Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
NaNoWriMo update: 6,911, 612, 1,290...?

I'm having issues with my NaNoWriMo 2008 project. For starters, I was actually traveling when November began, crisscrossing Ohio in a short tour of schools I have known: the College of Wooster, Kenyon, Ohio State, and finally Ohio University down in Athens. Long story short, I was looking for answers to some questions that I had about the perception of the digital humanities in small liberal arts colleges back home. The results were more or less as I'd expected: Ohio State and Ohio University, both bigger schools, already had digital humanities programs in place, while the smaller liberal arts schools like Wooster and Kenyon were taking a more conservative, interdisciplinary model in hand. I came away with still no definitive answers, but a lot more data to help me make an educated guess about what I should be doing next. (When I'll do it is a different question. Pesky debt...)

Anyway, so traveling as much as I was made any extended writing difficult, but now I'm back and using this holiday weekend to play catch-up. In order to write 50,000 words in 30 days, a writer has to average 1,666.67 words per day, and by day 9 (which is today), said writer should have exactly 15,000 words cached. I, alas, do not. Part of this is due to travel, but part is also due to two false starts. I first started writing a short story that I've had stuck in my brain for years called Sticks, which I got 1,290 words into and then set aside. Then I started playing with what Stephen King calls a 'toy truck' story, a goofy riff on steampunk that went on for 612 words before I set that aside too. Then I returned to an idea I'd had for a while for the sequel to Bones of the Angel, and that's where I got some traction – even though most of yesterday was spent wrestling with Quicken and piles of financial data, I've still managed to bang out 6,911 words in approximately the last 24 hours. That's the thing about me and writing – when I get going, and can stay focused, it's awesome. It's the getting going and the staying focused that prove to be problematic.

Take now, for example. Here I am blogging, and I'm about to go take a shower, and I'm considering making some coffee, when really I should be writing. Even if I counted the two abortive starts in my word count, I'd still be at only 8,813 words, which is just over half of where I should be. (Of course, with another two days left to write, if I can keep this pace up I'll be at over 20,000 words by the time I go back to work. Which would be nice, but I don't see it happening.)

Since I don't know if I'll ever get back to this, I'll include here for your amusement the 612-word steampunk riff. Very, very first draft kind of stuff, but it's still fun.

Robin Carraway stood on the deck of the HMS Ebenezer, staring out at the wide expanse of the dead city below. There was something about the towers of the abandoned skyscrapers that called out to him, like a mermaid calling sailors down to drown. Every so often the call would become too overpowering and he'd surrender in spite of himself, strapping an ornikite onto his shoulders and gliding down to poke about in the rubble, especially on days when The Longing grew too great to ignore, but today he didn't have time for such luxuries. Today he and his crew were on a deadline - the Baron was expecting them in the Bronze Court by midday and already the sun was teetering a little too close to directly overhead for comfort. Robin glanced at the heavy chronorig on his left wrist and groaned silently. Punctuality had never been his strong point.

"Master Evans!" Robin bellowed over his shoulder. "Full speed ahead, sir - we have miles to go and only heartbeats in which to cross them!"

The response was a loud, gutteral bark. Robin nodded in satisfaction. Master Evans couldn't speak - none of his kind could - but they could understand well enough to get the job done, as proven by the Ebenezer's sudden lurch forward as the craft doubled its speed. Robin gripped the golden rail by his waist to steady himself and smiled grimly. Heartbeats indeed - there were never enough of those left in anything - in the day, in the world, and although he didn't know it yet, in the Baron's chest. Robin fingered the chonorig again absently. When he did so a tiny thrill ran through his chest. The chronorig was wired directly into his nervous system, where his own nerves were grafted into a personal information network at the cellular level - if the engineers were to believed, at the DNA level - and his chest tightened a tiny bit as his heart twinged. The network was normal, but the twinge was not. Hence the trip to the Baron. That bastard Baron.

Robin's gaze drifted downward again to the ruined city far below. London had seen better centuries. The Thames ran red with rust, Parliament was now fit only for crows, and throughout it all the ticktock men held court over the millions of poor landlocked souls who had never learned to fly. This was largely due to no fault of their own - it took a unique combination of breeding, genetics and fortune to break free of gravity's inexorable pull and rejoin the angels in the sky. Robin was one of the lucky ones, and for this he was eternally grateful. He knew he belonged down there on terra infirma, knew that it was a fluke that had brought him up here, knew that someday that luck would run out and he'd come crashing back down again...

But not today. "Master Evans!" Robin roared again. "Heartbeats!"

The ship's speed increased yet again, and Robin laughed as the onrushing wind blasted him full in the face. It was no wonder God lived in the skies - even on borrowed time, life in the clouds was nothing short of glorious. The trick was to make the jump from borrowed time to stolen time - because stolen time you never had to give back.

Robin felt hot breath on his neck. "Yes, Master Evans?"

An enormous claw appeared in the leftmost edge of Robin's peripheral vision, and Robin nodded. "Yes, I know. Make us ready, Master Evans. We'll have friends attempting to board us soon, as we need to be sure the ship is ready to accommodate them." His smile spread into a rictus grin. "Especially the brig."

See? One part Ellison, one part Moorcock, one part The Matrix... Kind of stillborn on the page, perhaps, but still fun to write. We'll see. Maybe someday.

Finally, a teaser from the 6,911-word piece. Those of you who have read a draft of Bones of the Angel all the way through to the end will know the import of this phrase, and how chilling it actually is to our heroes. This is, in fact, the last thing I wrote before starting this entry, and is what I'll be returning to shortly:


Wish me luck!

Post a Comment