Wednesday, December 18, 2013


A few people have asked about NaNoWriMo, my one-month novel-writing stint. National Novel Writing Month is a thing people do, an international event, despite the name, open to anyone but largely done by English-speakers because it started in the US and the website is monolingual. The exercise is to write 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November. Everyone who writes fifty thousand words or more is considered a winner. You're allowed to develop your characters, conduct research, or outline a plot before the beginning of the month, and you're allowed to continue writing after the month is over, but I'm doing other things the rest of the year, so I finish writing and print out a copy before December starts. My NaNo started November first with a few ideas scrawled on a post-it, and the File New command. I had arranged to meet a couple of friends downtown at seven a.m. for the ceremonial beginning of our novels, but before I could leave for that, I was called into work.

I'm usually pretty happy to go to work. I get to fly an airplane, with great people, over spectacular Canadian scenery, but this has been a long season with a lot of flying, plus more than I wanted to do of that other stuff I have to do since I succumbed to the pressure and let them make me chief pilot. I stomped a little. I went to the airport, researched the route, filed a flight plan, walked around the airplane, hauled it outside, supervised fuelling, sorted out charts and an operational flight plan, and loaded the gear. The flight was then postponed for a couple of hours.

I started up my computer and banged out a couple of pages about a pilot who had something else to do but had to work, and about a bitchy charter passenger, who was also going the to last place she wanted to be. Write what you know, they say, but I got off track pretty fast. I had a cow spontaneously burst into flames by the end of that chapter. The flight was eventually cancelled. I kept writing. I wrote at home on the couch, on airplanes, in airports, on trains and buses, in hotels, in restaurants and coffee shops and at my friend's house. There are some airplanes, sentient electromagnetic catapults, a volcano, and radioactive Polynesian artifacts. Now even without the foregoing you have to know that a novel written in a couple of hours a day over the course of a month is not going to be a work of art. The working title was "Legs," and my point-of-view characters legs number between zero and ten. Not all of the characters are human, although one of the zero-legged ones is. He and the hermit crab (technically a decapod) are my favourites. I think I might bring them back for a sequel. Of course the sequel might turn out to be a bad Victorian era mystery drama instead of a bad science fiction drama. I was initially intending to write a tech horror, but space aliens turned up and they were having so much fun that the genetically engineered pine beetle predators (six legs each) who were supposed to kick off the plot barely got a cameo. So did Ian Hanomansing. I like him.

I thought the novel might be horrifying, but fortunately it's ridiculous enough that I think it's just funny. It's not very funny, scientifically accurate, poignant, or gripping. It's not even very weird. It's just your everyday novel about biologists who don't even know they are dealing with a new life form, and explorers who take too long to figure that out.

Here's an excerpt. The space aliens aren't very knowledgeable about matter. They're visiting Earth, and they have just discovered gravity.

Having a sense of the organization of such a complex planet was empowering to the group, so when they detected a large piece of solid matter suspended well above the rest of the solid matter, up in the gas layer with the clouds, they were confused and disappointed. They analyzed the situation more closely.

The outside of the object was solid, but it enclosed both liquid and gas components. There were no photosynthesizing plants present, but the front of the object was emitting moderate amount of heat energy, and parts of the structure contained constrained linear flows of electrical energy, so common on this planet. The electrical energy transmuted into heat and light in some places, but nothing other than its suspension in midair seemed unusual. There was moving warm matter present too, two discrete quantities. They scanned the larger one. It was extremely complex, had to be a product of intelligence, but what was it for? It didn't convert energy in any way they could detect. And then suddenly they spotted something they had missed before with animal matter. The warm matter contained double helix energy signatures. It was not a mistake, or some stray plant matter. The same signature was repeated throughout the structure, always identical, missing only from the dead, outer layers in some places. But this was alive.

They started paying closer attention to the energy flows within the structure, and found that the main electrical flow was from the inside of the roughly spherical top part, down a roughly straight column. From there it branched out to the other parts. They probed the inside where the electrical impulses were centred. It was a kind of solid liquid mixture. They couldn't figure out what the impulses were for. They were not being transmitted anywhere outside the structure, and were not resonating at all with the energy flows that produced heat and light. The electrical activity of the alive thing increased, and the ends of the structure moved around quite a lot. That was very interesting. They thought that might be a reaction to stimulus, but after a short while the electrical activity stopped all together.

So yeah, the Nobel committee doesn't haven me on their short list this year, but I had fun. Any other NaNoers among my readers?


Anonymous said...

Fun! Hilarious and thanks for the update. I was wondering how it all turned out. Congratulations on being appointed Chief Pilot, even if it pisses you off at times. It is a mark of respect and, with what little we really know about you company, probably a very important position. Please do not ever compromise your professional standards. Someplace along the line you must have become regular staff, not a contractor. I cannot quite grasp "Chief Pilot" as a contractor. So, what is it like to command the Carpet Dance rather than perform it? Large or small, I don't think that we've ever heard from a Chief Pilot before. Fun reading madam and thank you.

Frank Ch. Eigler said...

Are you planning to post your work in its entirety?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm.... Sounds like visually disagreeable flexible membrane containers of mostly H2O. I think it would be fun to read!

Aviatrix said...

Are you planning to post your work in its entirety?

Heck no, but I'm willing to send it to individuals with whom I have an existing e-mail relationship. It's terrible, though. And a first draft. Just keep remembering that.

Sue said...

I missed that you had been appointed Chief Pilot. Congratulations! And congratulations are also in order for finishing your novel.

I am wondering if you believe that writing a novel requires a different skill set than that needed for writing a short story (or a screenplay).

ADBBingo said...

Self publish it on Amazon - all your Blog fans will buy it !!

Don in Chicago

majroj said...

NaNo "no", but we share literary interests.
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