Saturday, November 28, 2009


I've crossed the 50,000 word line with 50,466 words verified by the NaNoWriMo site but I will probably add a few more words over the next few days to make the novel feel more complete.

What a great feeling it is to accomplish something like this - especially since I was so far behind and had to find the motivation and energy to keep trying.

Thanks to all of you who encouraged me and cheered me on throughout the month. Congratulations to all you winners, good luck and skill to all who are still writing and biggest congratulations to everyone who even attempted to do this at all this month no matter how far you got.

It's in the trying that we really alive - success is just an afterthought.

49, 235

I can see the finish line and even my cramping wrists can't stop me now!

Shooting for the Top

48, 341 and writing. Have to make a 16 hour road trip to North Carolina tomorrow to find a new home for our Australian Black Swans (long story) and will have to work most of the day Monday preparing for Tuesday's classes and labs so I decided I need to get this done now!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Almost done!

I had an glorious 10K day today!

Okay, so it wasn't really so glorious. In fact, I can barely still type. But I'm now actually AHEAD of word count for the first time since Day 2 and I can coast to sweet, sweet victory over the next few days with the last 3K.

No doubt I'll do that tomorrow just to be safe!!

Time to rest my brain...

30-minute word sprints

I'm doing 30-minute word sprints using Write or Die! (I'll stop posting the results 'cause you probably already get the idea.)

I know this is crazy, but I think I might actually be able to crank off the whole 13,000 words that I need to finish today. Lisa is at work and I have no distractions except what I create. I'm leaving the TV off and will only stop to eat (leftover turkey!!) at 5K intervals.

Having a HUGE goal is sometimes the only way to accomplish great things...

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Wow, that was seriously hard. I managed to crank off the last words in a very stream-of-consciousness kind of way just as the time was running out.

I'm now even more amazed at the people who write the whole 50k in 24 hours. I mean, to write like I just did for 30 minutes to get 1,200 words and then to keep going and doing that over and over and over again almost seems super human. True, it does get the mind going and the words really start to flow but there's very little time to think about what come next or plot or conflict or any of that other noveling stuff so I don't know if I would want to try to do it.

Oh, who am I kidding, I know for sure that I'd like to try to do it just for the sheer act of doing it to see if I could push myself that much - like marathoning or doing triathlons.

Maybe I'll try that during next year's NaNoWriMo... For now, I have to finish the 50,000 in 30 days!!

Turkey is in the oven!

Okay, so the bird is cooking and I'm getting ready for another round of Write or Die!

I'm doing 30 minute word sprints aiming for 1,000 words each time. I think I'll make the goal harder each time to really push myself. Since I did 1,134 last time I'll aim for 1,200 in 30 minutes. I'd better get a tall glass of water and stretch my fingers first. I'll check in later to let you know how it's going.

LOT's of people are in the same boat as me and winners are popping up daily so the big push is on...

Thanksgiving is a day for increasing word count

Well, I'm off today because the college is closed for Thanksgiving break (I think I'm happier about that than my students are).

For those of you in other countries - Thanksgiving is a traditional US holiday where families generally get together to have a huge meal. Usually we cook a big turkey (which we don't usually eat the rest of the year) and mashed potatoes and vegetables and lots of fruit pies for desert. The tradition comes from a story about the early settlers having a huge communal meal after the first big harvest to "give thanks" for their success after toiling so hard. Of course, this was right before half of them froze to death the following winter...

Anyway, it's a major state and federal holiday so practically everything is closed and since people tend to travel long distances fo be with their families the whole thing has evolved into a 5 day weekend starting Wednesday and ending Sunday.

Anyway, I'm free but Lisa has to work at the hospital tonight (sick people still need their care and medicines) so while she's working I'll be cooking our feast (we'll eat at about midnight tonight) and WRITING. I hope to surpass 40k and give myself a chance at finishing this thing over the weekend!

So, while all of the rest of you Americans are watching football this afternoon, I'll be clicking my computer keys and making words come out of my head. For THAT I'll be giving thanks!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Whoa - this thing is seriously NASTY. If you set the settings high enough, it actually starts ERASING words if you stop typing for more and a couple of seconds!! Talk about a great tool to keep you churning out the words...

Write or Die!

