NaNoFeed: not an A-plus student

(Dateline: Sunday 4 November; posted now, to avoid colliding with Six Sentence Sunday.)

So now, at a write-in, I’m banging out prose, after consulting sources. Every NaNo novel is different, and I’m realizing that this one is being written very much like a term paper on the fly. The original plan of writing it in four days in order to move on to other projects is plainly untenable. Even with a full plot outline (tr: elaborate prompt) and character interviews, I usually have no more than a day or two of look-ahead, in the sense of having gotten inside the scene well enough to write the room, send the characters from point A to point B of a scene. Because really, in the final analysis, it’s a matter of improv.

This year I am not ahead by the 10,000 words that usually mark my day one. My NaNo buddies at the Jump-Start Weekend are way ahead, and I’m having to remind myself that this one is going to be spread out across thirty days in earnest. Usually I manage 3,000 words a day on a NaNo project; this one is going to be more like the canonical 1,667 (1700-1800) words a day, to leave room for the projects I’m balancing alongside.

And it’s nearly impossible to work at home. I’m knocking out prose now that I’m at a write-in where I’ve set up strict moderation: writing bouts of 45 minutes’ duration, interspersed with 15-minute breaks. The room’s full to capacity, because there are apparently people in the same bucket that I am, who want more structure than is provided by the typical free-form write-in.

Every NaNo is different, and this year I’m  not the A-plus student. More like the slouch who has too much going on in Real Life So-Called. If life or fate can nail me in place, then I can get work done. I had my headphones and keyboard with me yesterday in the ER, because really compartmentalization is the secret. If I concentrate on the task at hand, I don’t think about what’s really worrying me and what is out of my hands.

And it plays into the story as well. What did 22-year-old Cleopatra do during the Alexandrian Wars (Caesar’s account of which I am reading in between times here)? My conjecture: distracted herself with treatises on natural history and astronomy. Not to mention ‘natural magic,’ which comprised much of the matter of modern optics, electromagnetism, and pneumatics. I regret to learn that Heron of Alexandria lived after her time, but he had predecessors, and I’m busy looking up or making up lost books on the index of the famous Library of Alexandria. Shortly I’m to take off into the realm of alternate history and rollicking techno-adventure, but just now I’m slogging through the particulars of the historical record.

And I just wrote a bantering exchange between Caesar and Cleopatra, on the subject of calendar reform. Inspiration, sidelong, from another pair known for their unconventional and voracious love lives: when Casanova and Catherine the Great  conversed, it was on this very subject.

(It’s in his memoirs. Truth continues to be a great deal odder than fiction, all round. And Casanova ended his days as a librarian; make of that what you will.)

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