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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]


I thought I would try to do the National Novel Writing Month thing. It is probably a terrible idea. Announcing it here is probably an even worse idea. I have half a dozen novel ideas I will probably be mashing up together. There will be aliens, strange people who invite strangers into their flats to give and listen to talks, and a not-too-in-your-face libertarian message. Or I might give up half-way through after realising that there is no value in the sleep-deprived ramblings of a man struggling to make an arbitrary word count by an arbitrary deadline.

Use the comments thread for encouragement, to tell me I’m an idiot, give me ideas for scenes (I have some crazy alien technology that means I can do almost anything), announce your own similar efforts, or talk about what a libertarian novel might look like.

27 comments to NaNoWriMo

  • Erik

    Idea for scene: appearing at guest speaker or just guest at a talk, the king of a microstate, who’s mostly libertarian about everything except “I’m the king”, because he doesn’t trust the people not to vote in democracy then socialism if he abdicates.

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    I just read chapter 1, Fishplate. Very good.

  • Mr Ed

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide series are very libertarian novels, the absurdity of fiat money and monetary policy, the mysterious government and the man in the shed, Zaphod the President a cipher, absurd bureaucracy with lemon-soaked paper napkins (I actually was provided one by BA recently, to my delight).

  • Idea for an entire novel: an intelligent, well-meaning man, imbued with a reasonable moral code, undergoes some sort of transformation that gives him nearly godlike powers.

    He takes it upon himself to solve the problems facing his society, and to improve it. Using his powers he implements a plethora of well-intentioned policies to bend society into what seems (to him) a better direction.

    And at every turn he is stymied by unintended consequences, by side effects worse than the original problem, and by the maddening refusal of his subjects to understand that they would be better off if only they did things his way. Dissidence spreads like a weed with deep roots.

    At the end, despite all the empirical evidence, he decides that improving society with state force is still possible. The best thing to do, he concludes with Socialist precision, is to start over. So he kills millions, “re-educates” millions more, and declares that “this time, the State will get it right.”

  • Mr Ed

    the king of a microstate, who’s mostly libertarian about everything except “I’m the king”, because he doesn’t trust the people not to vote in democracy then socialism if he abdicates.

    Liechtenstein, albeit he’s a Prince*?

    *German has two words for ‘Prince’, ‘Prinz’ as in ‘son of King’ and ‘Fürst’ as in ‘Head of State in a Principality’, as is the case in Liechtenstein.

  • Paul Marks

    Quite so Mr Ed – I am also an admirer of Liechtenstein. It is not an absolute monarchy (most certainly not), but the Prince is not just ornamental either.

    Good luck Rob.

  • Just don’t forget the sexy catgirls.

  • Michael Jennings

    And, just to make it complicated, Spanish does it the other way round from German. The son of a king is an infante, whereas the head of state of a principality is a prince (principe). The heir to the Spanish throne (if male) is normally referred to as “Principe”, but that’s because he has the title of “Prince of Asturias” in much the same way that Prince Charles is “Prince of Wales”.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    I have this idea to write about a combined version of the movies Elysium and Idiocracy, with the eugenically smart and well-off inhabitants in earth orbit separated from the overpopulated and dysgenic masses on earth. Key difference from the movies is that those in orbit don’t need the ones on the dirt at all, but the ones on the dirt still need the brains and technology possessed by those in orbit but have virtually nothing to offer because they are too dumb. Complicate this situation with small remnants of average to smart people desperately trying to maintain their communities from being overrun by the idiots seeking refuge and trying not to feel bad for being so ruthless.

  • One of my commenters told me about this competition the other day, it sounds quite interesting and i wondered if any really good novels came out of the back of earlier runs of it.

    As for ideas…I’m in the middle of writing my own novel, and it’s basically about a couple arguing. So I can’t help you there. :-/

  • I’ve written two novels so far, though both were short stories that got the bit between their teeth and ran away with me. One took about twenty-five years to complete, and the other about five. (My muse does NOT approve of writing things in a mere month.) They are Secret Murder and Different Colors respectively. The first was published by FTL Publications and is available on Amazon; the second is fanfiction, and both have side stories on the fiction part of my web site, Washuu.net.

  • Laird

    The Wobbly Guy, that actually sounds interesting. At first I thought you were intending it as a comedy, but now I think otherwise. And it would appear to contain elements of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (although in your scenario I think the Morlocks would be the smart ones in orbit and the Eloi the “dysgenic masses”. Let us know when it’s ready.

    And don’t forget the sexy catgirls.

  • I think you should write a murder mystery set at a butlers’ convention.

