selena understood why. They didn’t talk about this stuff usually, except for Lily complaining about the awful curses Mulciber and Avery used against Lily’s Gryffindor friends, and Selena pointing out that the hexes the so-called Marauders used were no better.
“Like the fact that I don’t…”
But a snide voice, that hated voice of Potter, interrupted what Selena was about to say. “Well, if it isn’t Slimy Selena. Can’t you leave Evans alone, you snake? She doesn’t need the likes of you clinging to her.” He ran a hand through his hair, as if he thought the manic-crazy, windswept look actually made him look cool. A gentle breeze blew through the tree branches, causing a rustling sound as they swayed in the wind. A few petals from their flowers drifted down into her hair and Lily’s.
“Hey, let’s teach the slimy snake a lesson,” Black chimed in, slinging an arm around Potter.
“Go away,” Lily declared, sitting up and brushing a petal from her face. “What’s Lena done to you, anyway?”
“It’s more the fact that she exists, you see,” Potter said, flashing Lily what he must have thought a winning smile before turning a sneer on Selena.
Selena rolled her eyes. She had no patience for fools, and Potter had time and again proven himself the biggest fool of all. “Or maybe you’re just jealous that yet again I beat you at your best subject, transfiguration, and I’m going to beat you at Defense. It would be such a shame if your marks didn’t earn you the NEWT level classes you need to become an Auror. Oh, and with Potions tomorrow, can you really afford to be spending time blathering at me when you should be focusing on your weakest subject?”
While Lily tugged on her arm, saying, “Let’s just go, Lena. It’s not worth antagonizing them,” a look of rage crossed Potter’s face.
Distracted by Lily’s attempt to drag her away, Selena reacted too late to protect herself when she heard James’ spell: “Levicorpus!”
Her shout of “Protego!” didn’t work in time, and Selena found herself toppling upside down, suspended by her feet and hanging in midair as from an invisible rope. To her dismay, her robes fell down her body, displaying her underwear beneath. As she fought to cover herself and reach her wand, her face warmed, and not just from all the blood rushing to her head. Great. Now her cheeks must be turning beet red.
“Much better,” James laughed, a loud, hearty, obnoxious that made Selena want to punch that smile right off his stupid face. Except, she couldn’t. She hung there in helpless fury, unable to do anything against him or Black. “That should teach you to talk back to people who are better than you. And really, such language. Didn’t your parents teach you to talk to people in a more civil manner? You should wash your mouth out with soap. Scourgify!”
Soap bubbles filled her mouth, choking her, drowning out any of the words she wanted to hurl at him. She wanted to tell him that she’d do much, much worse to him as payback. That he was a pathetic, insecure little person if he had to go around insisting that he was better than others, because after all, people who actually were better didn’t have to point out that fact. Oh, and he should be careful because that line of thinking, placing himself above others, sounded very much like something the dark lord would say. He’d hate that comparison.
Selena had no choice but to open her mouth, letting the foam drip to the ground. Still more bubbles formed, a never ending torrent that soon ballooned to cover her nose, too, and now she couldn’t breathe.
Now, true panic set in, even as other students gathered around to stare and laugh at her. The sight of her gagging and convulsing, at Potter’s mercy, must be truly hilarious. Lily locked eyes with her, emerald eyes going wide.
“Let her down, right now!” Lily shouted, grabbing for Potter’s wand arm. He danced away from her, grinning at the chase. Gasping for air that wouldn’t come, inhaling soap bubbles that seemed to fill any available space inside her, Selena could only watch the scene dim and her vision fragment to pieces. Even her eyes were covered with soap now, and she had to close them. Too late. Her eyes stung and burned, even when tears — from the stinging soap, not the humiliation, mind you — leaked from beneath her lashes. “Can’t you see she can’t breathe? This isn’t funny.”
“Aw, Evans, go out with me. Then I promise I’ll leave old Slimy Selena alone.”
“I’d rather go out with the Giant Squid,” she heard Lily say. “Anyway, unless you and Black here want to get expelled, or worse, sent to prison for murder this time, you need to end the spell now and let her down. Wouldn’t want that on your record to keep you from becoming an Auror, would you?”
Potter huffed. “Fine. As you wish, milady.”
