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"If you think with your emotions, slight glandular changes are sufficient to revise your entire outlook."

— Brian Aldiss

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Thursday, November 3rd, 2005

I mentioned last November that I was thinking about taking part in NaNoWriMo, a celebration of National Novel Writing Month in which the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. Starting last Tuesday. This year, I have decided to go through with it.

What this means for PaaT is that I will likely not post any artwork this month, but instead put up excerpts of the work in progress. What work will this be? I had three main possibilities. One was a comic fantasy that I began many years ago and never finished, and another is a story outline, given to me by my friend Chuck Hardin, for a fantasy novel in the style of Jack Vance. These are both worthy possibilities, and stand the chance of being sellable should I complete them.

The third possibility is to write the story of Bune Station as a regular novel rather than a graphic novel. Whether to do this has been a hard decision to make. One one hand, it would certainly give me an extensive amount of Bune material. On the other, I run the risk of solidifying my preconceptions of Bune in a hasty and ill considered manner (NaNoWriMo is about quantity, not necessarily about quality). And if I do finish it and it's good, and I do the graphic novel instead, is the text novel wasted work? If I polish the text and get it published as text, what am I losing by abandoning the graphic version?

What tipped the scale is my earlier concept of getting myself working on Bune by losing my obsession about quality and focussing on getting it done, regardless of how it turns out. Yes, my first serious attempt to write a novel under a ridiculous deadline is most likely to result in chaos and an unpublishable manuscript. But at worst, it should be valuable as extensive notes for Bune, and it will prepare me for undertaking another attempt next November with either of the first two possibilities. Producing content is the reason I created PaaT, and this surely qualifies.

Note: You shouldn't expect to read the entire work sequentially here. You can get more info as time goes on at my NaNoWriMo profile.

That said, here's the first excerpt:

    Leiske leaned out over the steel railing of her apartment balcony and stared a gargoyle in the eyes.

    Below her stretched a broad street with a thick mesh of slow-moving cars and a thread of yellow cabs, four-petaled flowers of hot dog stand umbrellas, and the multifoliate noise of a city that doesn't always come to be. Most of the time, it was a vast economic center on Manhattan island, named New Amsterdam or New York. Sometimes there were no robust trade routes to support its growth; in at least two others it had been completely destroyed, and several times crippled so that it had to be permanently abandoned. Leiske knew these facts, and simply counted herself fortunate when she bothered to think about them.

    The gargoyle was one of eight that supported the cornices of the sandstone building; from face on it had knotted brows, round eyes with carved pits for pupils, flared doglike nostrils over a fanged scowl, and a beard that clumped purposefully down from its chin like the tentacles of a fleeing squid. From the side, it looked like a simpering dog that had been whacked on the nose. Leiske had already sketched it from that position and was sufficiently bored to exert herself to find a new angle, bending double over the railing, fingers of her right hand tucked into a mortared seam to keep her from falling ten stories. In her head, she brushed the charcoal against the paper with small darting upward curves to model the texture of subtle wrinkles above the brow...

    Leiske heaved herself back onto the balcony and sat upon a chair shaped like a couple doing it doggie style, leaning back into the man's torso and taking up her sketchpad to add the new detail to her drawing. The gargoyle face on the page stared at her. The intent of the stonecarver, filtered through her upside-down interpretation, flavored by her feelings over the past week as she had worked on the drawing, and solidified as she reinterpreted the work in her critic mode, gave the drawing a challenging, mocking cast, but it was that of a challenge easily spurned or sidestepped, to the amazement of the challenger. She found that her strokes, made as she mused, had altered the expression to one of shock and outraged disappointment.

    Leiske looked up from the paper at the great timbers of the city, airy mountains of artifice, facades of antique character, gridded mirrors reflecting without judgement, none of which was inevitable. She wondered why she kept coming back, and why she had stayed so long this time around. The rent and taxes were settled through next year, her supplies were bagged and ready to go, friends had been greeted and mostly goodbyed. She leaned back, enjoying a small breeze, eyes closed, with a small smile.

    Images and words came to her: soft chairs and hot cocoa, fluffy caress of a maine coon cat, shattered glass and red spatters, blackened chewing gum on tiled stairs and subway turnstiles, autumn breezes nosing through the omnipresent exhaust odor, coffee and laughter, a desperate thrashing of night-darkened bush leaves... Leiske winced and sat forward, still and staring at nothing for over a minute, jaw tightly clenched. She shut her eyes, sighed, and rose quickly. She brought inside all the items that could readily be stolen, and threw a flower-decorated blanket over the copulating chair and tied it down against the wind. With a last deep breath of fresh Earth air, she walked in through the balcony door, locking it securely and setting the alarm.

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