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The Great Vampire Kitten Conspiracy

Monday, 23rd April, 2001

Of all the harebrained schemes I've ever cooked up, this one has to be the nuttiest. But who knows, it might actually work. Time will tell, as it almost always does. Telltale time. I can just see that hourglass leaning over with a conspiratorial gleam in its eye...

The idea is simple. A million words or bust.

Jerry Pournelle, science fiction writer and computer industry columnist, wrote an article that dealt with the mechanics of writing. Set aside a couple of hours a day, he said, on a PC with no games and no internet connection, and write. More importantly, finish what you write. By the time you've reached a million words, if not before, you'll be a writer.

Of course, it's not quite that simple in practice: I'm far too busy to find a couple of hours a day, but then that's just an excuse and I know it. The archetypal real writer out there was probably too busy too, but he found a way.

So I found a way. Up I'll rise every morning at five o'clock to spend a solid hour slaving away at the keyboard, at a time when there's nobody on the phone and I'm too much asleep to fall prey to the temptations of the internet. Maybe my sleepy subconscious can turn into a writer. That way I can write in my sleep and work round the old thorny problem of 'having written' without 'having to write'.

Now I've come to day one, I've found other flaws too. Sitting at my desk and concentrating on the writing task in hand might sound simple, but it's not that easy when you have a mad vampire kitten trying to eat the dreamcatcher around your neck. Once I put her off that idea, she decided to settle on my lap, thus effectively immobilising me. Maybe she's in on the plot.

Maybe I'm still asleep, lost in a surreal dream where waves of hourglasses and kittens waltz around my psyche like some bad musical routine, leaning in to whisper conspiratorially at the camera as it pans and scans its way round the ballroom. Maybe I'm just mad. The time would suggest the latter.

So, what am I going to write about?

Well, that's something else that time will tell. Right now the answer is going to be this. In the future, however, I'll look back into my Unfinished file where many a piece lies languishing when it ought to have been administered the coup de grace long ago. Either that or finished. What a novel idea.

I have novel ideas too. Novel ideas for novels. I have a children's novel in progress, a few chapters written and a full concept worked out of where it should go and how. It's a concept that led me to believe it would be possible after all for me to write a novel. Those of you who have read my short fiction will note that it's short, intense and compact. I do know how to use one word where Stephen King would use a hundred. I think it gives me a Conradian sense of intensity, but then again I'm biased.

What I also thought was that its very nature precluded me from being able to write a novel. What might work over a couple of thousand words in a claustrophobic, atmosphere driven story where the location is effectively the main character is going to drive people nuts if they have to endure two hundred pages of the stuff.

Then it came to me! I was in the bath, just like Archimedes, and the ideas poured in quicker than the water. Use your quirky humour, they said. Write a children's novel. Play with words and little rhymes and weave the whole into a work of magic. Suddenly I had a bunch of characters, a bunch of situations, a bunch of concepts. I don't believe Archimedes ran naked down the street screaming 'Eureka!'. He just sat there and let the ideas flood over him while the water got progressively colder and colder.

It's always been alive, this novel, but it's been sadly neglected of late. It deserves to be worked on. I have another novel started, though of less promise. I have short stories in my head too and I even finished one, sort of. I wrote it down and wrote until I reached the end of it, but my test audience got confused. Of course I'd deliberately blurred two strains of events so as to preserve the twist in the tale, but I'd blurred them too much. I need to go back and unblur them.

And then there's the work unstarted, as yet undreamed of. As ideas come, I can channel them into words, persevere with them till they reach maturity and sit back and watch them bluster off into the real world with a swagger. Then again I have these utopian visions often. But I can try, at least.

For now I think I'm going to be concentrating on the routine. An hour a day - every day, without fail - sounds easy. It isn't. So rather than wrestle with writer's block just yet, I'll write whatever nonsense comes to mind. See it as a sort of diary, an outpouring of thought, a user's column where the product is life itself.

I'll comment on whatever I feel requires comment. After all, I'm a semi-professional dabbler who finds interest in everything in an infinite universe. Once I find the writing rhythm, I should have problems getting everything down rather than having problems finding things to write about.

I try to see behind the issues too, often seeing the structure of the issue rather than the issue itself. I see the world as a massive living hypertext system, with everything linked to everything else. Maybe every now and again I see glimpses of the code that runs it. Maybe I'm just mad. Maybe that's a requirement if I'm going to be a writer.

Well, my hour's up. I have words on my page, over a thousand of them, so I guess day one has been a success. Then again, I never doubted day one. I'm more worried about day fifteen. I'm also more worried about what it would mean if this experiment fails. I have a strong and powerful will, enough to make me a stubborn little sod. I know I want to be a writer, but if I don't manage to stick with this an hour a day business, does it mean that I don't want to be a writer quite hard enough?

Anyway, those are thoughts to come back to. Right now the routine is working and I'm on track. A million words is a lot of words and if I'm going to reach the million, I need to get cracking. If the mad vampire kitten lets me, of course.


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