As we wind down the 3rd Annual WFMAD Challenge, I figured I should probably finish answering some of the questions you guys have asked this month.
Without further delay…
How do you find dependable research for your historical novels?
I find out which academics have done the most current research, I read their books, and use their bibliographies to get me started on the path to primary sources. I also look to see if there are other academics who disagree with the first writer’s approach. There are as many interpretations, it seems, as professors. But finding the primary sources and reading and interviewing enough to understand the context and significance of the primary sources is the most important thing.
When the characters demand that you write on a topic that you’re not comfortable with, how do you find the courage to not stifle them? In this case, it is important to the story, but it makes me squirm. Furthermore, how do you find the courage to show it to others, let alone ponder the possibility of publishing it once it’s polished?
You have total control over this. It comes down to this – which idea makes you more uncomfortable: the notion of not telling the story or the idea of telling the story and getting distressing feedback? If you are spending a lot of time worrying about feedback, I don’t think you’ll do a great job with the writing. Work on a different project until you are feeling stronger.
I hate my first 10 pages! I’ve rewritten them a few times, knowing that they’re aren’t working. The last time, I liked what I did (and my friends @ the LA Schmooze did, too) but my critique buddy, who’s read the other 100+ pages of the novel, passionately believed the new opening didn’t live up to the rest of the novel.
I left it alone for awhile, concentrating on later scenes in the book, but the revisited the opening because I thought I’d enter it in the Ventura/Santa Barbara Writer’s Day contest in October. And now…I hate it. I absolutely see what my critique buddy was talking about before. Problem is – I have NO idea how to fix it. Any suggestions?
Have you written all the way to the end of the book? If you haven’t, stop fussing with the beginning and finish it. There’s a good chance that what happens at the end will let you know how the book should open.
In my experience, trouble with opening chapters usually means they can be cut. What adjustments do you have to make to the first third of the book if you lose those ten pages completely?
Ready…. “Write only what you want to write. Please yourself. YOU are the genius, they’re not. Especially don’t listen to people (such as publishers) who think that you need to write what readers say they want. Readers don’t always know what they want. I don’t know what I want to read until I go into a bookshop and look around at the books other people have written, and the books I enjoy reading most are books I would never in a million years have thought of myself. So the only thing you need to do is forget about pleasing other people, and aim to please yourself alone.” Philip Pullman
Set… how many hours can you stay away from the Internet today?
Characters are put in motion by outside events. They also determine their path through a story by their internal and external reactions to outside events.
If you are stuck at the “what happens next” stage of writing, this one is for you:
1. Brainstorm twenty (yes, I said twenty, veinte, vingt, ishirini) external things that could happen to the character. F. Ex, in SPEAK, Melinda pulls the assignment of “tree” in art class. In WINTERGIRLS, Elijah takes Lia to the diner after the wake. Complications ensue.
2. Pick the five most intriguing ideas.
3. Write your character’s reaction (internal and external) to the outside events. HINT: if your character does not have a strong feeling, this is probably going to be a boring scene. Does matter what kind of emotion, it just have to be at least a little intense.