I'm trying out Write or Die! to help increase my word count. I'm pretty motivated so I'm way ahead of pace most of the time but when my mind starts to wander the applet let me know it!! It's kind of fun.

Monday, November 23, 2009

After-burner time

Okay. Did 3k in 2 and a half hours (with some distractions). I actually only have until 11PM because I have to make dinner when Lisa gets done working (I love to cook and she's happy to let me!). SO, it's time to ignite the literary afterburners!

Taking the "10,000 words in 5 hours challenge"

I may not finish all 10k before midnight tonight, but this is exactly the kind of goal I need to get me to a manageable word count for the rest of the month...

And here we go!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

25,014 and counting

Going to take a break to watch "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and will continue later.

The Night of Writing Dangerously!

We're having a blast in a chat room version of the NoWD. I'm hoping to crank out enough words to end the night with 30k.

We're doing 10 - 15 minute word wars. My spelling SUCKS (as you can see from all the red underlined text in Scrivener) and my writing is even worse. But my word count has been going up :)

Here's a screen shot:

Friday, November 20, 2009

20K milestone

Okay, so the more I write the more I want to write. Once I get going I remember how much I love this and want to do it ALL THE TIME. This is going to be a busy weekend but I'm definitely going to carve out some writing time!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

100,000 of something...

Well, at least I passed the 100,000 character milestone tonight. It's interesting that it occurred at about 18,000 words meaning that my average word size is about 4.5 characters per word (plus one space between each word and occasional punctuation marks).

It seems that I'm appropriately writing for quantity over quality!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A great day at the beach

Today was a GREAT beach day - sunny and 77 degrees (25 degrees for those of you outside the U.S.) with a light breeze. The water has gotten rather cold so I only went for a dip a few times (I was the only person in the water). I think the Gulf Stream is way offshore and there's a major counter-current bringing cold water down the coast to North Florida right now. I'll have to start bringing my wetsuit if I want to do any more surfing this year.

Oh- and we did get to see (unexpectedly) the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis from where we were. That was VERY cool!!

Anyway, as soon as I opened my notebook my mind absolutely unloaded plot ideas. My hands could hardly keep up and I had a hard time later deciphering my handwriting (which is terrible anyway) but I managed to get most of it on paper. I have lots of scenes to write now and even know how the book is going to end! (Or at least how I think it's going to end...)

I had to do a bunch more prep than anticipated for classes tomorrow (my students come first) so I didn't get much writing done tonight but I'm including another screenshot of Scrivener below for you to see what my virtual work environment looks like.

I'm going to go to sleep and see what my characters do in my dreams!

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Well, I managed a little over 10k in 48 hours. Granted I could have done a lot more if I really tried (some people manage the entire 50k in 24 hours), I'm satisfied with the amount of catching up I managed and I feel like I'm back "on track" for the challenge.

Tomorrow is a beach day; it's going to be sunny and warm so I'll be soaking up the sun and swimming and relaxing and reading and preparing for lecture on Tuesday. Now that I've done as much writing as I have I'll also be able to do some quality planning and be ready to write more specific scenes when I have a free hour or so.

Happy trails!

Taking a break for dinner

14,524. I was trying to reach 15k before taking a break but Lisa just got home and I'm going to make dinner. More later.


The sun has invaded my writing space and even Smudge thinks it's too hot to stay there. We're relocating to a cooler venue. For those of you in cold climates right now - you have my condolences!


Didn't get to write more last night - responsibilities got in the way - but I'm off and running now.

If I make 20k by the end of the day I'l be thrilled and will be able to catch the train later this week.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Broke 10k and still going

I've finally hit my stride. This is the way it's supposed to feel!

I hope to hit 12k before midnight and then have a marathon writing day tomorrow.


The weekend of catching up

Okay, so I'm behind in my word count. Way behind. That's okay.

I wrote 1,500 words last night and another 2,000 already today (in about an hour and a half of work). I have the rest of tonight and all day tomorrow to get as close to 25K as I can (I'm at 8K now). The best part is that my class lode is lighter than usual this week (I'm giving two exams, doing two fun labs and giving only one lecture on a topic that I know really well) so I will actually have time to write on a few of the weekdays.

This story is still trying to come out and I have to get out of its way.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

5526 and still going...

