Sunday, October 22, 2006

Here goes nothing.

Hi, I'm Nathan. If you don't already know me, I'm a copy editor in the Washington D.C. area. I've been making up stories for as long as I can remember, and writing them down since at least the second grade. I've written short stories, newspaper articles, comic book scripts, the occasional radio drama, even -- I'm ashamed to admit -- a few bits of fan fiction. (Chalk that up to youthful indiscretion, if you would.)

But I've never written a novel. Until now, it seems.

I've checked. The longest single piece of prose recorded on my hard drive is something on the order of 37,000 words. Not bad, but National Novel Writing Month demands more. The challenge is 50,000 words in 30 days. And this year, I'm taking it.

For inspiration, I look to Walter Gibson and Lester Dent -- alias Maxwell Grant and Kenneth Robeson, the writers and creators of The Shadow and Doc Savage. For decades, their typewriters poured forth a ceaseless stream of thousands of words -- a new novel, a new mystery, a new peril every month. I grew up listening to Buck Rogers tales spun on audio cassette in the gravelly voice of my grandfather, and Orson Welles as the Shadow, fighting crime between advisories on the virtues of Blue Coal. And in college, I rediscovered the pulps courtesy of the Internet -- their weird energy and constant, giddy invention.

Paul Malmont's excellent novel The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril introduced me to Gibson and Dent, and it, along with Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Glen David Gold's Carter Beats the Devil, convinced me that "real" novels could be about all the things I actually want in a book: Valiant heroes, vicious foes, mysterious dangers, terrifying evils, incredible bravery, fights, chases, and of course, true love.

So that what I'll be writing, starting Nov. 1, and hopefully finishing -- or at least passing the 50,000-word-mark on -- by Nov. 30. Trip Morrow and the World Unmade, the story of what happened to that strange, dangerous, and wonderful pulp era long vanished -- and what happens when it all starts coming back. I can guarantee you right now that the first chapter will involve evil monkeys flying fighter planes, which I'm pretty sure no one on the New York Times bestseller list can match.

I can also guarantee you that much, if not most, if not all of it will be awful. And I apologize in advance. Ray Bradbury once wrote that he had to write, and keep writing, hundreds and hundreds of stories, to get all the awfulness out of his system, and then all the mere badness, and then all the mediocrity, and then all the half-decency, to finally start getting to the good stuff. Who knows? Maybe this will begin a similar process for me.

We'll find out, starting Nov. 1. Hope you'll come along for the ride.