The impetus to attempt something in 30 days that previously took me more than 3,600 seems like an unreasonable amount of trouble, no matter the catalyst
. The idea strikes me as asinine. Yet, tomorrow, November 1st, I will embark on the lonely journey of
traversing Middle Earth to deposit a ring in a volcano
crafting the manuscript of what will one-day, hopefully, read as a novel. I call it a manuscript crafting because, the more I’ve thought about this little jaunt the clearer the sense I get that it is not humanly possible to write a novel in 30 days. I mean, first, you’d need Shakespearean-style prodigious talent (which I don’t have), and you’d need to be a Obi Wan-like hermit (which, sadly, I can’t be).
Here are the ground rules for participating in National Novel Writing Month, or as it’s more affectionately known: NaNoWriMo. Rule #1: Write 50,000 words of fiction in 30 days, starting on November 1st and ending by midnight on November 30th. Rule #2: the work needs to be from “scratch”, though writers can pen character sketches, outline, and research ahead of time. That’s it. There’s no tangible prize, unless my overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment coalesces into a brownie. But once said Pride Brownie is consumed, and all wayward crumbs are wiped away, what I’m left with is a steaming pile of raw material that still needs quite a bit of spit and polish before it graduates to “novel” status.
The reason I allowed this momentary lapse of rational judgement seize me is simple. I am a lazy S-O-B. Taking ten years to hammer out two drafts of the same novel is sad for someone who aspires to be known as a novelist. That being said, thinking I can go from 3,600+ days to 30 days might be a bit daft as well. The pacing, though, seems doable. 50,000 words in 30 days is 1,667 words a day, or about 7 manuscript pages. I can do 7 pages a day.
I need something to propel me forward as a writer. I need to push myself. To quote the great Humphrey Bogart, “I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.” (That’s from The Maltese Falcon
. ASIDE: If you haven’t seen The Maltese Falcon
you need to seriously reconsider calling yourself a highly functioning member of society.) See, crafting this manuscript will be trouble, but if I’m going to move forward toward my goal, further the Dream of my career, I need to sit my boney ass in the chair and churn out another manuscript. I can’t justify spending upwards of $500 for a writer’s conference in January if I don’t head up there prepared.
Beyond the trouble, it’s practice. Kurt Vonnegut
once said: “The primary benefit of practicing any art, whether well or badly, is that it enables one’s soul to grow.” I’d like to think that’s true. See, Writer’s Block (which one can’t afford in the 30 day crunch that is NaNoWriMo) is a myth. It’s an excuse that does nothing more than get you off the hook. If you don’t start, you can’t fail, right? If it’s failure I’m afraid of (and I most certainly am to a certain extent), Samuel Beckett
offers this piece of advice: “Fail better next time.” After all that, it might be Ernest Hemingway
I end up listening to the most. He said, “All first drafts are shit.” He really knows how to let the pressure off.
So what have I decided to trouble myself with, you might be wondering. I’ve elected to try my hand at one of my favorite genres, Science Fiction. Thanks very much to my dad, I grew up a bit of a Trekkie. Beyond Star Trek, I have a well publicized
obsession with affinity for Star Wars. I also love Stargate. (Put the word “Star” in the title and I’m more than likely going to enjoy it.) Science Fiction affords the writers an easily accessible platform for social commentary and thematic development, within the confines of fantastical story realms and realities.
But in all the writing I’ve done, or thought about doing, I’ve never tried SciFi. It takes an incredible amount of work. You’ve got to research the science of it, the plausibility. You’ve got to develop original details, and build the world of the story much like engineers would build a spacecraft. Piece by piece. I’ve spent the better part of the last two weeks researching what the world’s borders would look like after an apocalyptic flood. Maybe the icecaps melted, maybe the poles shift. Whatever the case may end up being, the Earth in my story will be very different from the one we reside on today. (I’m not talking Waterworld
bad, but let’s just say the Eastern seaboard of the US will be no more. Now that I’ve said this, I cringe at comparing my up-coming manuscript to one of the worst
crimes against humanity
movies of all-time.)
Okay, let’s refocus. My manuscript will be set sometime in the not-too-distant future, where many of the world’s inhabitants will call floating City Ships their homes. These ships will have an almost feudal society, and I’ve elected to slant the story as a Medieval Romance. Now, Medieval Romance is not lovey-dovey knights going after ladies, rescuing the damsel in distress. It’s a tale of high adventure. Crusade or conquest, it’s a story that idealizes chivalry and the noble hero-knight and his deeds. It’s a story that idealizes the hero-knight’s love for his lady, but also one whose setting is imaginary. A true Medieval Romance derives its mystery from supernatural elements and regularly uses concealed identities. It focuses on a hero-knight character who is honest, loyal, faithful, courageous, generous, fair, and courteous. These are the ideas I hope to infuse into my manuscript, the themes I hope to steep the story in.
So that’s where we’re going over the next 30 days (and more). The working title is The Township Avalon, and the main character’s name is Bear Blackbourne. Bear is a young man, 25 or so, who works as part of a salvage crew. He spends much of his time training as an MMA fighter with his crewmate Gully. He’s smart, athletic, honest, loyal, courageous, generous, fair, and courteous. He’ll have a love interest at some point. And, he’ll get mixed up with a character named Cannon Grace, a Viceroy on the Township Avalon, who will be one of the antagonists. I will likely post excerpts here in the coming weeks to get some feedback, so whatever input you have it will be welcomed. If you’re curious, the soundtrack for this manuscript will be “A Thousand Suns” by Linkin Park
. (FYI: the soundtrack for my first novel, Mythos, was “Fallen” by Evanescence
Wish me luck as I embark on this journey. Hopefully, there’ll only be a reasonable amount of trouble.