There's still time and I still have a story to tell.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Not giving in; not giving up

Okay, so I'm going to do this thing. I had some great insights into the story today so I know I can get the word count back up to where it needs to be once I get back to writing. BUT, I didn't give in to the temptation to write when I was supposed to be working on other things. I had to prepare to lecture on 45 pages on the dense biochemistry of nutrition and metabolism on this week. And as a bonus, the dean is sitting in on that class for my teaching evaluation. No pressure there...

So, I put first things first but did record my idea so that I can crank out the text tomorrow.

14K by Monday night? Maybe not, but I'll try!

Thursday, November 5, 2009


As another VERY busy day comes to a close with with no words written, I'm beginning to wonder if this is really going to be possible...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Life and its little curve balls

Okay, so I thought I'd have time to crank out a 1,000 words or so this morning but work and life sidetracked that idea. I'm posting this simply to let all of you who are in this game (and those spectators watching from the sidelines) know that no matter how busy life gets I'm still here and will write during whatever windows I get!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy to have 4180

Today was way busier than expected. I finally got home at 10PM and after finishing some work that I had to do here, I managed to write a few hundred words just to keep my head in the game and let my characters know that I'm still paying attention to them. 4,180 words is a little behind the curve but I'll make it up tomorrow morning. (Really. REALLY!)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Day 2

3829 words written so far - not where I'd hoped to be today but still ahead of the curve so I'm happy. I think that I've actually already surpassed last year's total in two days. How pathetic is that?

Today was slow due to a long day at my second job and a lot of prep time (still more to do) for teaching this week. Tomorrow I'm hoping I can used a lot of the time between classes to write. I have to set up a lab practical for students in my 6 PM class so as long as that goes quickly I should have a couple of hours to crank out the text.

I just realized that I haven't posted any image yet! So, here's a quick screenshot of Scrivener and what I was working on today.

Happy writing!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

And We're Off!

Yep - started writing today. No outline, practically no characters - just a vague story in my head and the will to write 50,000 words this month. It's exhilarating!!

So here's the opening line:

Doug Morris was enjoying a relaxing Sunday evening at work, which is why he would be dead in exactly 18 minutes.

My fingers are flying as I'm approaching 2K words. I had WAY more work to do prepping for classes than I thought and I spent more than half the day finishing that before I started writing. I decided that 1) the schoolwork should be my priority since it's my job and I want to do it well and 2) that I'd be less distracted writing if I finished the school work first. I'm glad I did, but because of that I won't make the 6K words that I wanted to tonight. Well, at least I'll have something on the board for the first day and I can dream about the story tonight!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy 11th Hour!

It's just past midnight Friday night/Saturday morning so we're now officially one day from the beginning of NaNoWriMo 2009 here on the East Coast of the U.S. (Since this has become such a huge international event, I was wondering it the OLL might be considering a name change to International Novel Writing Month, aka InNoWriMo or InterNaNoWriMo.

Anyway, I have a ton of work to do this weekend to prep for classes this coming week so I'm going to try to get it all done on Saturday (later today after some sleep tonight) and then spend all Sunday writing. I still have no outline and only a few vague character ideas, but I'm hoping that once I get going all the pent-up energy from not planning will ignite like literary booster rockets for my mind and fingers. I guess we'll see. Whatever happens, I have a huge goal of 6K words for Sunday to give myself both a word-count buffer for the busy week and some good material to draw from as I dive in each time I start writing again.

Happy 11th hour!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

To Blog or Not To Blog (or, "Why am I doing this?")

I just realized that many of you reading this may not know the reason that I created this blog in the first place. Here's the text of a post that I made to the NaNoWriMo forum Participants' Blogs:

Created a blog as a motivator: Win or face humiliation!

Taking a cue from a few other writers, I established a blog to chronicle the development of my novel. I wasn’t motivated as much by my desire to share my work as I was to motivate myself to write and thus avoid public humiliation.

My stream-of-consciousness reasoning is as follows:

If I create a blog and lots of people subscribe to it then I’ll have to have something to blog about so I’ll have to continue to make regular progress on my novel or face the embarrassment that comes from telling lots of people that I’m going to do something and then not doing it.

