“Novel” writing, eh?

Falling asleep at your desk is perfectly normal while writing a novel. Or so I am led to believe. So imagine writing two!

It is National Novel Writing Month again! And like in so many households around the world (so much for the “national” part), NaNo eve and NaNo day are public holidays. The last hours before midnight are traditionally spent on the NaNoWriMo forums, which slow to a crawl and eventually crash each year.  There is no point in dimensioning the servers for this spike, things calm down after a few days. In the meantime, you can access the forums off the peak hours.  Not hard to do if you live in Norway, of course.  Although peak hours are a bit different when you are a writer, I think. They last till about dawn for some…  (When sanity leaves, creativity comes!)

The first night and the first day are when you pour out on paper (or screen, in most cases) the words that have been dammed up for days, weeks or months as you looked forward to finally bringing your Great Novel (or funny fantasy) into the world.  Of course, the most intrepid (or still reasonably sane) writers have already committed the plot to some kind of external medium in the form of index card (or screen pictures of index cards), charts or “mind maps“. They may also have a character database, so that she does not gaze into his deep brown eyes that were a clear blue, like the summer sky, 14 pages ago. (Although in this age of colored contact lenses, that may be less important and might even add to the plot.) But many of us still have a buffer in our head with a chapter or so of text ready to write.

By the end of Day 1 that buffer is empty. Depending on who you are, the ideas may be gone too. It seemed like there would be enough material for a novel, but actually there was only the first and last chapter and a couple vague ideas glimmering like fireflies in between. Oops.

Yeah, that’s the case for me this year again.  So far I have: Dramatic beginning, dramatic arrival in a strange land, “and then a lot happened”, dramatic declaration of love, “and then a lot happened”, and still working on the dramatic ending.  That does not look a lot like a novel at this point.  I suppose I can still get my 50 000 words by having the main characters discuss their hobbies (which strangely enough would coincide with mine) in painstaking detail, as happened in “The Boy, the Girl and the Werecat”.  But I am planning to take another route this year.

I am starting a second novel. Because, you know, nothing succeeds like fiasco!

Taking a walk is how I get my inspiration. So while walking to the shop and back, about half an hour each way, I got a lot of ideas and completely refilled my brain text buffer. Unfortunately the text had nothing to do with my current novel, but was a reboot of another idea I have had for a long time. In fact, it was a small but important part of DarkEyes, one of my earliest NaNovels. The main character, in times of extreme danger, can escape by sliding to a parallel world. However, he has no control of where. It is similar to his own, but subtly different.

I am sure most of you have had “slider moments” as I call them. (In fact, I called them that before the Sliders TV series. That’s the kind of guy I am. People pick up my ideas and make books, movies and what not from them even if I don’t mention them to a soul. Oh well.

By “slider moments” I mean those moments where you have the distinct impression that you have come to a parallel world where things are almost the same but some significant aspect has changed.  I had that feeling a lot during the Glasnost period.  (Look it up if you are too young to remember it.) The Berlin Wall falling? Not in my world, surely!  Less global examples are where your friend is suddenly going out with that boy she wanted to drop off a cliff and disappear. Slider moments. Dude, where is my planet?

So anyway, this is a comedy mostly.  That is what I write naturally. I may not look like it now, but I used to be quite funny when I was younger. My planned novel for this month is not funny, it is all drama and a little romance and some deep thoughts at the end.  So when I am not in the mood to write that, I write the other.

I am certainly not the first writer to do this. I remember Piers Anthony, the prolific if occasionally indecent fantasy writer, describing his mode of work in his author notes at the end of each novel. You may say a lot about him, and people do, but he did share his technique even though nobody forced him to. And he was a prolific writer indeed. Perhaps he still is, I have moved on from that scene. Anyway, “the best techniques are passed on by the survivors”, and he was definitely one.

At first, when Piers was writing a novel and got an urgent idea for another, he would enclose the alien text in brackets [like this]. Later he would use the word processor’s search function to extract the nuggets, but when writing, the thing that mattered was to keep writing. No matter which book it was for.  After all, that is a writer’s first commandment: Write!

So I may come up with more stories as the days come, if come they do, and then we’ll see what the outcome is.  Perhaps I will have 20 short stories, in which case I may sit down the last day and write a novel about someone who reads 20 short stories. ^_^ Or perhaps I will write hundreds of thousands of words.  Light alone knows, although I have a suspicion.

But now, I have written a thousand words (not counting the picture, which makes it 2000) that are not part of any of my novels.  But perhaps it was “novel” (new) to you?