I don’t know what got into me, but I signed up for National Novel Writing Month. I suppose it’s because everything is going so well right now (making good money, personal life stable, health good, weight down) and I’m up so early every morning anyway so I might as well (1.5 Xanax will keep me asleep till the shockingly late hour of 5 am, but otherwise 3:30 is about the latest I’m getting up). Certainly a month isn’t a huge commitment, either, so that helps.
Driving around talking to myself yesterday, as I like to do, I thought, now what on earth am I going to write? I sort of shrugged and said, oh something will come along – after all, when I used to get paid to do this, I could come up with a novel proposal in an afternoon, sell it, and deliver. I remember one of my mysteries taking me all of three months to write, and while NaNo is only for the month of November, it also plays to my weakness for writing short novels. So I sat down at Bibo café and made some notes, which soon turned into an outline for a whole new novel.
I took the tagline off the site today about “Orland Outland’s AI Novel,” as obviously that one’s not happening. It felt good – a fresh start always does. I still like the idea of blogging the whole process of writing a novel, although of course there’s only so much time in a day for a full time employee to pick and choose which sort of writing to do, and with only a month to write 50K words, the blog has to take a backseat. I think there’ll be a few times when I’m either ahead of schedule on the fiction or just not in the fiction frame of mind, at which time I’ll blog to keep the writing muscles working. The election horror being almost over helps – the rage and frustration I feel every other year, when the idiot census that is an election proves evolution wrong, is not good for my health.
So here’s what I went through yesterday in making my decision on what to write.
I had two choices – do something I had “on file” or write something new. The AI novel was out, clearly – too much emotional baggage. The “dark fantasy” novel was doable, but I couldn’t muster a lot of enthusiasm for it. I had an old outline for a Renaissance spy novel, which I may still do something with some day (esp. if I can finish this one and publish it; publishers love it when you have more of the same in the pipeline).
I thought about the favorite writers I’d put down when I filled out my profile (I’m KnifeMissile on NaNoWriMo, my little Culture tribute and a screen name I’ve wanted to use somewhere for a while). They were mostly SF or historical fiction or history, so I thought, hmm alternate history? Nah. So what could I write about that I could really care about, and that wouldn’t require tons and tons of research that I didn’t have time for, having decided to do this like three days before the starting gun?
And then he popped into my head. Yeah, the guy on the new banner, Bronzino’s Head of a Young Man. The guy I’ve already written and thought about since March, who’s clearly been percolating in my subconscious all this time.
The pictures gave me my story arc – who is this guy, and what changes between him and the artist between the time of the wild, sexy drawing, and the dull portrait? Nobody knows who the guy in the pictures is, making him a novelist’s dream date; nobody can write and say “I noticed that you failed to include the honorific by which Sr. Hottitini was addressed by the Florentine state during the period of which you write.”
NaNo expects 50K words, or about 175 pages by their count. So first I divided that up into nine chapters, or three acts, to get my structure.
Act 1 – Chapter 1, setup. Bronzino and the YM are introduced. Chapter 2, they meet. Chapter 3, by the end the drawing is complete.
Act 2 – Chapter 4, whatever relationship goes on between them (haven’t decided if this is sexual or not, though B clearly lusts for the man in the drawing). Chapter 5, a crisis of some kind. Chapter 6, the painting is complete.
Act 3 – At this point, I don’t know how the novel will resolve, but there’s no point worrying about that, in my experience – when you write good characters, they take on wills of their own and direct the plot in ways you can’t have imagined when they were just concepts. On the sketchiest level, I see chapters 7 and 8 as being from the POV of the young man and Bronzino, respectively. Dashing through the Wikipedia entry on my phone in the café, I saw that most of B’s major works are from after the time of the pictures in question here, so I can speculate freely about how his experience with the young man shaped them. B was also a poet so I need to read some of that poetry (which I will freely cadge from the translator, since copyright isn’t an issue for this novel until if and when it became published for money).
So I ordered the catalog from the Met show from Amazon yesterday, and I’m off to the UNR library today to look at some other books on B. Clearly the novel will be thin on the ground in the research department, but the point at this time is to get the story done and fill in the décor later.