To push the cattle prod even further into my alimentary canal, I’m emailing the link to all my family members (even the ones who don’t like me). This way, win or lose I’m bound to receive some attention – even if it’s just from people reminding me that I still owe them money.

As a bonus, if I do rack up a sizeable word count, I may receive some quality feedback from some the procrastinating NaNoers who are reading about my novel instead of writing their own. Most likely this will come in the form of comments such as, “Don’t quit your day job!” or “Haven’t I read something like this before?” or the ever popular “You suck.”

In any case, please visit and share my progress as I VOW TO CONTRIBUTE CONTENT TO THE BLOG DAILY UNTIL NOVEMBER 30, 2009!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Got a funny call from my Dad tonight

So I just got off the phone with my Dad. I had sent him the link to this site and the NaNoWriMo site so he could jump onboard if he wanted to. Actually, I kind of encouraged him to join; he’s been talking about a whole bunch of book ideas he’s had and how he’s going to write them “someday” so I told him this was his chance to write one now.

Well, tonight he called and said he done some math and figured out how many words he have to write every day to write 50,000 in a month and had decided there was no way he could do that. He said he couldn’t even read his own handwriting when he tried! I suggested that he type it into his computer but he said he types really slow. Personally, I think that’s okay. Even a hunt-and-pecker should be able to crank out 2,000 words in a few hours.

Anyway, he was thinking the idea was to write a real, finished product in one month. When I explained that this was just a very rough draft and that he could do whatever he wanted to with it after that, he started to rethink the idea. I think he might be on board now… I’m going to see if one of my other family members can help him set up his account at (Shelley - are you taking note??).

With less than 4 days to go I’m really getting anxious. Life is getting REALLY busy - but I’m okay with that. I’m more worried that I’m going to have a massive block when it comes time to start typing on November 1st.

Tomorrow is a jam-packed day at school but I’m still going to try to get a little outlining done so I have some scenes to work on in week I when I get stuck.

Happy 9th hour!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pressure Builds (just to make it more fun!)

Wow. The closer we get to November, the more work I seem to have to do for all of my classes. As is probably the case with most classes, topics build throughout the semester in biology to continually present new "emergent" properties. For example, in a class like Introductory Biology we begin by discussing chemistry, then move on to interactions of molecules, then to components of cells, cell function and cell signaling, then genetic control of cell function and tissue formation, and… well it goes on quite a lot from there until we finally start talking about animal populations and ecosystems and even broader topics. Other Biology courses like Anatomy and Physiology and Marine Biology have similar tracks.

Well, we're deep into the material in all my classes and I watch carefully as my students teeter on the edge between understanding how everything they've learned to this point relates to the present topic and becoming hopelessly lost in a morass of new terminology and concepts. I really have to know the potential pitfalls in each lesson and stay alert to their expressions in class so that I know when to help them recall something from earlier in the semester (that might seem like years ago) or to keep pushing though material while helping them navigate the pitfalls of inane details while observing and synergizing the important concepts so they gain an overall understanding.

It's quite fun, really. But it does take a lot of preparation time and I'm feeling a pre-NaNo crunch already.

Man, am I looking forward to November and lots of sleepless nights!!!

TIck, tick, tick

Okay, so I’m really getting excited about writing next month. I’ve been “warming up” writing a bunch of other things but my mind keeps going back to The Moravec Threshold.

Things are getting frenzied at the NaNoWriMo site. Lots of people are signing up and the forums have exploded with activity. There are only a few people participating (so far) in SE Georgia, but there’s a pretty good group in Jacksonville (about an hour away) so I may head there for the kick-off event and some of the write-ins if I have time. Sometimes it’s worth taking a little time to drive to get the benefits of sitting with a bunch of other people who are all typing frantically.

The one week countdown has begun!

Friday, October 23, 2009

What will they do?

I realized that I'm really looking forward to getting to know my characters next month. They've already revealed some really interesting things about themselves and m anxious to see how they'll react in various situations. I think I'll let them lead and I'll just follow along and write about what they do.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Life's Balance: More Work = Less Sleep

Wow. I’ve been at school ALL DAY (like I am every Tuesday and Thursday) and haven’t had even a few minutes to work on pre-noveling.

