04 October 2009

Getting ready for NaNoWriMo

Well, I've committed to the public, to my family, and to myself that this year I'll be participating in National Novel Writing Month - NaNoWriMo. To participate, I signed up at the web site and agreed to start writing a novel on November 1st. Every day I'll upload my current word count, which is posted for all to see. The goal is to have at least 50,000 words written by November 30th. This is serious stuff, if you want to take it seriously.

I've actually been working on the background to some stories since the early summer. Finding myself with an excessive amount of free time this spring, I plunged into creation. Many people start from characters, but I'm not a character-driven person. The maxim is "write what you know:, and I don't know much about people. Other than being one, and perhaps about being a father. I do know linguistics and astrophysics; mathematics and computing. I know music and little about poetry, some chemistry, some philosophy, and a lot about being lost. I know soldiers and cooking and evolution. So my novel will be about these things, and probably some others.

Genre comes from the Old French gendre, in turn from Latin gener- (a root of genus), finally from Classical Greek γενος, a term which Aristotle was the first to apply to writing. It still means "kind", or "type". The original Indo-european root form is ǵenh-, which meant "to give birth". So what kind or type of novel am I to give birth to? Again "write what you know". The genres of fiction to which I continually return are science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery. Mystery seems to me -- I may be wrong here -- to be a particularly tricky genre and I'm loath to try it as a starting point. So again, my novel will be somewhere in the science-fiction/fantasy/horror spectrum.

I don't think we can avoid being influenced by our influencers; all we can hope for is to avoid plagiarizing them, I suppose. I may as well admit my influences right up front and get the comparisons out of the way. I've really enjoyed the following authors; observe that not all are authors of fiction.

  • JRR Tolkien
  • CS Lewis
  • Roger Zelazny
  • Larry Niven
  • Jerry Pournelle
  • Fred Saberhagen
  • HP Lovecraft
  • Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Wm Shakespeare
  • Douglas Hofstadter
  • Umberto Eco
  • Jorge Luis Borges
  • JK Rowling
  • Stephen King
  • Douglas Adams
  • Ayn Rand
  • Adam Smith
  • L Frank Baum
  • Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket)
  • Philip Pullman
  • Oliver Sacks
  • Orson Scott Card
  • Michael Crichton
  • Philip K Dick
  • Stephen J Gould
  • Richard Dawkins
  • Stephen R Donaldson
  • Frank Herbert
  • Dante Alighieri
  • Piers Anthony
  • Rex Stout
  • EE 'Doc' Smith
  • Kurt Vonnegut

I imagine I will be influenced by some to all of the above, and will probably outright steal from at least one. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and stealing is the sincerest form of imitation. QED.

So, gentle and not-so-gentle readers, I've shown you the blank, ungessoed canvas upon which I'll be splashing words come November. I have no idea what will come out the other side.

Excelsior et citior!