I began around the first of June, and I finished the first draft on Tuesday, December 12. This was a brand new experience for me. I have never written anything more than about 1000 words about anything. I can’t think of any project in my almost 60 years of life that I have conceived and actually finished which might compare. It was a marvelous journey, one which I heartily recommend to anyone with even the slightest inclination to embark upon it.
It began with a concept, not for a plot, or a character, or even a story. It began with the notion that it would be interesting if humans landed on a planet where the entire atmosphere was an intelligent being. (I’m not really giving anything away, you find that out pretty quickly.)
I sat down with my journal and a pen and banged out the first chapter in about an hour on the morning of one of my writing group’s biweekly meetings. When they read it, there was a chorus of “more!” So I kept going. I had no plan, wrote no outline, did no character sketches, nothing that “they” say one should do when writing a novel. I winged it. I channelled the story from somewhere inside me.
For the first two thirds of the book, the only impediment was my own inertia when it came down to sitting at the computer or with my journal and banging out a chapter. I just let stuff happen. When I couldn’t think what to write, I threw a monkey wrench into the story, shook it up, placed yet another obstacle or mystery in the path of my characters.
Some interesting concepts came into play that I won’t detail here, but which engendered some fascinating conversations with people in my writing group and also in the cafes I frequent. The owner of one of these cafes became my biggest motivator, reading the blog (now private) where I wrote the book, and pressuring me to keep going.
I used a smaller piece which I had written for the writing group to provide background for one of the characters. This led to other plot elements. Most of the book is the characters talking to each other trying to figure out the same things I was trying to figure out as I wrote. Until I was at least 40,000 words in to the book (which would ultimately be just under 60,000,) I had no idea where it was going or how it might end.
Writing became more difficult at that point, as I not only had to figure out how to make the necessary events come to pass, but also how to make a satisfying ending. It wasn’t until the last three chapters (of 46) that I finally knew exactly what I was doing.
Now I have this thing which I birthed, and I am reading it through from the beginning on paper, marking it up, making changes and corrections. This part almost feels like work, but only almost. It is still a wonder to me that I wrote this book at all. I still don’t exactly know where much of it came from.
I suppose there is a parallel to the way I have lived my life. I have always flown by the seat of my pants, just sort of writing it as I went along, never really knowing where I was going. I wouldn’t recommend to anyone that they should live that way, although it does have its occasional rewards, but I certainly recommend starting with some neat idea you have, and writing a completely unplanned novel based on it.
The people who have read the book say it’s good. They all know me, however. They are my friends. I am too close to it myself. I know I can throw words together fairly effectively, but I don’t know if I can craft a novel, especially with a satisfying ending.
Time will tell. As soon as I have edited the manuscript, it’s off to TOR publishing.