Two Novels and a Baby (August 19th)

The challenge: I produce a completed and somewhat serviceable novel by December 15th.

The challengers: My old college buddy James and his unborn baby (due on or about the 15th).

The rules: I can’t share anything I write, and it has to be completed before the baby is born.

James called at 11pm. He sounded like he was in a hollow, metal room.

“Are you on the toilet?” I asked.

“Nope! NIH!”

“What are you doing there?”

“Testing a malaria vaccine.”


“Malaria! I sold myself to NIH for a month of testing.”

“Oh my god. They don’t give you malaria, do they?”

“No! It’s the vaccine. But there are…side effects. So they have me under observation. They gave me my phone and said I’d better call my wife.”

“Jesus, James. Shouldn’t you?”

“Nah. The less Marcie knows, the better.”

“You have a baby on the way. Why would you volunteer for something like this?”

“First: I didn’t volunteer. I’m getting ten grand after taxes. Second: I’m saving the world. Malaria kills three million people a year.”

“Well, saving people. Not the world.”


“Did you say ten grand?”




“What are the side effects?”


“James! Seriously… Shouldn’t you call Marcie?”

He laughed, “Dude, no way.”

“Why call me?”

“The competition! Four days done. Where you at?”

“Five thousand words.”

“Not bad!”

“I hate every single one.”

“Oh, well. Still.”

“It’s going to be a sucky novel.”

James sighed, “Don’t worry. You can be that guy who writes a thousand page novel, self publishes it, then forces it on everyone you meet. You’ll die friendless and unloved!”

“My goal was ten thousand a week. So I’m falling behind…”

“You’re one hundred and ten percent crazy, Nacho. Okay, gotta go. The nurses say I shouldn’t be bleeding like this.”

He hung up quickly, leaving me gaping at the phone in horror.

Ten thousand words a week. The first thing I had to do was sacrifice Vote for Mithras. I raced through the remainder of the story, forcing a quick ending. Far from what I had in mind, but there was no time to think about it. No time to let it flow. The serial had been derailed anyway, so I figured no harm done. Let it die in public, though. Those were the rules of the serials project: Don’t quit. Don’t leave something unfinished.

I gave myself a couple days to collect my thoughts. James had issued the challenge on the 7th, with a start date of August 15th. I decided to cheat…but a couple days turned into a week. A full novel by December demanded planning and focus, right? So where would I start? An outline?

I wasn’t anywhere close to word one when the 15th rolled around, so I figured the best bet was to treat the novel like one, long serial. Eight chapters, 25 pages per chapter. 10,000 words a week. I just launched into it, with the first 1000 words talking about how I didn’t know what I was writing.

A disaster in the making… But the same rules apply. Don’t quit. Don’t leave it unfinished. So maybe something will emerge from all these words. And, if I can beat the deadline, maybe I’ll have time to edit them into something reasonable.

And maybe James would come over some night and tear out my throat in a malarial delirium.