    That, or a bodice-ripper set behind the scenes of Samizdata.

  • November is the marker of each year, known as National Novel Writing Month, even more as NaNoWriMo (and that’s the one of the few times when abbreviations are welcomed). In fact, the title itself is misrepresentative as NaNoWriMo is an international phenomenon embraced by thousands, discovered by many, and is the ultra-savvy- way to get those darn novels completed – or at least begun.

    Little time causes a dilemma between other things in your life and transferring words out of your mind. However, too much time can create the same problem because we keep putting off the task.

    “I’ll do it tomorrow for sure.” Of course you will.

    “Once I get those chores out of the way, I’ll bash out another chapter.” And then you switch the television on to watch drivel.

    Hey, I’m not preaching here, but I’ve done the same, until I found NaNoWriMo – ‘cue Gospel Choir lifting the airwaves’.

    NaNoWriMo is a simple concept, Write 50,000 words during the Month of November. How you achieve this goal is your plan of action, but hit it you will and yes, you can. You don’t have to just aim for 50k – go higher if you can, and if you do miss out on the 50k by the end of November, then look back and be proud of the words you did put down. It all counts in the end. NaNoWriMo doesn’t have to be about a new first draft. It can be a redraft, an edit, or a tweak of an edit. Even finetuning words and pages are as good as writing for me. Do it. Do it. Do!

    Go for what works for you, such as;

    1,612 words every day,
    806 words in the morning, and 806 in the evening,
    1,000 words per weekday, and then 3,750 each Saturday and Sunday, or
    2,000 per day, to leave less to do on the weekend, to help with your chores.
    Your words. Your choice.

    For the last 4 years, I achieved my NaNo target, and each time it’s been a fist-punch into the air. To know that there are thousands taking part is like having your own mascot nearby pushing you to keep going. You’re not alone!

    Usually, I aim for 8,000 words per week, and often I’m close to that, but the NaNo Target makes you focus. I didn’t have time to ponder, over-plan, or think about the correct word in each sentence, let alone if the sentence was needed, or that the chapter began and ended with a beat forcing the reader to continue. Heck no. The mission was to pump out words, and that’s all I required. I put aside my thinking to do the plain and simple thing: write.

    Incorrect spelling, grammar, and every writing rule (formal or informal) can be corrected later. That’s why we redraft and edit. For now – I had to write.

    My idea in 2015 came during a drive back from a meeting. It couldn’t come more basic than a human in space. Over the next few days, further characters formed, and I found myself researching space stations on the Internet. By Day 3, I’d planned the outline plot on an Excel Spreadsheet. Why am I telling you this, because Day 5 was November 1st, and that meant I could leap into the novel with oomph and motive.

    Driving to and from work became episodes of self-reflection over the chapters, the direction of the plot, the need to deviate and to alter events. I didn’t go back and add/remove characters or redo a chapter – no – I kept writing. All the time, I wanted to reach the end.

    It’s not a race. It’s not a contest. It’s all about self-achievement.

    In the end, I did more than 50k. I knocked out 58k. And I didn’t stop. I kept the momentum burning in my thoughts, until hitting the end by 14th December with 82k for the first draft. Overall, that put me almost 2 months ahead of how long I envisaged it’d take to complete the novel.

    I was ecstatic.

    NaNoWriMo 2016 will see the same. A novel I wrote in 2010 is due a major update with a new plot, and because I know my characters so well, I will reinvent with gusto. This year will be the most difficult, as I have a new son, and he does eat into my writing time like my cats do into their treats. The challenge is to smuggle in as much writing time as I can, no matter how early or late, and if I only manage to hit 49,999 words by the end of November then so be it. Either way, it’ll be better than no words.

    Go forth and be courageous. #write

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    You are very brave to announce your NaNoWriMo project in public.
    I am not brave.

  • Alisa

    Couples arguing? Who knew… :mrgreen:

  • Bilwick

    I did it, sort of. It helps if you have a spouse or helpmeet of some kind to do the day-to-day grunt work around the house, or deal with any household emergencies that come up, while you write your novel. Also my computer broke down in mid-stream. (You could, I guess, do it the old-fashioned way, with a pen or pencil; but it would be very hard to keep up the required daily word-count. So it actually took the better part of two months. But I was happy with the results. I surmounted some problems working out a plot I had been struggling with, and got a useable first draft out of the experience. I hate to use clichés, but I say: Go for it.

