NaNoWriMo and the legend of Spangler’s Spring

Participant-2014-Square-ButtonI’m posting another NaNoWriMo update.

Back in September when I decided to try NaNoWriMo (the National Novel Writing Month project where, to win, you have to write 50,000 words in your novel in the 30 days of November) I was thinking it would be great fun to attend some of the local events, maybe communicate with some other writers in the forums at the NaNoWriMo website and try to write a new novel.

But, as I reported earlier this week, November just wasn’t my month. My paying job seriously got in the way of my non-paying writing job, and by November 25, I’d only written about 16,000 words in my novel.

I’ve been seriously busy, and the days when I did have time to write there was not much writing going on.

But on Monday, Nov. 25, with 16,000 or so words written I looked at the rest of the month and thought, “Maybe I can still do this.”

I have not closed myself up in a closet with a laptop. Yesterday I spent the entire day with friends and family and enjoyed the day feasting and playing front-yard football with the boys (and girls), and last night when everyone else went to bed I started writing. I’ve spent most of my writing time with my family – I on my laptop, they huddled around the fireplace or the television or whatever they were huddled around.

But four days later, I’ve topped 30,000 words. As of the close of writing Thanksgiving Day, I was at 30,694 words, and I’m looking at a weekend where I should have plenty of time to write.

I don’t know that I can get 20,000 words in three days (this week I did 14,000 words in four days), but I am still trying.

I don’t think the writing is poor, either. I admitted to Jean last night that I wasn’t sure about a particular scene I was writing and whether or not it would make it to the final draft of the book, but I woke up this morning pretty pleased with that scene.

In some of my author talks, I’ve discussed how the historical record often lends itself really well to my wandering character, and that scene I wrote last night is sort of an indication of that.

In the scene, Speed was fleeing Gettysburg in the night after the second day of battle. For the story, I needed him to wander through the ranks of the Yankee army on Culp’s Hill and then somehow pass over into the Confederate lines without anyone noticing him or shooting him.

Spangler's Spring as it did not appear during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Spangler’s Spring as it did not appear during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Obviously, even at night, crossing through the no-man’s-land between two entrenched enemies is no easy feat, even for a man as adept at getting away from stuff as our reluctant hero Jackson Speed.

Stuck for a moment in trying to figure out how Speed would move from one army to the next, I picked up my handy-dandy research material and found a passage in Glenn Tucker’s book about how in a meadow near Culp’s Hill on the night after the second day of battle, the Federals and Confederates filled their canteens at Spangler’s Spring, and the water carriers for both armies stood there together, chatting with each other, sharing gossip and filling their canteens.

It created the ideal opportunity for Speed to move from one army to the next unnoticed. Thanks historical record!

Possibly, probably, the legend of Spangler’s Spring isn’t true. We do know for a fact that there was fighting during the night around Spangler’s Spring, and it is probable that the legend of the local truce allowing both Union and Confederate troops to fill their canteens from the spring was a story made up entirely for the purpose of promoting reconciliation between North and South in the years following the war.

That said, the legend of the local truce at Spangler’s Spring is not without precedent. Frequently in Civil War battles the soldiers of either side met and talked in lulls between the fighting, though in most of the accounts I can find they did not mingle at close range and merely called out taunts at each other. But because the legend fits well with my fiction, I don’t mind incorporating it.

If you want to read more about Spangler’s Spring, I’ll point you to this blog which I found particularly interesting. It’s not overly supportive of the notion that Speed was able to mingle with both Yankee and Confederate soldiers who chatted amicably while filling their canteens, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

At any rate, I’m still writing, still hoping that I can finish out NaNoWriMo. If I win it this year, I think next year I’ll sign up and just go to local events and chat with other writers in the forums, because I feel like I’ve missed a lot of the experience by only focusing on the goal.

But if you’re a fan of Jackson Speed and eager for the next book, you can consider NaNoWriMo a success even if I don’t hit my 50,000 words. The truth is, I’d been stalled for a long time in my writing of Jackson Speed at the High Tide, and at the pace I was going I was not finishing the book before the first of next year. With NaNoWriMo motivating me, I now expect to finish writing the book within the next two weeks (three days if I can!) and then I’ll start on editing and rewriting, and surely I’ll be able to hit my goal of publishing Jackson Speed at the High Tide next spring.

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