Monday, August 21, 2006

The Origin of a Novel

I published my first novel—Harald, from Baen Books—a few months ago. It occurred to me that some of you might be interested in how it came to be written.

It started, oddly enough, as an insomnia cure. I found that when I had trouble falling asleep, daydreaming didn't work—because I am the hero of my own daydreams, and so too closely involved with them. It occurred to me that if instead I plotted out a novel, I would have sufficient distance from my characters to be able to drift off.

It worked. Over a period of many months I plotted out parts of several novels and, eventually, all of one. House rules at the time required me, when putting one of our children to bed, to make up and tell three stories. I mentioned to my daughter that I had written a novel in my head and she suggested I tell her that instead.

The problem with telling my daughter stories is that she remembers them better than I do. The result in the past, when I was doing a long series of linked fantasy stories, was that just when I thought I had the characters in an almost impossible situation she would point out that the magic item they obtained three months earlier was precisely the thing to get them out of it. So this time, every evening after putting her to bed, I wrote an outline of what I had told her. As I got near the end I started thinking seriously of turning it into a novel. I wrote the final scene, liked it, and went back and wrote the whole first draft in a month or two. It was so much fun that, during that time, I played almost no computer games.


Anonymous said...

It may be a silly question, but I don't understand how can you write novel(s), teach economics and law in the university while your background is in Physics and Chemistry?

It would be interesting if you can shed some light on it.

Many thanks!

Anonymous said...

And also some light on similarites and differences between your legendary dad, Prof Milton Friedman, and you?

I'm just very curious and am certain many others would be too.


Anonymous said...

The main difference between D. Friedman and his dad is that his dad was a shill for the statist establishment, but D. Friedman is a bona fide anarchist-libertarian. His son Patri favors some kind of floating ocean anarchy. Any guesses as to what Patri's children will be like?

Anonymous said...

You know, that sounds a little similar to how Tolkien wrote The Hobbit (without the insomnia part).

Anonymous said...

Interesting story. It does lend itself to some cruel jokes, though: "Harald: it put its own author to sleep!" :)

Did you ever pick an imperial timekeeping mechanism for the sequel?

Jonathan said...

Thanks for sharing.

You must have had a really serious insomnia problem if you could write a novel while trying to get to sleep.

If you've fixed it now, we could have a long wait for the next novel.

"Once upon a t... zzzz...."

John T. Kennedy said...


"It started, oddly enough, as an insomnia cure."

Talk about a straight line...

Mike Lorrey said...

Has your daughter written a review of the oral version of the story yet?

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red said...
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