Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 542, October 25, 2009

"I am about to embark upon a new adventure."

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by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

I am about to embark upon a new adventure.

At my age, it's important to do that now and again. It's said that new experiences build new synapses, or something, in the brain, and help to stave off various forms of dementia. Since there are those who would gladly stand in line for blocks to attest that I'm plenty enough demented already, it's always good to take whatever precautions are possible.

On the other tentacle, maybe it's not all that new a thing, this undertaking. I'm planning to write a book (my 29th or 30th, I've lost track again), front to back, in the space of a single month. (Usually the job takes an entirely appropriate nine months or so.) I did it three times, back in the 80s, and called them The Lando Calrissian Adventures.

What makes it different is that I'll be doing it at the same time 100,000-odd other folks are, too, across the country and around the world.

"So what is this new adventure?" I pretend to hear you ask.

For the past two years, my lovely and talented daughter Rylla has participated in a program called "NANOWRIMO"—"National Novel Writing Month". During the month of November, individuals sign up (it's free online), pledging to produce 50,000 words of fiction—that's the size of a brief novel; The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Brave New World, and The Great Gatsby are offered as examples, and, I suspect, H. Beam Piper's A Planet For Texans fits within this range, as well—in just 30 days. That's 1,666 words a day, every single day, rain or shine. The lovely and talented Jen Zach, Rylla's friend and colorist for Roswell, Texas started last year.

Writing is a solitary profession, but NANOWRIMO can be a social phenomenon. When they're not pounding the keys privately, at home, alone, participants gather informally at restaurants, the homes of other participants, and coffee houses—of which, Fort Collins being a university town, we have many—armed with laptops and powered by caffeine. I was at couple of these last year, and they're quite a sight: an entire room filled with furious—but deadly silent—activity. There's also a launch party each year and one at the end, as well.

Last year it was karaoke at the Armadillo.

The funniest (and, in some ways, the best) thing about NANOWRIMO is that all of the emphasis is on quantity, not quality. 50,000 words, rain or shine. What this comes down to, in practice, is that would-be first time novelists can forge ahead without worrying whether what they've done is perfect. (Think about the movie cliche of a writer's wastebasket overflowing with crumpled first pages.) As you know, I don't agree with Voltaire and Gingrich that "The perfect is the enemy of the good". But I do believe that striving for the perfect at an inappropriate moment in the production of a manuscript—when you should properly save that for the editing process—can be literary suicide.

And no, Newt, writing a book and fixing America are not the same thing.

Keyboard blabbermouth that I am, I often have 3,000-word days, myself. But keeping it going for a whole month may prove to be a bit Herculean. When I finished the Lando books, I slept for a week, and wasn't quite myself for months afterward—and I was a lot younger then.

But if I can get through this splendid ordeal, I'll not only have a nifty little book I've wanted to write for more than 20 years (and from which my agent at the time, having rather stupidly type-cast me in his mind, discouraged me), but I'll meet new people, most of them young, and get to do something fun with my daughter. Next year, if we still have a country, I'll do another little book I always meant to write.

I may already have a publisher.

What books? This year, it'll be Sweeter Than Wine, the story of an ethical vampire detective I conceived of and outlined long before Buffy and Angel made their wonderful debut, long before Underworld, Van Helsing, Twilight and Moonlight. What kept me from writing it two decades ago, aside from that agent going limp on me, was the appearance of the Canadian TV series Forever Knight, which concerned—you guessed it—the bloody lives and times of an ethical vampire detective.

Next year, it'll be The Black Ship, a political parody (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it) of a famous socialist space opera TV series. Hint: the Black Ship's captain is a fellow everybody knows as Flint, who was also Leonardo da Vinci, Johannes Brahms—and Captain Nemo.

You can learn more about NANOWRIMO by looking it up in Wikipedia. Then go to the official NANOWRIMO site at They say everybody has at least one story to tell; almost everybody I've ever met, once they learn what I do for a living, seems eager to tell me about his or hers. I encourage them to sign up now and get it written.

And you, too. No more excuses.

They also say "Misery loves company". Well, sometimes so does ecstasy.

Or, at least, organized silliness.

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of more than 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas is currently running as a free weekly serial at

Neil is presently at work on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Where We Stand: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis with his daughter, Rylla.

See stunning full-color graphic-novelizations of The Probability Broach and Roswell, Texas which feature the art of Scott Bieser at Dead-tree versions may be had through the publisher, or at where you will also find Phoenix Pick editions of some of Neil's earlier novels. Links to Neil's books at are on his website


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