(By the way, do you use “noveling” or “novelling” when discussing the creation of a novel? There are good precedents for both constructions. I’ve seen both used regularly; both are listed in various (quality) dictionaries; and both are flagged as incorrectly spelled words by most spell-checking software! I use them interchangeably ‘cause I don’t want to use just one and then have it be the “wrong” one!)

Back to school…

I teach 3 different college Biology classes so I need a lot of prep time for lectures and labs (and tests and grading and student mentoring and all the other things that go along with teaching). Luckily I have gaps between classes so I have time to download presentations or photocopy handouts or whatever, but sometimes (like today) I’m lucky if I have enough time just to wolf down some food to keep myself going.

It’s now 9:15 PM and my last class just ended (I started teaching a little after 8:00 AM this morning) and I’m itching to work on my novel!! But now I’ve gotta’ drive home (40 miles in about 50 minutes) and by the time I get home I’m going to feel doing like little else than curling up with the cats and closing my eyes.

This is really going to cramp my writing style during November! I’m realizing that I’m either going to have to write really early in the morning (I am NOT a "morning person") or else stay on campus working at night and drive home in the wee hours of the morning. Either way I can pretty much kiss the idea of a good night’s sleep goodbye.

Well, it’s gonna’ be worth it!!!!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Do you need a REWARD for doing NaNoWriMo? (A RANT!)

Editorial Note: I started writing this last night with the intent of posting in on this blog, but then I decided to post it to the NaNoWriMo forums instead. There have been a lot of interesting responses to it already so I thought I'd go ahead and share it here as well.

What’s this whole obsession that our culture has seems to have with “getting something?”

When I tell people about National Novel Writing Month - that a couple hundred thousand people around the world set out to write a 50,000 word novel in the Month of November - the most common response I hear is the question, “What do you get if you finish?”

What do I get? I get the satisfaction of writing a 50,000 word novel! I get the joy of knowing that I took on an enormous task and completed it! I get fun and camaraderie and a huge sense of accomplishment! I get the bragging rights for the rest of my life that I wrote a novel!! Do I need more than that? Apparently, according to most people, I do - or at least I should. Apparently, according to some new rules of polite society that were invented when I wasn’t paying attention, I should be rewarded for my own participation - by my own free will in a program that lots of other people have volunteered to organize and produce - with something tangible like money or a car or a trip to Disney World. Really? Really?? Yep.

It’s like when I used to tell people that I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity. (You know - the organization that brings lots of eager volunteers who know practically nothing about building anything together with a few knowledgeable crafts-people who act as nervous foremen to build houses for low-income families.) People would look at me like my skin was made of green Jello. “You mean they don’t pay you anything? And somebody else lives in the house when you’re done? What the heck are you doing that for?” They just couldn’t understand the concept of doing something for the pure joy of helping someone else with no need for reward or recognition whatsoever.

I’m even seeing a similar behavior in my students. When they ask a question about something related to what we’re discussing in class, I’ll often refer them to resources where they can learn more about the topic and find the answers for themselves (so that they’ll actually remember what they learned past lunch). What do you suppose their response is invariably? “What do we get if we do? Extra credit?” Extra credit? Extra credit?? The sheer knowledge that they learn that may boost their grade on the next test or lead them to a great career or save their lives the next time they’re swimming in shark-infested waters isn’t enough; they want extra credit!!!

Listen up people: we NaNoers (that’s short for National Novel-ers) do this for FUN!! We don’t need anything else! Just participating is a reward in itself. Guess what - we don’t even need to WIN to have fun! Just being part of the whole thing is enough to make us come back year after year to PLAY. HA!! Take THAT you self-absorbed, materialistic world!!! HA!!!!

Okay, so I seem to have gone off on a bit of a rant… But my question still stands: where did this attitude come from?

Clearly I’m not the only one who thinks that the reward is in the doing and not the receiving. If I was, there’d be a lot fewer posts on the NaNoWriMo forums than there are already (11 days before the event even begins) and there would be a lot less that $75K in the bucket that supports the event itself and all the great programs that OLL sponsors (the bucket that will hopefully get much, MUCH fuller as our word counts grow larger).

