Control: The Experience of Writing a Fantasy Novel…
I wanted to write a NaNoWriMo story that was something new and different. Philosophy — I decided to include philosophy and have the characters reflect various philosophical views of reality. I told my elderly parents.
I looked around my home for inspiration. My dad limped around the house. He had hated people who walk slowly and now walked slowly around the house, grumbling about something which had irritated him.
“The garage door’s not working again,” he said.
He never grumbled about me. He never — never — yelled at me. He grumbled at situations, not people. He didn’t make fun of people.
“I want to write about philosophy,” I said.
Mom perked up. She was making dinner and organizing her books.
“I got you a Jack Kerouac book about the Buddha,” Mom said.
I looked at the half-dozen books she had given me. I picked up the book about the Buddha and started to read it. I had started On the Road several times but never finished it.
It was magnetic. I loved the first page and couldn’t stop reading: the Buddha’s experiences felt like the perfect template for a fantasy novel. He won a physical competition but then gave up the physical part of life for a search for wisdom. I liked that. He wandered and ignored his role as prince, trying to find wisdom.
I tried to reflect that search in my story. I sat around my family’s town house, writing furiously day after day. I tried to eat better. I went to the doctor.
“I need to lose weight,” I said.
“Eat well,” the doctor said. “No sweets, no carbs, no candy, no sweets, no sugars, eat well. Exercise.”
I tried to exercise. I tried to do 40–50 minutes a day on the exercise bike while watching sports or action television shows.
I wrote. I wrote about philosophers and tried to create interesting characters with traits from the philosophers on whom they were based. Mina Beauvoir was based on a famous existential writer and fought for women’s rights. Socrates and Plato, Sammy and Phillip, asked questions about right versus wrong and were geek heroes. Carly Marksian caused trouble by wanting to fight the authorities in order to make everyone make the same amount of money and be the same class. She didn’t agree with the rest of the guild ever.
I started out writing two thousand words a day and quickly began to question that policy: I could do more. I didn’t have a regular job. I began to write four thousand words a day. I had two thousand word chapters — with a concept for each chapter. I wrote two chapters a day regularly.
I sat around my home. It got cold. I turned my space heater on and started to drink Coke Zero. They stopped selling the bottles so I had to start to buy cans. Cans began to accumulate around the downstairs of the townhouse, half-full cans of wasted soda.
I wrote. Still I wrote like crazy — ignoring my mental health issues. I had the same paranoid schizophrenia that I had for the last fifteen to twenty years, and I knew how to deal with it. I wrote — expressing myself in ways that I never could in the real world. This expression became the genesis of the first draft of the book.
I had planned the first half or so and then decided to just let the characters dictate what would happen in the second half of the story — the characters’ actions led to the consequences in the later part of the story. Socrates, aka Sammy, had to be accused of corrupting the youth because Socrates was accused of that in real life. Similarly Gotey — aka the Buddha — abandoned all physical pleasures and gave up his life as a prince and dealt with the consequences of that decision.
In the real world I watched football games. My favorite team, the Chicago Bears, remained lousy all year long. They lost and lost and lost and I was expected to write a fantasy novel about winners saving the realm from evil. I didn’t much feel like a winner right then.
I wrote four thousand words a day around then. I wrote and wrote and wrote. It’s insanity to write four thousand words a day but I managed it. I finished a draft of the novel in eighteen days, a miracle of an achievement. I sat around at home, pleased with myself, happy that I had done something productive. I was proud of myself. If I can do it so can you.
Thanks, and take care, friends.