Day 0:

The idea for this novel started from:

  • I’ve been wanting to write a steampunk novel for awhile (2 years?).
  • I had an image of a young woman in goggles and grease, grinning.
  • A Random Title Generator came up with “The Vacant Ships”.
  • The current Plotto contest through Tin House Publishing had a prompt: “{A}, proceeding about his business and caught in a crowd, is confronted suddenly by a strange person, {BX}, who thrusts a mysterious object, {X}, into his hand and, without a word, disappears.”
  • Then I had a thought: What if Jane Austen met Steampunk?

What followed was some light research (aka Wikipedia) into Regency and Victorian eras, steampunk, and Pride and Prejudice (one of my favorite novels). So combining those, the idea turned into: a young woman is faced with an arranged marriage (due to family financial difficulties) to a dashing captain (with whom she doesn’t get along), when what she really wants to do is to fly with the air corps (she likes getting greasy). All of this wrapped in an adventure/mystery/romance package of Steampunky goodness.

Yeah, not a lot of details—no names, no character backgrounds, no charts, no family histories, no worldbuilding. Just a very rough idea.

Day 1:

After much procrastination (setting up Nanowrimo account, writing thoughts and worries into a journal, writing blog post announcing the start of all this, researching Regency era names, getting more tea), I sat down and wrote 353 words in fifteen minutes about Madalene Swinhope and her confrontation with her mother about being married off without her having any say in the matter.

It took awhile to get started because starting is the hardest part when you have nothing already written to work from. Where do I begin? What is happening? Where is it happening? What action are the characters taking? Is the language too stilted or just about right for Regency-ish writing? How do I convey Madalene’s outrage and frustration? Wait, what exactly is Madalene’s personality? Is she the oldest sister? If not, who is? What is that person like? Does that person enter in this scene? What are the characters’ points of view (i.e. what is their reasoning for their opinions)? When should I introduce the nominal groom? How close is this/should this be to Pride and Prejudice?

Letting the mind play with ideas like a child plays with a blocks (puts some together, then rearranges them or knocks them down to start over) is great—it invites the Muse to visit. Getting caught up in the mechanics of writing (how to portray something, fussing about language) is not so great—it allows the Editor to muck about and shove Muse to the side because These Things Are Important, which results in no new words getting written. We wants the words!

Overall, while I didn’t get the goal of 1,667 words written, I am off to a decent start (you have to start somewhere).

Total time writing: 15 minutes

Total word count: 353 words