Writing today, then gardening

Hello all!
Today I am deep in the part of a writing project I call “Hold on and just keep going.” It’s the part where all my ideas and characters try to pull me off task, onto tangents and limbs that my story cannot support, a deep dark hole of temptations that I must resist. I want to have this particular project done for my writers retreat in early June, so time is of the essence.
To help with attaining this goal, I am really trying to stick to an outline for the first time ever.
I will let you know how it goes.
Later, I will do a bit of gardeniing whilst my story is marinating in the back of my brain.
Have a lovely day in your part of the world, and if you have any insights to share on getting through the rough draft, share them int the comments.
Until next time-
Lillian

What do you read while writing?

Gentle readers, I am working on not one, not two, but three separate projects at this time! While this is an amazing feat of organization and creativity, at times I need a palate cleanser.

Here is what I am reading right now…

Radiance, by Catherynne Valente. It’s Gilded Age Hollywood meets Greek tragedy meets space travel and the theory of relativity. A creative delight.

The Gentleman, by Forrest Leo. A dramatic VIctorian poet discovers he is broke, marries for money and then sells his wife to the Devil, thus realizing he needs to rescue her. Hilarity ensues.  Its roots are as a play in London, which is evident by the strong dialogue and fast pace.

Both are fascinatingly creative which always keeps my creative side humming and juiced.

Please share what you are reading in the comments!

Until next time,

Lillian

Researching historical facts

Gentle reader, if you have read my novel Prodigal Spell, you know I write historical fantasy. This post is directed mostly to fledgling writers out there, and it is a warning. Ignore historical accuracy at your own peril. Research is necessary, but is its own cruel challenge.

My novel is set in 1790s London and the Caribbean. It would be ludicrous to NOT have slavery present- my heroine is a landowner. I researched the slave trade, transport routes, auction sites, the whole sordid mess because I wanted as much historical accuracy as my fantasy novel could support. My London scenes were researched as thouroughly- I actually cut two scenes set in the British Museum because I could not verify if the  real- world exhibits I included in my fictional world were on display at the time. Unable to crystallize those facts, the scenes were removed in the final edits.

Readers who digest historical works want accuracy. If I pick up a Cold War spy novel, it better have actual adversaries in the world-building. If there is a Colonial work about witch trials in the American colonies, I subconsciously look for a reference to the Salem Witch trials. It matters, and how you incorporate it into your stories is where to be clever.

Here is where historical accuracy can become a whirlpool to the center of the Earth; an author can spend so much time researching, agonizing over the tiniest details, that the writing lays discarded. I heard that siren call myself and lost a good three months of productivity. I am a slow writer, so three months of lost words is like three novels worth of time for others:)f

Too little facts, and the book floats in its own sphere, not quite here and not grounded. The other end of the spectrum is just as faulty- too much real-world and the book is a history book disguised as a work of fiction. Few authors can pull this off well.

My process is thusly- first, I research the general time period and “all the things I think I know” and keep these web clippings in one place. I use OneNote and Evernote for this, but as I move to Scrivener, it may make sense to have this in the WIP binder. Next, I outline the work. My outlines are not as robust as some and I add as I write, but it is a good way to know where my thoughts land. Lastly, I keep a running list of things I ponder as I outline or write, and research JUST THOSE THINGS as I am writing. Too much free-form reading while creating and I am lost. Once my rough draft is complete, I let it marinate for several days before starting the editing process. As I edit, again I track down details and incorporate them into the story, so that I feel comfortable by the end of the first edits that I have the historical details correctly reflected in the work. None of this is foolproof, and every time I have a beta reader for my work there is always a detail that needs fleshing out, but they are few. This process works for me to balance the writing and researching- your mileage may vary.

Don’t let the idea of researching a topic deter you from writing a novel. Have a plan, make a plan, and stick to it. That is the best writing advice for any stage of writing. 

I hope this helps any newbies out there!

A Bientôt, 

Lillian

A girl walks into a bookstore

I had the opportunity to travel for a week in March, and as always, new books to read are as important as packing sunscreen. I have a firm conviction that reading a book on the beach should really be reading a book on a beach, and I rely on e-readers only as a last resort.
So off I go to the local bookstore, a list of novels in hand (thank you, Janet Walden-West and Laura Taylor) and scour the shelves to find the recommended reads.
NONE OF THEM WERE IN STOCK.
Now, I am willing to grant that perhaps some were older and a long-shot at finding in the bookstore, but of the ELEVEN books on my list I found ZERO.
So I head to the friendly customer service counter – you know where this is headed- and NOPE. None in the backroom. None expected in the next shipment later that week. None at the other branch in town.
I head off to my friendly neighborhood independent bookstore- and again, no luck. At least the bookstore had several other books that looked interesting, and scored a sale from me.
When the publishing industry wrings its hands and wonders why sales are down, why the rise of Amazon and independent authors… DON’T MAKE IT SO HARD TO FIND A DECENT BOOK TO READ. My local box bookstore I swear has the SAME books on its major displays as the previous 3 months. An author I particularly like, Olen Steinhauer, a New York Times Bestselling thriller author with a newish book out had NO books on the shelves to purchase. I guess he can’t compete with the celebrity biographies stealing all the shelf space.
Please, if you want me to read more books, then publish more variety. I can get more offerings in one tiny search on Amazon that in spending 2 hours searching in vain.
A bientot,
Lillian

Keeping it real

Gentle reader, March is the cruelest month. For some, it is the rush of their Spring break. For others, it is the crashing tsunami of academic work barreling towards the exam shoreline. For me, it is the clawing terror that YET AGAIN I have allowed THREE MONTHS of writing time to slip away beneath my fingers in the post-Holiday season apocalyptic landscape. Creativity never flourishes for me in the taffy sweet clutch of opposing forces pulling me in a variety of directions.

This year, I am trying something new. In years past, I waited until I magically had free time to write my little stories. This never led to productive word counts, and the words I did write were crap. This spring, I want to desperately try to stick to a modest writing schedule that allows some time for creativity, but not at the expense of everything else. you cannot wait for your Muse to appear, and you cannot wait for time to free itself for your writing.

To that end, I encourage every writer to plot out their time, and schedule writing like any other appointment. If sticking to a strict schedule is not your thing, then promise yourself protected writing time each week. Whatever scheme works for you, decide on a plan and stick to it.

A bientot-

Lillian