Thanks Fellow NaNoers, thanks OLL staff and volunteers, thanks MLs, thanks supporters, sponsors and everyone else. It’s nice to leave that wacky externally-fulfilled world behind at the end of the day and come “home” to a community like this where the general feeling is that giving is better than receiving, that being part of something like this is just too much fun to miss and that we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Happy writing,

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

First Letter to My Main Character

Even though I won't begin writing The Moravec Threshold until November 1st, I thought it would be a good idea to get to know some of the principle character a little better before then. Taking the advice of some other writers, I decided to write letter to a few of them and hopefully hear back from them about what our project next month. Below is my first letter to Lucy Kendall - the MC of the novel.

Dear Lucy

I know we haven’t spent much time together, but I’m really looking forward to getting to know you better in November.

You seem like a really interesting woman. You’re smart, you enjoy being outdoors running and biking, and you still love the Red Sox! But it seems like these days you’re spending way too much time in the lab. I know you’re learning a lot and grad school is demanding, but you really need to learn to have some fun!

Let’s face it, you’ve been a nerd your whole life. You’ve been fascinated by animals and plants since you were a little girl catching fireflies and looking at leaves through a magnifying glass. You hardly ever dated in high school (even though you were really cute) and you always had your nose in some book. Then you graduated near the top of your class in Biology at Boston University and now you’re in graduate school studying Genetics at UNC-Chapel Hill. When are you going to start enjoying life instead of just studying it all the time?

By the way, congratulations – I understand you just published your first scientific paper as first author. You’ve obviously got a bright future ahead of you. I guess it must have helped having a genius father to help you learn to follow your passions.

Speaking of your parents, how’s your Mom? It must be tough being away from home while her Alzheimer’s is getting worse. At least your Dad is spending most of his time in Cambridge now so he can be home with her. It seems like you haven’t talked to him much lately; is everything okay? Maybe he’s just really busy…

November is going to be a really busy month for both of us. I’ll be spending more time with you, your friend Jack, and a few other people (that you’ll be getting to know soon) than I’ll be spending with my students or my own family - but it’s going to be worth it. We have a lot to learn from each other about what’s really important in life and in the end we’ll both be better people for it. That is, if we survive. I almost hate the thought of all the things that are going to happen to you in the next few weeks…

Well, I’ll talk to you again soon. Drop me a note if you get the chance!

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Muse Teases Me

I keep coming up with great ideas for plot or character issues of complications at the worst times.

The best ideas seem to come when I’m driving or on the phone or at times like tonight while I was out for a wonderful 6 mile run. By the time I finish with whatever I’m doing (get off the phone, find a place to pull off the road or get home and peel off my sweaty clothes), the idea seems to have evaporated. Now, I do keep a notebook with me for times when I can jot down any of the gems that pop into my mind under less-than-life-threatening circumstances, but it seems like the best ideas always come when I’m ill-prepared to record them.

Do they do that just to antagonize me? Grrr!!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Will They Bite?

Tonight I sent the links to the NaNoWriMo website and this site to my geographically-distant family members (most live in New England where the weather is getting more miserable by the day) and suggested that they join me in the month-long novelling adventure. I'm awaiting their responses!

I spent the bulk of today working on preparing lectures for the week (I teach 3 college Biology courses and 2 labs) so I didn't make much progress on the novel. But tomorrow I work for a few hours at a part time job where I'll have lots of time for novel work! ;)

Scrivener Software

I would be remiss if I didn’t send a shout-out to the producers of Scrivener software.

I’ve been looking for a long time for a good application that would provide both a good writing environment and a means of keeping all the scenes, character outlines, research files, and other documents organized and provide methods for easily outlining and re-aranging material.

Scrivener does all that and more. I’ll likely show some screen shots of the software at work as November progresses.

Scrivener for OS X

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Rules Clarification

I’m kind of a stickler for rules. Like the idea that a posted speed limit is the maximum allowable speed on given stretch or road rather than a suggestion for the rate of travel below which you are allowed to make obscene gestures to a slower driver in front of you.

So I’ve been kinda’ careful about how much pre-planning I’ve been doing for my novel before November 1st. In No Plot? No Problem! Chris Baty lays down the law that only one week is allowed for novel research prior to beginning the 30-day novel road trip. Yet so many NaNoWriMo participants seem to develop elaborate plot lines and character sketches (exhibited by the thousands of posts on the forums already in mid-October) that I knew I must have missed something. I did.

