Thursday, 22 October 2015
It’s that time of year again, and your humble correspondent squares his shoulders, cracks his knuckles, does that thing with his neck that they do in action films where they make all the bones crunch, takes a deep breath and once more prepares for the National Novel Writing Month. I’ve started doing typing on the spot to warm up.
Last year’s attempt ended in bitter defeat, with less than half the required 50,000 words down. What seemed like a good idea at the time soon fizzled out, and my muse abandoned me, leaving me de-mused, be-mused and not at all a-mused. My muse isn’t all to blame of course. The idea I had for last year was a departure from the usual swashbuckling adventure story word-churners I put out for NaNo, and far harder to sustain.
I have learnt my lesson, and returned to my more usual fare. This year’s novel will actually be a complete reworking of my attempt from 2011, which was also unsuccessful, a steampunky story of airships and empire, set in my Anno Geometrica alternative history. The previous attempt focused on two separate crews of independent aeronauts. I got to about 30,000 words before the end, but couldn’t sustain it for various reasons. I’ll be keeping the same rough plot (originally developed for a roleplay game I ran, with results that I can only describe as ‘mixed’), but this time, and largely as a result of reading lots of Hornblower, The Seafort Saga, and the Honor Harrington novels, I’m making the focus a naval ship of the Royal Air Fleet (India Squadron) and its captain.
I’ll also be writing in my accustomed first person, unlike the previous version of this story. Hopefully my hero won’t be quite as morose as the eponymous lead of the Seafort Saga (who, due to the lantern-jawed illustrations of the covers, I fondly refer to as Captain Gloomy McSpacechin), or as smugly competent as Honor Harrington (AKA Mrs Space Hornblower), but somewhere in between.
It is tradition that the titles of such naval adventures (and their space and aerial equivalents) should contain or be a play on the name of the main character, and so the (slightly pulpy) working title of this year’s opus is going to be Squadron’s Zenith.
Here’s the brief synopsis I’ve already posted on the NaNo website:
“It's 1879, and with war in Afghanistan, the continuing expansion of the Russian Empire and increasingly frequent and voracious pirate attacks along the lucrative trade routes between Delhi and Constantinople, the Royal Air Fleet's already overstretched India Squadron has its work cut out for it.
Edmund Zenith, newly appointed commander of the sky-sloop Hippolyta is tasked with escorting a supply ship to the front lines, and thereafter to support Her Majesty's ground forces in quelling the fractious Pathan tribes. Instead, he finds himself drawn into the intrigues and plots of the Great Game as Russia sets its sights on the tiny but strategically vital kingdom of Rhuristan.”
Wish me luck!