It’s satisfying when you get hold of “that book” you’ve been trying to find when it doesn’t exist as an e-book and, worst of all, is long out of print. It arrived yesterday – and a week earlier than I’d expected it to turn up, a copy that had been termed “used,” but is actually like new. I wanted one for research for the new novel and I’d found it (appropriately) over in France:
One historical couple will form the basis for the tale that will be set in the 1780s-90s. Fortunately, I already know the period fairly well. The big problem I haven’t nearly fully resolved yet are the contours of the novel – such as how much to cover; which other real-life characters will appear; who I am going to invent as needed, or fictionalize for story flow sake; what other fiction will be part of it; what will form the core of the action; and most importantly how to stay “true” to the historical record, but yet make it a good “fictional-style” read.
In doing research like this it’s also fascinating to stumble on so much that you’d missed below the historical radar and never seen before. The danger in that is you find yourself sidetracked. You may get caught up reading eye-catching and even “sexy” asides that may not necessarily be important for the novel. (“Oh, no, he died? That’s terrible!”)
Or, then again, maybe some of those asides will prove useful? Because at this point, who really knows? I have to admit, though, that I’m still up and down about this whole project. A couple of times reading I’ve sat with my head in my hands thinking, “Oh, God, this isn’t going to work. I’m biting off more than I can chew.”
However, that blog post the other day in which I “wrote to” the likely main character and imitated the flowery language of that era in doing so, and the positive reaction to it, encouraged me. That “Letter to 230 Years Ago” shot up within hours to become my most “liked” post ever. I NEVER anticipated that when writing it:
I write to you in the 18th century thinking I might dispatch this to you in Nantes post restrante, but we don’t do that commonly in our time & consigning it to the English mail is not what I wished to do either not because it will be opened and read by some scoundrel as in your time but because now the price of a letter has become so great as to cause one to need to secure a bank loan first & you are long dead anyway….
That’s some evidence, I suppose, that you can never 100 percent anticipate WHAT readers will “like.” However, I don’t think I could write an entire novel in that style; that would be madness – and might well be laughable. But increasingly I am working toward a structure of some kind.
After three books I’ve learned: “preparation” is always the key. It you get that right, the actual writing of any tale becomes far easier.
Happy Tuesday, wherever you are in the world. 🙂