Readers' novels no 2: Over the barricade

BBC "I need you to stay on this side of the barricade, Miss."

The Magazine's feature on why people take part in the month-long novel-writing event NaNoWriMo prompted dozens of readers to send in 350-word long excerpts. Here is Liz Millar's Over The Barricade.

The air is thick with smoke, hung heavy with the stench of fear. The line of traffic spans up to the next street, snaking around the block and shows no sign of moving. A throng of people run as one steady vein, throbbing to one single minded destination. I get out of my car and follow them. I push past people I would usually smile at in greeting. I see Gillian, Molly's mother, across the street pushing with the same determination I am. An explosion rocks the earth beneath my feet and fire billows into the sky to my left. People scream. Some of them just stare, motionless. I push past them and fight my way forward.

NaNoWriMo

Typing fingers

Every November, hundreds of thousands of writers around the world participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), trying to churn out 50,000 words of a new novel in just 30 days.

In an era when people might go scuba diving in Bali or walking up Kilimanjaro, writing a novel is another piece in the fulfilment jigsaw.

Turning the street corner I see the police trying to keep people back. The crowd are shouting at them, some of them even start throwing things. I elbow people out of the way to get the front. Making it to the barricade I try to see what's happening down the street. Smoke still curls from the building. Several fire engines sit outside, their blue lights flashing monotonously. Another explosion has everyone diving for the floor; smaller pieces of burning debris fly through the air and hit some of them. The police take a moment to collect themselves and decide to move the barricade back but the crowd surges forward. My ribs are crushed against the metal fence and for a few seconds, it's not just panic tearing at my chest. To hell with this. I start climbing over the barricade. A policeman runs over and tries to grab me. "I need you to stay on this side of the barricade, Miss."

About the author

Liz Millar is an administrator at the University of Leicester. She studied psychology and creative writing for a year at university and plans to finish her studies next year.

"I made up stories for my sister when I was a child and when I was about 10, I started writing them down," she says.

"My daughter is in there!"

"I know. We're doing everything we can but you need to stay here. It's not safe."

"I don't give a damn!"

"I appreciate that, Miss, but the fact remains: you need to stay here."

My fist catches him off-guard as it connects with his jaw. He falls back. I hop over the barricade. I can hear the crowd behind me; they are cheering.

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