Saturday, November 1, 2008

NanoWrimo, Day 1

So I'm doing National Novel Writing Month ( again. For the uninitiated, that's a 50,000 word novel blasted out in the month of November. Looking Glass started out that way, as did the space opera novel I've been working on lately.

I'm realizing that it's been about two years since the last time I stared into the screaming abyss of a completely blank page and started to fill it in with words, with story that even I don't know yet. It's coming. Slowly, as it always does in the beginning. I got about 330 words out today, mostly at the Nano write-in at the Highlands Ranch Tattered Cover. Hopefully more tomorrow.

I'm not actually behind. I schedule my Nano efforts to write 2500 words a day, Monday through Friday, and then take weekends off, so any words I get out this weekend are gravy for Monday's effort. If I can hit Monday warmed up, maybe with 2500 words to show for the whole weekend, I'll be far, far further ahead in the game than I usually start Nano. :)

Nano drafts, being about half-length, are usually very rough. I come out of them with a strong sense of most of my characters and a general idea of the plotline and the progression of the story. With Looking Glass, in revision, I tore out close to half the body of the Nano draft and rewrote or replaced the scenes, as well as adding some scenes and fleshing out a great many scenes. The space opera novel is shaping up the same way, or will be when I can get back to it.

Irreconcilable Differences, by contrast, did not start out as a nanowrimo draft. It took 3 times the time to write the first draft, but it was a much more complete draft, requiring comparatively minor work such as adding the prologue and reworking the beginning, much sharpening and clarifying of its complicated beast of a plot, cleaning up scenes that ran too long, and in some cases, amputating scenes all together to make the book's pacing work better. I'd love to say it was a much more pleasant experience editing it down into the finished novel, but because my life was such a mess last fall, and because I had to get the book in to the publisher by the top of February, it was a hard press against a hard deadline. On the other hand, had it been a typical Nano draft, it wouldn't have been possible to get it out this year at all.

For those playing the home game:

Hull #0: In 1990 or 1991, while I was in grad school, I set out to write my first cyberpunk novel. The effort fell apart after 10 or 15 pages of story and probably an equal number of pages of notes on the world. Grad school and chasing girls took up too much of my time. In the late 1990s, I cannibalized the world to flesh out North America for a Ghost in the Shell RPG campaign I was trying to put together with friends, which never materialized. Ultimately I couldn't leave the world alone, though. With its fractured United States, its nuclear powered, non-stop trains, its bio-punk focus and its bent toward smaller cities and towns in the West, it became the LookingGlass world with Hull #2, some 12 years after I originally thought it up. I recently found and OCRed a hardcopy of the Hull #0 story itself, and I have a deep itch to write this one at some point. I haven't touched it yet, but there are ideas from it that I haven't used that I keep stumbling over in my head.

Hull #1: The Steampunk novel. My 2002 Nano novel, then the longest creative piece I'd ever written. It's unlikely to see the light of day in any recognizable form, although I do like some parts of it, and might have to revisit steampunk and some variant of its world at some point.

Hull #2: Looking Glass. My 2004 Nano novel, after much revision and expansion. After the misery of creating a new world (research!) and a novel at the same time with Hull #1, and after reading Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon, which re-vitalized my tastes for both cyberpunk and first person storytelling, I wrote a novel that I thought played to my strengths. I recycled the world from Hull #0 and found myself telling a story from the point of view of Catherine Farro, PHD. Four days into this effort was the 2004 election. One may imagine it had some impact on her world.

Hull #3: After months of revisions to Looking Glass came this original followup novel. My 2005 Nano novel. Unlikely to see the light of day in any recognizable form. In my quest to find a different story to tell than Looking Glass I took on religious subject matter. I lost. This novel was also my first attempt at the buddy movie genre, which I found I liked writing, which probably explains the form that the next novel ultimately took.

Hull #4: Irreconcilable Differences. I began writing this one in January of 2006 after being pretty disappointed in how Hull #3 came out, and being absolutely clobbered by a better idea while driving across Kansas with my wife to visit her sister. Micki Blake and her world hit me all at once, so I started work on Hull #4 and never went back to its predecessor. The original draft was finished in September of 2006. It went to the editor in Feburary of 2008.

Hull #5: The Space Opera novel. I finished the first draft of Irreconcilable Differences in September of 2006, took October off, and began Nano 2006 exhausted, feeling like I was scraping the bottom of the barrel, and desperate, after 3 cyberpunk novels in a row, to write something other than cyberpunk. What emerged - and is still emerging - is a story about interstellar space travel in a universe without FTL, and about people and music and history. Still working on this one, sorting out the plot, refining the characters, making the timeline make sense, and sorting out the galaxy it's set in, the technology, and all the other fun of creating a new world/universe. :)

Hull #6: Cyberpunk again. Postcyberpunk. Whatever. Very likely to be set in the LookingGlass universe, despite my intentions to the contrary. Changing the venue within the world seems to get me the change in texture I wanted without the headaches of creating yet another new universe and making sure my two cyberpunk universes were easily distinguishable. Very likely to, in the revision stages, cannibalize parts of hull #3. I don't know yet. It's all still in flux. I'm just meeting my narrator. :)

I'll try and post here from time to time about this year's Nano, but it's likely to be brief.


(crossposted to my livejournal.)

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