Into the labyrinth(s)
I’m got a bit of a special event coming up here at the site. I’ve decided to serialize Labyrinths, the novel I wrote in 2009 for National Novel Writing Month.
In case you didn’t know: NaNoWriMo (as its devotees affectionately call it) is an annual event, held in November, wherein people pledge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. It’s not a contest; there are no prizes other than the satisfaction of having done the job. And nobody in the organization is interested in actually reading your book. All they do is provide advice, forums where people encourage and help each other, and an online tool to verify the word count.
And, yes, people actually do this–tens of thousands every year, in fact.
Why? Because it’s good to challenge yourself to do something that you’ve always wanted to do but never thought you would. And novel-writing in particular has a reputation for being fiendishly difficult. In reality, it’s rather easy to write; all you really need is motivation. For some reason, the completely arbitrary 50K-word minimum and 30-day deadline work really well for motivating people to bang out that book they’ve always wanted to write.
Some quick math will tell you that 50,000 words in 30 days averages out to 1,667 words per day. This is a lot, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not at all impossible, even if you’re working full-time–which I was the first time I did it, in 2005. My second time, in 2009, I was in graduate school, working on my library degree. Both times included big Thanksgiving vacations. And I still pulled them off without any real trouble. So, believe it or not, it can be done.
And it can be done well. My first NaNoWriMo book, Best Intentions, really wasn’t very good; about the best thing that can be said about it is that there might be an okay novella in it somewhere. Among other sins, I spend far too much time describing the characters’ meals. (And in once place, I padded my word count with a detailed explanation of fMRI.)
But the second, Labyrinths, may be the best thing I’ve ever written. It’s a space opera, in which a survey ship answers another ship’s distress call to find a strangely abandoned ship and an uninhabited planet with an ancient tower–a tower that conceals an artifact of immense power.
I’ve been rereading it lately, for the first time since I wrote it, and I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that. Yes, there are times when it reads like the Star Trek ripoff it started as. But there are other times when it reads like a classic space opera from the Fifties or Sixties–but with some very modern scientific and spiritual insights. I like it.
And I’m also just as impressed as I was before with one of my main characters, Captain Hayashi Mariko. Authors sometimes say that a character can “come to life” and surprise its creator by speaking or acting differently than expected. Captain Hayashi was the first, and so far only, character I’ve written who did that, in a long talk halfway through the book. I was pleasantly surprised then, and I’m rather proud now.
So, I decided recently, why not share this thing and see if anyone likes it?
I’m now doing some minor editing in preparation, mostly fixing typos–though I’m also trying to make it just a little less Trek-y. I’ve also broken it up into fifteen parts of varying lengths. Sometime in the next few days I’ll start posting them here, one installment every couple of days. I may also offer an ebook; we’ll see if there’s enough interest to justify it.
So watch this space. Quite soon, we’ll be embarking on an adventure, you and I. Who knows where it will lead?