Asperger teen churns out tales of derring-do

CORVALLIS — Nik Geier's index fingers flew across the keyboard of his Hewlett-Packard netbook on a recent Thursday morning. In a matter of minutes, he'd added another page to his second novel — a richly plotted fantasy involving knights, derring-do and sophisticated characterization.

He's been writing on his latest project for only a week; the story pours from him easily and continuously. So far, he's written more than 5,000 words.

"The hardest thing about writing novels is battling procrastination," Geier said. "It can be tough to get yourself to work on it."

Those sound like the words of an experienced writer, but Geier is 14 years old. The fledgling writer is an eighth-grader at Cheldelin Middle School. And he has Asperger syndrome, a high-functioning kind of autism. Those who are diagnosed with Asperger syndrome may have a hard time interacting socially; they might repeat a behavior.

Geier seems shy at first, but as soon as he begins to discuss writing, he becomes animated, explaining how he gives form and life to the characters and plots.

Geier completed his first novel, "Ancient Grudges," in November while participating in the National Novel Writing Month event. The goal of the annual creative writing event is to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in a month, and he did.

Like most first novels, it ended up a little long — 65,000 words. The novel is about a warrior and his journey to locate an enemy camp.

The plot of his new, as-yet-untitled project revolves around a lone hero in a post-apocalyptic world, fighting alien invaders. Treachery is a common theme in both novels.

Geier may seem like a novel prodigy (although he isn't yet published), but he began writing almost as soon as he learned the alphabet. His years and experience may be few, but his technique already reflects sophistication. For instance, he creates outlines for stories first. Then, his characters and plots seem to take shape in his mind and emerge, fully considered, on his screen.

"There's trillions of possibilities for stories out there," Geier said. "Concepts nobody has thought about or heard of. It's the originality that I like so much."

Stefni Stephens, the Learning Education in Alternative Places teacher at Cheldelin, said Geier spent about three hours every day working on the novel at school in November.

"He set a goal and he reached it," said Stephens, "He's a good writer, so this was a good outlet for one of his strengths. When he's writing, he's in his own world."

Geier said he hopes to pursue novel writing as a career. He said he enjoys it, even when he's suffering from writer's block. When that happens, he simply starts working on subplots, which he said helps bring him back into focus.

And his advice for aspiring novelists?

"Don't try to edit before you're done with your novel. It's best to just get everything out and then go back and edit. Because editing takes a long time."

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