A little over a month ago, I mentioned offhandedly to M’ris that I had gotten sucked into NaNoWriMo this year. The point of NaNoWriMo is not to write the best possible 50,000 words in the month of November, it’s simply to bust through the 50,000 word barrier. Try as I might, I’ve never been able to come home from a day of writing and spend a few hours writing some more. So I’m hoping that NaNoWriMo will help me establish new writing habits and leverage the Magic of the Deadline. M’ris, of course, does not need such artificial aids to increase her word output — perish the thought! But she did helpfully suggest some light reading, and after incorporating her suggestions, the final reading list for the month included:
- Land of the Firebird by Suzanne Massie
- Russia and the Golden Horde: The Mongol Impact on Medieval Russian History by Charles J. Halperin
- The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture by James H. Billington
- The Northern Crusades by Eric Christiansen (outstanding)
- Medieval Swordsmanship: Illustrated Methods and Techniques by John Clements
- The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin by Adam Hochschild
- and for flavor, The Black Company by Glen Cook
Not to mention a re-read of nearly every book on fiction writing that I own, including titles by John Gardiner, Orson Scott Card, Melissa Scott, Stephen King, and Cory Doctorow (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Science Fiction, a steal at $2.99 in the bargain bin). I skipped re-reading Ursula Le Guin (no time, sadly) and Norman Mailer (he was a gasbag the first time around, and seemed unlikely to improve with age).
The tricky part about this project is that while I know how to plan and write a large technical manual, writing a novel is quite different. For example, when writing a technical manual, you never discover halfway through that, “uh oh — the Session Tracking API wouldn’t really ever behave that way, would she?” Then again, engineers seem to enjoy changing the specifications mere days before Code Complete, so maybe technical writing really isn’t so different from fiction writing after all.
Needless to say, the tight deadline means cutting a few corners in the planning process. I suspect that failing to plan in fiction writing is roughly as successful a strategy as failing to plan in technical writing. As I said above, this is not going to be the best 50,000 words I could possibly write. On the other hand, this is not going to be a 50,000 word freewrite either. Wish me luck.