It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

… it just has to sound plausible

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Nanowrimo: fail

Oh well. The nanowrimo novel stalled at 15,715 words a week or so ago. It was the wrong month for it. Not only was I putting together the TOC for Rocket Science, but I also had a 650-page anthology to read for review. Plus spending a weekend in Nottingham at Novacon. And November seems to be an especially good month for gigs, with four bands I want to see playing locally during the four weeks.

Also, the novel needed structure and, well, a bit more of a plot. I still think Into The Dark is a workable prospect, but writing it from the top of your head is not the way to go about creating it. Too many people – and nanowrimo fosters this attitude – think writing is about words. It’s not: it’s about the right word. I like to live with my story and my characters during the writing process – and “writing process” doesn’t always mean sitting in front of the computer and banging on the keys. If you know what you’re doing, if you have it all plotted out, if you’ve done your research, if you’ve got your notes ready… then yes, bashing out the words is what you need to do. And should I attempt nanowrimo again, I’ll make sure I’m clear in my head what I’m writing.

For the time-being, those 15,715 words of Into The Dark will go into the bottom-drawer while I think about how I want to structure the story. And, given that it was intended to be the first in a series, I shall also think about the next book and the series’ story-arc. Meanwhile, I have plenty of other stuff to be getting on with – not just the aforementioned review, or line-editing the contributions to Rocket Science, but also some other writing projects I’ve been working on for considerably longer than a month. And I really need to get those finished.

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Going with the flow

So that’s the first week of Nanowrimo over. Seven days of trying to write 1,667 words – at least – a day. Of a novel about which I had nothing but the title and a vague idea on which to base it. By the end of Day 7, I had managed 11,666 words, which is pretty much on target.

But are they 11,666 good words? Well, no; not really. So far, Into the Dark, as it’s titled, is not very coherent. It’s not quite automatic writing, but it’s not far from it. But then it’s not as if I decided to do Nanowrimo expecting there to be a complete polished novel at the end. I’m doing it more to discipline myself into writing on a daily basis more than anything else. Though I do hope there will be something salvageable come the end of November.

The idea for the novel was simple. It would recount the first stage in humanity’s first mission to another star. Initially, this was going to be the preparations for the launch of the rocket which would take the crew of six up to their spacecraft waiting in orbit. The style would be very literary, but also hard sf.

Then I decided to move it back a bit. To before the launch. Instead, the crew would be coming to the end of a simulated mission in a copy of the spacecraft on the ocean bed. A bit like NASA’s NEEMO, but much deeper. The protagonist is a project director sent down to tell the crew that for reasons of politics they need to get them up into orbit as quickly, and covertly, as possible. But what this project director finds in the underwater habitat is not at all what he expected…

It’s nothing Deep Star Six or anything like that. No monsters, or psychopaths. Instead, all of the crew have converted to Fedorovism. And the project director, Beeney (yes, I named him after my cat), is convinced this is not good for the years-long mission. He finds it troubling and possibly dangerous.

At which point, Into the Dark has sort of gone all Heart of Darkness on me. Which may be a good thing.

Some things about the novel have proven happy accidents. I only have a cast of seven, and the story is told from only one point of view. It’s set entirely in the underwater habitat, which is small and limited. The plot has allowed me to throw in research I did for other stories – yes, the descent of the Trieste (see here) is in there; also stuff about the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programmes. Nothing about Spitfires yet (see here), but give me time…

But mostly I’ve been completely winging it, and I suspect the chapters written so far are riddled with repetitions, inconsistencies, complete nonsense, and wild improbable swings in story-logic. But perhaps there are also one or two gems buried in the midden heap.

As for what I plan to do with manuscript once it’s finished… well, that remains to be seen. For now, it’s teetering on the edge of rescue.


Oh no what have I done?

I appear to have done something very foolish. I was sort of toying with the idea, but I didn’t really intend to do it. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t got enough on my plate already. So I’ve no idea what possessed me to sign up for Nanowrimo this year.

But I did.

Well, I had this idea for a series of novels, a sort of literary treatment of a hard science fiction staple: the first interstellar mission. This was inspired – structurally, that is – by the likes of CP Snow’s Strangers & Brothers, Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time and Simon Raven’s Alms for Oblivion. The individual novels would be short – in fact, Nanowrimo’s 50,000-word target is pretty much the perfect size. Anyway, I wanted to see if the idea worked, if I could write something of that sort of literary hard sf. And Nanowrimo seemed like a good way to motivate myself.

I could have chosen a better time, however. It’s not like I’d have spent November twiddling my thumbs. There’s Rocket Science to get sorted out – once I’ve decided on a final TOC, I need to start line-editing the contributions. Then there’s the fiction in various degrees of completion I have knocking about on my computer. Some just need a quick buff and polish; others need need me to work what the hell is going on in them. Plus, there’s the many reviews I need to get done…

Anyway, Nanowrimo. Write 50,000 words by the end of the month. That’s 1,667 words a day. That’s all I have to do. Yeah right. You can find me on the Nanowrimo website here. It should be… interesting.