|Too much research?|
It's interesting the reaction you get from other writers when you tell them what genre you write. So many times, their faces light up and they always say something along the lines of, "How fascinating!" or "I've always wanted to do that, but I just don't think I'd be any good at it. There's too much work involved." The simple truth is that anybody can take up writing Historical Fiction, you just have to be patient and take it one step at a time.
Some writers say that you should research as you write, so you're not wasting needless hours pouring over other manuscripts when you should be writing your own. I agree, but I also think that history is a little bit trickier than that. To even begin writing in a time period from long ago, you need to do some groundwork first. Just throwing a story on the page and being ignorant of the history behind it makes for a long road of revisions in the months/years to follow. When it comes to jumping into the world of researching history there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
1) Have a definite time period. Don't say to yourself, "I want to write a story about the American Civil War." Do you realize how involved the history of the American Civil War really is? That's way too much area to cover, unless you have a magnificent idea in mind and you are a genius writer (aren't we all?). You must be specific about where your characters will be and when. Otherwise, you'll find yourself researching needless information, frustrating you to tears, thus causing you to stop before you've even started. Ex: In my three novels, the first takes place between the years 1850-1851. I chose these years because the Fugitive Slave Law was enacted in the States in 1850. In my second novel, I chose the years 1929-1930, because of the Stock Market Crash. My third takes place at Los Alamos during the last two years they were building the first nuclear bomb. The key here is to not extend your research beyond what you'll actually need or use.
2) Choose a real incident or events around which to center your story. Ex: Book #1 -- the Fugitive Slave Law and the Christiana Incident. Book #2 -- the Stock Market Crash and the Ku Klux Klan movement. Book #3 -- the building of the atomic bomb.
3) Don't litter your story with too many historical events. This creates non-fiction with little storyline worth following. Put your characters into the events, but don't make history the centerpiece of your novel. Your main protagonists must shine no matter what time period you dump them in.
4) Check and double check the historical information you've written into your story. Of course, it's fiction, but that doesn't mean that some music buff out there isn't going to notice that you used a jazz song that wasn't written until after 1929. You want to make sure you have all your facts straight.
5) Visit your setting, if you can. This one's optional, and the reason I say this is because early nineteenth century Virginia looks nothing like it does today. With some places, it's virtually impossible to recreate the historical setting in your mind, especially if it's nothing but congested interstates and sprawling cities. But, if your story takes place in a place where things haven't evolved much beyond what they looked like at the time (Ex: The Trinity Site in New Mexico where they detonated the bomb. Visitors are allowed only twice a year and they've kept the site as well-preserved as they possibly can. Very fascinating to see! On the flip side, almost none of the original buildings from the 1940s remain in Los Alamos today.) then by all means go check it out and get a feel for your character's movements in everyday life. If it's impossible to visit the original then look for something similar. It's just a good idea to be able to visualize where your story will take place.
6) And last but not least, read in your genre. This is the best way to see what's out there and to see who's publishing works similar to your own. If a time period (American Civil War, anyone?) seems completely flooded with novels, it might be best to look at another period and set your characters there. Just food for thought!
|Thin it out a little!|
As long as you keep writing while you're researching then you should come out all right. Just don't let your story wander away from you, or your characters for that matter. Keep plugging away at it!
Just a quick shout out the the following blog -- Rach Writes. Click on the link and read about the Writers' Platform-Building Crusade she's launched. Hey to all you Crusaders out there!!
Feel free to check out my book reviews at http://www.therandombookreview.blogspot.com.