This past month, I participated in NaNoWriMo 2009, or National Novel Writing Month. The goal was to write a work of fiction that was at least 50,000 long. I started a few days late, but actually managed to finish a complete story with 50,162 words before the deadline!
The end result is Jumpgate Blues, a science fiction story about Sascha Lopez, a jump pilot in the year 2253 with amnesia. (You can read the whole thing online by clicking the link or from my website through the links on the right under Writings -> Jumpgate Blues.) I decided on a main character with amnesia so I could work out her background as I was writing it. It’s very rough and it’s just a first draft, but I’d like to think it’s still fun to read. I also learned a few things in the process:
- Characters often do things you don’t expect. This might sound strange since you would think that the writer has ultimate control. But as you write, you find that some things that you thought would work, don’t. For example, I thought the Captain would have a really emotional heart-to-heart with Sascha in the beginning of the story but as I started to write that, I realized, no, she wouldn’t say something like that in that situation. And Kyra sort of came out of nowhere.
- Writing about stuff you don’t know is hard. I know almost nothing about the military. So I spent a lot of time talking to friends into military stuff and looking up things like military ranks, size of ships, forms of address, to base my space navy on. But it was also fun learning new things.
- In science fiction and fantasy, it’s very important to establish your rules early and to stick with them. One of the fun things about writing speculative fiction is that you get to make things up. But one of the dangers is that if you do it too much, the audience starts to feel that it’s arbitrary. Where’s the sense of peril if you feel the main character will just whip out a deus ex-machina phlebotonum gun to wipe out the bad guys?
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Someday, I’d like to be a writer,” I heartily encourage you to give it a shot next year! I’m not there yet, but this event gave me the chance to see what it might be like. And hey, if you end up reading my story, let me know what you think!