Permission to Speak

Four days into NaNoWriMo, and I have a grand total of… zero words. Some notes and prompts, yes, but no actual writing.

Kittlen is frustrated at me because I’m not writing. But she forgets just how easy it is for her to conjure up words, and how hard it is for me.

Part of that is from my childhood. I’ve always been quiet. I didn’t even start to speak until I was 4 to 5 years old, and that was with help from a speech therapist. I was put into a remedial class at primary school because I was having trouble learning language, writing and maths. The last one was particularly problematic.

I got lucky when I turned 10—my then-headmaster was able to pull some strings and help me get a bursary to attend an independent school where I could get more intensive teaching. The only downside? It was a boarding school, on the other side of England from where I grew up.

Still, it worked, kinda. I finally grokked maths, and when the school opened its computer lab, I was immediately hooked. But my writing fell by the wayside, as did my artistic skills outside of some stuff I made in woodwork and metalwork classes.

I did eventually get my art going again later on in life when I got given a cheap second-hand copy of Photoshop and subsequently got roped into doing artwork preparation at my then-workplace. I forced myself to learn Photoshop, Illustrator, CorelDraw and other software, and gradually refined my techniques so I could make artwork that would print or display correctly on whatever medium it needed to go. That got me into video editing, DVD authoring and basic web design as I was asked to take on more roles.

My writing took longer to come back, but I did start blogging on-and-off in the early 2000s. But I stuck to talking about things in the news, mostly technology stuff. I didn’t put down on paper or screen any of the stories in my head. I think that, deep down, I was scared of being mocked and ridiculed. I’d been bullied during my school years, called a weirdo and a retard because I struggled with some subjects and was prone to daydreaming. (I now know that this was part of my autism, but at the time I’d not been diagnosed because it wasn’t as well understood and accepted.)

It’s only within the last few years that I’ve been able to start writing for myself, developing my own ideas. And that is still not easy for me. To paraphrase from the Police song ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’:

But my silent fears have gripped me

Long before I reach the phone.

Long before my tongue has tripped me.

Must I always be alone.

In that context, just announcing on NaNoWriMo that I have an idea for a novel is a significant achievement for me. It may be just a placeholder, a project file, but it’s something I can poke at when I get a chance.

As a result of being first a software developer and then a graphic designer, I’ve learned to start with an outline of what I want, then iterate on that, adding more and more detail, until I have something solid and whole. I do something similar in my fiction writing. Kittlen is the opposite, she dumps her ideas on the page, then later on figures out how to string them together.

And I have another means now to get my writing going. After a few false starts, I am writing in a personal journal. Well, it’s a collection of text files that are synchronised between my devices, but it is organised by year and month, and I’m forcing myself to write every day. I hope that I’ll get the habit to a point where it becomes more comfortable for me to capture my daydreams and random thoughts.

I am giving myself permission to speak.

I’m Doing NaNoWriMo

The other day I told Kittlen that I’d had an idea for an origin story for Spitfire.

“That’s it. You’re doing NaNoWriMo.” was her response.

Gulp!

Kittlen has done NaNoWriMo for several years, using the stuff she has written in the past in her older blogs as starting points.

I actually created a profile last year, but didn’t do anything with it because I didn’t have a clue what to write.

Truth be told, I don’t really have much more than a vague outline of what I think my story might be at the moment.

But I’ve made a project file in Scrivener, and I’m going to dump whatever I can come up with into there.

I very much doubt that I’ll have 50,000 words in there by the end of the month. But as Kittlen pointed out, the important thing is that I try. It’s going to be tough, as I’ll have to find time from all of the other things that I need to do. Paid work and caring for my father take priority, and those will both sap my energy.

Anyway, I have a working title, ‘The Unchosen’, and a synopsis of sorts.

For as long as anyone can remember, there has been peace and prosperity across the Federation. But as the great and the good of many worlds gather on the planet Excelsia to celebrate the continuance of the Golden Age, one Excelsian is about to expose the dark secrets that underpin this apparent galactic idyll, and the lengths to which the keepers of those secrets will go to maintain their control.

The Excelsians are famed for their mastery of nanotechnology, which has made them the principal peace-keepers and mediators within the Federation. But can a race that has used nano-cybernetics to cure diseases, avert famines and even bring dying worlds back to life be trusted not to abuse that power?

When the once-engineered becomes an inherited trait, the engineers of the Federation’s ‘peace’ must face the progeny that is no longer of their design – the Unchosen.

A story of morality and consent, power and corruption, from the cellular level to the ends of the galaxy and beyond.

I did read a lot of science fiction in my youth, so I have that going for me. Asimov’s Foundation and Robots series, Frank Herbert’s Dune series, and Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat books, in particular. I suppose Spider Robinson’s books count too. But I’ve not read any of those in quite a while. That might be a good thing, though, as I don’t want to be overly influenced and derivative.

Wish me luck?