  • Rob Fisher

    Thanks all for the comments so far. And good luck Natalie (and anyone else) who may or may not be writing anything. 🙂

  • Myno

    Fishplate, EFR’s Wasp is one of my favorites. Recommended to me by my mother, when I was but a lad. Not exactly libertarian, more a post-WWII wartime manual of how to conduct singlehanded guerilla insurgencies… what the modren [sic] world might take as a terrorist manual… but delightfully packed with insights into the weaknesses of bureaucratic and otherwise authoritarian cultures.

    To one and all, best of fortune as you write. My wife and I have been writing a novel together (in spare time!) and are about 1/2 way done at 200++ pages so far. It’s been entertaining and wonderful learning how to work together. We figure that together we make one good author. SF time travel romance adventure. The usual, except not. Definitely not.

  • NickM

    Kurt Vonnegut had an interesting technique. He bought a rollof cheap backing wall paper (plain) and some coloured pencils and drew time lines along the wallpaper for the characters with intersections and all.

    Of course I have a first line. “From the upstairs bathroom came a sound like a Wookie receiving an unscheduled rectal examination”.

  • Greg

    How’s this: Erik’s king or Ferox’s godlike man decide to give everyone what they want politically, but in good libertarian fashion this is not forced on anyone. At some appropriate maturation age, each person is voluntarily sorted (their choice of where to end up is theirs, but not their choice to be sorted or not) by some JK Rowling-like sorting hat mechanism into communities that share their political views. No more political disagreements (perhaps over means, but not ends) because everyone is living among people who think as they do. And as the sage said, they get what they wanted, good and hard. Oh, and the wealth existing at the start of all this is divided equally by population in each community–a ‘reset’ of wealth distribution to cut off any complaints from the socialists. The capitalists and libertarians will be fine with this because the new wealth they create will be free from confiscation forever.

    So, I have a bit of an idea, but there’s not much fun in it. Clearly, like every good story, it needs characters we care about and are interested in. And, obviously, throw in the sexy catgirls and a Milo character (he’s the only one who gets to move freely between each community).

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Rob, you asked what a libertarian novel might look like. It might well have an explicitly libertarian message, as several of L Neil Smith’s books do. But it wouldn’t have to.

    It might be a better novel if the message were embedded in just the way things work out. Or in the assumptions in just the way people are.

    Hell, it might have an embedded libertarian message that even the author didn’t know about. Lots of people including me have been seeing libertarian messages in the Harry Potter books since they first came out. (I’m fond enough of that piece from 2001 to re post it every now and then, and I have seen no reason to retract anything I said then in the light of the subsequent HP books.) Yet J K Rowling is a well known supporter of the Labour party.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker!) Gray

    Gee, Imran, that target seems impressive, but have your books sold at all? Here in Australia, I haven’t seen you name on any books. When will your books be turned into movies?

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker!) Gray,

    I’m surprised that you missed the point so widely. Most people who participate in NaNoWriMo are no more bothered that their books haven’t been offered a movie option than the lovely old ladies in my village Art Group are bothered that they aren’t Jack Vettriano. As Imran Siddiq said, “It’s not a contest. It’s all about self-achievement.”

    NaNoWriMo is basically a mutual support group for all those people who’ve talked about writing a novel for years but have never got down to it. It’s sort of like Weight Watchers in that the idea is that you are more likely to reach your goal if you announce it and keep measuring progress, but unlike Weight Watchers it’s free. Of all the writers’ forums on the internet that I’ve visited, its members are on average the least concerned with getting published or even with self-publishing. And that’s fine; nothing stops the more commercially ambitious among them from also joining the many internet groups for aspiring novelists with a stronger focus on getting published.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex), November 2, 2016 at 12:43 pm:: “It might be a better novel if the message were embedded in just the way things work out. Or in the assumptions in just the way people are.”

    (As Natalie probably already knows), C.S.Lewis would agree: “The only moral worth having in a book is one that arises naturally from the whole cast of the author’s mind” (quoted from memory). Elsewhere he describes a moral skimmed from the surface of an adult’s mind as an insult to children since “we have it on high authority that morally they are as wise as we are.”

  • Niall Kilmartin,
    Yes, it’s from On Three Ways of Writing for Children.

    I re-read Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed recently. It holds up well as a story, though I think that in real life Odonian solidarity wouldn’t last a week. The main thing that annoyed me was the same thing that I spotted when I first read it in my early twenties: the way that the capitalist society of A-Io suddenly massacres hundreds or even thousands of striking workers, having previously been shown as somewhere midway between Victorian Britain and 1950s America. It felt like this only happened because the gods of Plot demanded it, and it actually subverted Le Guin’s intended political moral, by taking the question from being “Could anarcho-syndicalism be better than our present day developed capitalist/democratic society?” to “Which is better, anarcho-syndicalism or mass murder?”