Dragonchilde (the forums moderator) answered the question about pre-WriMo planning like this:

"Planning isn't against the rules. No Plot? No Problem! is more about writing a book in a month, rather than NaNoWrimo - our rules are a bit different. It's a great guide nonetheless!"

So I checked the FAQ and here’s what I found:

“Outlines and plot notes are very much encouraged, and can be started months ahead of the actual novel-writing adventure. Previously written prose, though, is punishable by death.”

Woo Hoo! Now when my characters are bugging me with details about their lives I’ll feel free to jot them down on the nearest napkin or coworkers forehead before I forget them.

Friday, October 16, 2009

What is the value of eLife?

How has wireless technology affected our society and each of us as individuals? Do Twitter, Facebook and other trendy communication platforms enhance our relationships with other or allow us to drift further into isolation with the illusion of increased socialization?

Imagine how different your own life would be if your only interactions with other human beings were though electronic media. Imagine further that your interaction with the entire planet was only via electronic media - that you never again smelled a freshly peeled orange or felt the warmth of the sun on your skin. How would your hopes, dreams, loves and fears be changed? What if such a life could mean immortality? Would you choose it?

These are some of the questions that the characters of The Moravec Threshold will face.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Meet the Main Character(s)

Here’s a quick glimpse of the principle characters as I see them in their first few days of life in my head (note that they are more likely to change than not as November approaches):

Lucy Kendall (our main character) is a genetics graduate student at a major university where she investigates new ways to produce transgenic organisms. She has a wonderful relationship with her father who is the CEO of a small company that develops cybernetic prosthetic devices (thin: realistic versions of the Six Million Dollar Man’s limbs) but a strained relationship with her mother who is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Henry Kendall is Lucy’s Father and the CEO of Cambridge Dynamics (though not necessarily in that order of importance). Though he would like to spend more time with his ailing wide, Henry is anxious to complete his own work in bionics as he knows that his own time is severely limited by the fatal illness that he has kept secret from his family.

Jack Taylor (main character of the novel Famine which will be a sequel to The Moravec Threshold) is a biology graduate student and one of Lucy’s labmates. He studies animal communication (like whale songs and frog calls) to understand social behavior in animal populations. Jack loves the outdoors and wants to do something meaningful with his life (if only he could figure out what that is).

I'll reveal more characters as they invent themselves.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

About the Title of the Book

The seed for this novel was planted in 1994 when I met Hans Moravec at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA. He gave a speech about the state of the art in robotics and predicted that the memory and processing capacity of computers would someday outperform the computational abilities of the human brain. He suggested that future robotic deep space explorers would have the same independent deductive and interpretive abilities that humans have without the biological needs and limitations. Finally, in front of a roomful of world-renowned biologists, he predicted that the next major step in human evolution might involve the development of electronic offspring that would continue to evolve as purely electronic beings and that it would be that evolutionary leap that would allow us to colonize space.

As a scientist and a dreamer, I wonder now, as I did that night 15 years ago, when the first of us will upload the entirety of our memories, desires, dreams, biases and fears to electronic media where sophisticated software will carry out the same deductive calculations that we now call "thought." Certainly we have bounded, rather than crawled, closer to realizing that possibility over the past decade and I believe that the day is fast approaching when the first human e-clone will be born.

This story is about the dangers we face as we approach that event horizon unprepared, unchecked and unaware of the consequences or freeing a dualistic human consciousness from its own mortality. The characters in this story will face choices about the value of the biomedical and biotechnological advances they work to create. For some, it will become necessary to re-examine their own ideas about boundary between of life and death, the ethics of the modern medicine and the meaning of family.

In a 21st century world where technology is beginning to blur the boundaries between real and virtual lives, The Moravec Threshold will challenge your beliefs in everything.

Countdown to NaNoWriMo 2009

The Moravec Threshold is my NaNoWriMo 2009 project.

Since the contest requires writing more than 50,000 words on one manuscript in the month of November, I decided to focus on this novel since it's been pestering me to write it for a few months now. This BLOG will host excerpts from the text as it flings itself from my fingers along with photos from the month of literary abandon.

Please help my dragons hatch!

Adopt one today! Adopt one today!