Friday, November 5, 2010

NaNoWriMo

Indeed

Hello Gentle Readers. It's been a while. As usual, I don't really have a good excuse for my long absence, so I'll just jump right into it. Today we're going to play a little catch-up, and I'm going to get back on the horse Monday with some honest to God 'blogging. So, what's been going on at Journeyman HQ you ask? A fair amount, actually. I'm still working on AEGIS vs. SPIDER, for which I've found the perfect musical accompaniment, but slowly as that project has taken a back seat to some other, more pressing projects. 



For one, I've started writing for National Novel Writing Month. On a lark, and after a not so subtle hint from The Wife, I've decided to jump headlong into this thirty-day orgy of words, headaches, coffee, bourbon, breast beating, teeth gnashing, procrastination, and aggressive indolence. Honestly, it's not that much different than any other writing assignment I get, and like usual I'll probably do nothing more than poke at it and fret about it until a week before it's due and then dash off all fifty-thousand words in a caffeine and alcohol fueled haze in which I snap at everyone around me, wonder if I shouldn't have just taken to driving a truck for a living, and sleep an hour or two in every twenty-four.

See, obviously I've read a lot of novels, but I've never had the temerity to actually write one. Writing novels is for really real writers, adults with educations, not hacks like me. Short fiction sure. I've done that. The shorter the better, actually. My very first published story, based on an illustration by Ramon Perez, wasn't more than fifteen hundred words. I tend to write short fiction in a style similar to Lydia Davis, painfully short, to the point narratives of no more than a few thousand words. Now though, now that I've gone to the trouble of signing up on the NaNoWriMo website and Tweeting about it and making Facebook posts about it and bragging to my friends about it and attending a painfully awkward "write-in" at a place called Black Lotus  (which has bad beer, lousy service, and even worse ambience mind you), I've got to spin fifty-thousand words into a cohesive narrative by the end of the month. That's some scary shit right there.

I'm not sure why, though. Over the past year I've written probably 200,000 words for Fantasy Flight. Before that, I wrote probably three times that for Palladium. Hell, I put down nearly eighty-thousand words for Macross, and that's half again as many as I need for my NaNoWriMo book. It feels different, though. I have a hard time with what The Wife calls the "magic pencil" theory (which she stole from her late father). This is a theory where you put the pencil on the page (or start typing in the document) and don't quit 'til you're done. As far as I'm concerned, that's crazy talk. Terrifying crazy talk. Probably because I don't trust myself to even speak without doing heavy editing in my head before I say anything (a truly horrifying revelation for those who know me and have actually heard the things that come out of my mouth from time to time). I need to suck it up, though. I need to quit with the incessant fiddling and editing and fretting over just the right word or I'm never going to get through this. 

So, what's it about you ask? Um...good question. I've been tossing this idea around as both a novel and a game setting for a couple of years now. It's a hard (or as hard as I can make it) science sci-fi setting that takes place in our Solar System a few hundred years from now. Mankind has left the cradle of Earth and colonized the rest of the system. It's not post-apocalyptic or anything, we didn't leave the planet because of a war or plague or any of the numerous other cliche reasons, mainly it was a case of too many people and not enough resources. There's a handful of countries (The US/Canada, Russia, China, India, the EU) who are dominant in space. There are massive industrial and shipping concerns that raise private navies for protection. There are pirates in the asteroid belt. There's an underfunded, inglorious, lackluster United Terran Navy that's essentially the system's Coast Guard and has serious beef with the Company Men/system wide private military contractors. No aliens, no FTL travel, little in the way of the kind of whiz-bang technology you see in Star Wars or, God forbid, Star Trek. Certainly none of that Honor Harrington Mary-sue, age of sail, broadsides and board 'em in the smoke bullshit. 

I'm basically trying to re-tell Jack Aubrey's story from Master and Commander in space with lasers against a backdrop of a spacegoing corporatocracy held up by its own personal military forces who are answerable only to CEOs and shareholders. A modern military drama that deals with the issues of leadership, a military force stretched to its limit, the antagonism between PMCs and actual active-duty military members, and, well, duty. Because seriously, it's all about duty. That's pretty goddamned ambitious for a first-time novel writer, and probably not doable withiin the NaNoWriMo rubric. I'm going to damn well try, though. What's the worst that could happen? It's gotten off to a good start at least. Here's a taste of the opening for your reading pleasure:
With the ink on his commission still wet, Wes Maucher stepped from the bustling clamor of Gagarin Station's main concourse into the close, comfortable dimness of Mir's, directly into a fistfight.
Not bad, eh? Even though Lieutenant Commander Maucher is my thinly veiled analog for Jack Aubrey (he's also named after my very favorite navy man, my granddad), I'm obviously not going to be able to do Master and Commander scene for scene and just replace H.M. Sloop Sophie with the currently unnamed ancient, clapped out destroyer that Maucher will command. For starters, that's lazy bullshit and probably plagiaristic  right there. It's also not doable in the sense that a lot of what O'Brian does in the Aubrey-Maturin books is so dependent on the place and time of its setting that it would be impossible to recreate totally in space. The themes, strong, living characters, action, humanity, and humor sure, that's doable. That's just good wordcraft, that's what makes a story and I should be doing that anyway. I'll just have to find some other device to replace violent storms and the horror of a lee shore if I want or need a little extra drama.

Other than that, which is going to chew up a good amount of my time, I just landed yet another big-ass assignment from Fantasy flight, I've got a super-hero thing simmering for a little company called Melior Via, I'm still trying to land more work, I've got resumes in to WotC, Blizzard, and Stardock, and that doesn't even cover all the mundane workaday stuff like taking care of The Kid and keeping The Wife happy and making sure the house doesn't fall down around our ears. So, you know, no rest for the wicked.

1 comment:

anarkeith said...

Good luck with NaNo, Jason! I've done it a couple of times, and it's quite satisfying to finish. The years that I haven't finished outnumber those where I have, but no worries. It's about the writing. Writing without excuses, or self-critique. Enjoy!