The next thing Selena knew, she was falling, falling, and struck the ground hard. She lay in a crumpled heap, her body aching everywhere. At least the soap bubbles had dissolved, and Selena gasped for breath with lungs greedy for air. When she could manage to move her limbs, she reached up to wipe away the lingering soap from her eyes. Her vision swam into focus, and now an even larger crowd had gathered to witness this. Heat and rage flamed her cheeks again, and she glared at them all, defiant, as she stood and tried to still her trembling hands. Of course if she retaliated right now, she’d get blamed for the whole thing. Potter might not even get into trouble. Dumbledore had too much fondness for the Gryffindors to punish them for their misdeeds. No, it would be better for Selena to bide her time and strike when she wouldn’t be caught in front of witnesses. Revenge as a dish best served cold, and all that.
A clucking sound from somewhere in the crowd caught Selena’s attention, and she turned her head to the right to find Avery and Mulciber at the back, shaking their heads in dismay. Just wonderful that they were here to witness her humiliation. Well, at least they might help her plan her retaliation later, but if they caught her here with Lily, Merlin knew what they’d do to her muggleborn best friend. They didn’t like Selena hanging out with muggleborns like Lily, and had begun to torment Lily’s closest Gryffindor friends to drive a wedge between the two girls.
Their threats against Lily had been the reason Selena drifted away. So long as Selena stayed away, Mulciber and Avery would set their sights on other targets, and her best friend would stay safe.
Lily, unaware of the threat, rushed to her side. “Lena, are you okay? Oh, what am I saying — of course you’re not. I’m so sorry. Those guys are such arrogant toe rags, and —“
“Don’t touch me!” Selena hissed, jerking back out of Lily’s reach. Her gaze strayed to where Mulciber and Avery watched the interaction with interest, and she prayed that Lily would follow. Hating herself, but having no choice, she bit out her next words. “I don’t need help from a filthy mudblood like you.”
Lily blinked. “Fine. Oh, just so you know, you’d better wash that underwear, Slimy Selena. They’re stained. Better yet, do yourself a favor and buy some new ones that aren’t granny panties.”
I will not cry, Selena told herself. I will not cry.
Laughter erupted among the crowd, with Potter laughing the loudest of all. It didn’t drown out the sound of her heart turning to glass and shattering into a million pieces, broken and irreparable. She’d officially lost her best friend. Even when things were strained to their worst between them, Lily had never turned cruel like this. Maybe Selena deserved it for what she’d just said, but it still hurt more than anything in her life, more than all the insults and bruises heaped upon her by her father over the years put together, that Lily couldn’t see why she’d had to call her that hateful name.
For a second, Selena allowed herself a thrill of hope that maybe Lily had caught on and was playing along, but she quickly quashed that hope. And anyway, Selena couldn’t talk to her here in front of everyone to find out.
“Whatever,” she said, her voice turned ice cold. Raising herself to her full height, she stared Lily down. Being tall had its advantages. She hoped her face masked her pain so nobody else could see it. Spinning on her heel, she stalked away from Lily, pushing her way through the crowd and back toward the castle. Nobody tried to stop her.
“All right, what was that?” Mulciber demanded, trailed by Avery as they fell into step beside her.
“What do you think? Potter being his usual self.”
“No.” Avery said, a hard edge of disappointment in his voice. “The point is, you let him catch you off guard.”
“No,” Selena retorted, fixing him with a stern glare. “Potter attacked when my back was turned. I was leaving before…all that.” True enough. Mulciber and Avery didn’t need to know she’d been about to leave with Lily.
“A coward’s move,” Mulciber observed. “One wonders how he ended up in Gryffindor. So, let’s go plan our payback. It’s time to make the so-called Marauders regret ever messing with you. And I have something very special in mind, something they won’t see coming.”
Despite her morose mood, a smile quirked Selena’s lips upward. “I appreciate it. Let’s go.”
“Hang on,” Avery said, and stopped. The others followed suit, staring expectantly at him. “You weren’t going to leave with the mudblood, were you?”
Selena arched an eyebrow, though inside her stomach was doing a somersault. “Just because she was there, don’t read too much into it. It’s a nice day outside. Everyone’s out enjoying the weather.”
Except for herself, of course. Oh, no, Selena didn’t get that luxury, and fate would see fit to ruin what was supposed to have been a great afternoon.
“Don’t worry about it. We’ve got more important things to do.”
With a tightness in her throat and chest, as if a noose had wrapped around her, Selena followed them inside.


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