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Spitting in Entropy’s Eye: How I Plan to Write a Novel in a Week

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Yes, you read that right. I said a week. I may not be able to do it. In fact, it probably will take me much longer than a week to write an entire novel. But that’s not the point. Let’s get right into it, and I’ll explain.

The Novel in a Week Structure

I got this idea from longtime writer Dean Wesley Smith, who is not only writing his novel in a week right now, but is creating a book about the experience. I got the basic formula from him, and it goes a little something like this:

On the first day, write 3,000 words. Then add 1,000 words to that total every day for seven days, up to 9,000 words. So at the end of the seven days you end up with a 42,000 novel. Which still isn’t long as novels go, depending on the genre. But it’s still firmly in novel territory, and pretty good for a week’s work. If you write door-stopper epic fantasies where 42k doesn’t even get you to the first plot point, then you’re still going to have quite a ways to go, but for the rest of us, knocking out a short novel this quickly can be a game changer in so many ways.

And for my hypothetical epic fantasist, banging out 42k words in a week’s time is still nothing to sneeze at, and you’ll get your next book (or your first) out that much faster.

But Why?

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? And a reasonable one to ask. After all, writing a book is so beyond the mainstream for most of us. Tell someone you’re getting up and going to work and nobody bats an eye. It’s what you’re supposed to do. But tell someone you’re going to climb a mountain, write a symphony, or give shoes to poor kids in Africa, and all of a sudden you’re some kind of a weirdo.

Well, I’ll tell you why.

I’ve always been fascinated by people who do cool shit for no apparent reason. Maybe they wear a funny hat to work, or they cook every dish in Julia Child’s cookbook and then blog about it. Maybe they scale a mountain or write a symphony. Or write a symphony about mountains while scaling fish. Whatever. The point is that they do something, and in so doing allow this crazy old world to make just a bit more sense.

I love writing dares, as I call them, for this reason, because they combine my love of writing with this kind of weird public or semi-public spectacle. Like Harlan Ellison writing stories from scratch in bookstore windows. Or Ray Bradbury writing a short story a week for an entire year in order to learn how to write. It’s impossible to write fifty-two bad stories in a row,” he reasoned. And I think I’ll have just as much to learn from my novel-in-a-week writing experience as a young Bradbury did writing short stories all those years ago about carnivals and dwarfs and jar babies and dinosaurs and Halloween.

Kill the Mystique

I’ve been reading the aforementioned Dean Wesley Smith’s blog for a long time now. I’ve “watched” over his shoulder as he runs his writing and publishing business with his wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, which includes writing workshops and one–soon to be two–retail stores. I watched in July how he wrote a short story per day for most of the entire month. I’ve seen him bang out books in record time. While we disagree on some of the particulars (I’ll get to those in a minute), one thing Dean is always saying is that writing books is nothing special. A book is not an event. It’s just a book. One of many throughout Dean’s own 40 plus year career. It doesn’t come fully formed from the brilliant writer’s fevered brain after a lightning strike of inspiration from on high. It simply is. Maybe the writer writes it to pay rent and put food on the table. Maybe he writes it because he must. But whatever the reason, that book is just one of many. And nobody needs that fact drilled into their skull more than this guy right here.

I need to take the ego out of the equation. I need to get the idea of a book as a major event out of my head. I need to get the book I want to write out of my head and onto the page. Because nothing else happens until that occurs. If I am going to eventually make a viable business of this, I need product on the shelves. And that means writing a lot of books. One after the other.

Because Why Not?

This is a crazy world we live in. Things fall apart. The center cannot hold. The old gatekeepers are dying, replaced with faster, sleeker predators ready to eat their lunch. People are running off to join ISIS for crying out loud. Well, I do not believe we need to destroy the world in order to save it, or that the only way to fix things is by turning it into a mirror of our own egomaniacal image. I believe we need to add value to the world by creating something beautiful. Something that outlasts us.

I want to spit in Entropy’s eye. I hope you will join me, or just hang out over my shoulder to watch the fireworks. So grab some popcorn and get comfy. It’s going to be interesting.

Stay tuned for a few tips of how to do something like this yourself. Post your writer dare in the comments.

RETRO REVIEW: The Last Dragon

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File this one in the So Bad It’s Good section of the video store in your mind. Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon (1985) is a music-laden martial arts send-up that is better than it has any right to be. Imagine if Marvel’s Iron Fist were shot in the 80’s as a blaxploitation film, and you’ll cut pretty close to the essence of The Last Dragon.

Taimak is Leroy Green, who goes by the somewhat derisive sobriquet Bruce Leroy, a young black man who wears Asian peasant dress and dreams of obtaining a level of martial arts mastery known as “the glow.” After he completes his training, his pranksterish sensei sends him in search of the elusive master that will help him achieve the glow.

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While in a theater, watching a Bruce Lee film and eating his popcorn with chopsticks (as one does), he is accosted by the infamous Sho’nuff (Julius Carry III), the self-described Shogun of Harlem, a bad ass martial artist with an ego as big as his attitude. After beating up half the theater, Sho’nuff challenges Leroy to a fight, but our hero refuses and leaves, returning home to his family where he is greeted by endless barbs from his younger, streetwise brother.

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Meanwhile, local singer and popular veejay Laura Charles, played by former Prince Protege’ Vanity (the late Denise Matthews) is being nagged by a two-bit promoter named Eddie Arkadian (Christopher Murney), who wants Laura to play his girlfriend’s latest video on her show. As his girlfriend, Angela Viracco (Faith Prince) is a third rate Cyndi Lauper wannabe, Laura rightly refuses, and that’s when Arkadian takes the gloves off and resorts to thuggery to get his way.

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Passing by while Laura is being kidnapped by Arkadian’s thugs, Leroy comes to the rescue, dispatching them Bruce Lee style.

What follows is a mixed bag of craziness that could only have come from the 80’s, with a finale to rival Enter the Dragon, as Leroy and his martial arts students (which includes a young, pint-sized Ernie Reyes, Jr. (The Last Electric Knight)) fight against Arkadian’s goons, among them Sho’nuff and his entourage.

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In his final battle with Sho’nuff, Leroy learns that the only true master is one’s own self and gets the glow, which is exactly what it sounds like, enabling him to defeat Sho’nuff and rescue the girl. Arkadian gets arrested, and all is right with the world.

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I really like this movie. It could have, and probably should have, been a complete train wreck. The plot is utterly ridiculous, and we never get any context for Leroy’s quest to obtain the glow, meeting him near the end of his journey, not the beginning. But the film’s reverence for the source material that inspired it—in this case Bruce Lee movies—is really what saves it in the end.

There are also some neat cameos I didn’t notice the first time around, including William H. Macy as Laura’s stage manager, and Keisha Knight-Pulliam (The Cosby Show) as Leroy’s little sister. And you couldn’t do a martial arts movie in the 80’s without Ernie Reyes, Jr. And did I mention it features the music of El Debarge?

Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon has charm, music, humor, and some great fight scenes. I give this one two fists way up. Now kiss my Converse!