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Fiction Unboxed


This week, Kickstarter welcomes a new project to its pages.  Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant and David Wright (who host the Self Publishing Podcast and wrote the excellent Write. Publish. Repeat.) will be asking us to fund a project called 'Fiction Unboxed'.  The goal?  To produce a book in thirty days.  They want to start with nothing - no plot, no character, not even a genre - and end the month with a completed book in their hands, polished, edited and bound with a professional cover.  Not only that, but they want us to share in the experience.  The Kickstarter rewards will include participation levels that allow project funders to watch the process live, witnessing every email and conversation along the way.

I can imagine how this will go down with some writers.  They'll probably think that they're trying to prove that writing is easy, which it isn't.  A year or two back I probably would have baulked at this kind of project myself.  I would have said that you couldn't write anything of any worth in this time, that quantity cannot replace quality, that art cannot be forced.  I even wrote something along these lines in a post about NanoWrimo.

Would I have been wrong to spout these long-held and unchecked sensibilities?  I think so.  I think so because, since that time, I've watched my daughter becoming interested in two things: drawing and stories.

In her four years on the planet my daughter has probably produced more pictures than Picasso on crack.  Forests have died for her art.  Blank paper offends her, and when all the paper in the house has been covered with ink and wax, which it usually is, she'll move onto another medium - my skin is currently very en vogue.

I love watching her draw.  She doesn't get hung up on anything - she doesn't pause to think, or to plan, or to bite her nails, or to stare at the page and wonder what the fuck she's doing with her life and whether anyone will ever look at her drawing and why she ever thought she could draw this thing in the first place...she just draws.  Because it's fun to draw.

And then she shows it to me - one of her small select of true fans - and because somewhere along the line evolution decided that we find genius in our offspring's shitty art, I pay her with honest praise.

Then she starts another drawing, which is always better than the last.

She draws.  She publishes.  She repeats.

And she therefore assumes, understandably, that the same approach should be taken with the creation of stories.  One day she discovered that the stories in her books didn't just arrive there by magic - that they were written by other human beings and that, at one time, they were just ideas in those human beings' brains and that, if this was so, why couldn't my brain give her all the other stories to save on buying all these books?  Ever since then I've been required, at least once every day and at the drop of the hat, to make up a story.  There is no time to think; it has to be now.  Now, now, faster, faster, now.  And there has to be a unicorn in it and always a bit where a smaller animal gets hurt.  Sometimes there should be zebras.  Always there should be unicorns.

If you've tossed aside your career to become a writer then you can't say no to your child's request for a made-up story, so I capitulate.   It was hard at first and my first efforts were terrible - plot holes everywhere, unicorns backed into embarrassing situational corners talking to dull frogs.  Zebras with no clear conflict.  But I soon realised that it was just the idea of making up the stories I found hard - then I got better at it, then the zebras found their conflict, and then it became fun.  This is pretty much true of all writing: it's the prospect of the work that's daunting; once you let go, the work takes care of itself.

Sean, Johnny and Dave aren't trying to prove that writing is easy.  I think they're trying to say that writing is just a process like any other, and that the things that get in the way of that process are generally the beliefs and neuroses that writers battle with every day - the need to second-guess what our brains are producing, to question our own abilities and flinch from actually getting words onto the paper, whatever those words might be.

I'm really excited to see how this project pans out, so I'll be there on day one to fund it.  My guess is that they'll do it - they'll produce a good story in thirty days that's good enough to sell.  What I'm really interested to see is if they can produce something that not only entertains, but which resonates - my mark of a truly good book.  I really hope they manage it.


What do you think?  Would you like to read a book that's only taken a month to write?  Does crack really make you paint faster?   Please share your thoughts, I'd be delighted to hear them.