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Getting Started

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Lauryn
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Getting Started

Post by Lauryn » Sun April 19th, 2009, 6:47 pm

I'm a new arrival here, and may be "with book," so to speak. I've just begun reading up on my subject, and scrabbling for further references, but haven't written a word yet.

I'm curious about how other writers go about gestating / birthing a book, especially HF, where you are bringing actual events to life, and not creating them from whole cloth.

Do you do the majority of your research before writing your text? Do you write a detailed precis of events in order to develop an outline for your story? Do you just start writing, and do the research as the need arises? Do you get to know your characters really well beforehand, or let them introduce themselves to you as you go? Do you have another way of organizing your approach that I haven't hit on here?

Diana Gabaldon has stated that she writes scenes as they occur to her, and then puts them in some coherent order during revision (Stephenie Meyer apparently does this too). Philippa Gregory has said that she does timelines and charts to track her research, and then puts it all away while she writes the first draft of the book, and her revision process then corrects the writing with the collected research.

I suspect the individual writing process has to develop over time, but I'm curious - what do you do to get started? (And thank you for sharing - the insight will be deeply appreciated.)
Even the mighty oak was once just a nut that held its ground.

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Divia
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Post by Divia » Sun April 19th, 2009, 8:16 pm

I write down scenes that are dying to get out. If I realize I need more research then I will do it later. Sometimes the scene changes, sometimes it doesnt.

I think its all personal choice.

Though I will say I dont think anyone can ever get enough research, so your research may never be complete before you write your novel. Does that make sense? You should know a little about your time period though. Going in blindly might not be the best thing to do.
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boswellbaxter
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Post by boswellbaxter » Sun April 19th, 2009, 8:30 pm

I do a lot of research before starting a novel, and assemble my main sources at the outset, but I continue doing research all through the writing process. I also keep an eye out for new sources that might appear while I'm writing, so that I can consult them and make any necessary alterations.
Susan Higginbotham
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Lauryn
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Post by Lauryn » Sun April 19th, 2009, 9:43 pm

[quote=""Divia""]Though I will say I dont think anyone can ever get enough research, so your research may never be complete before you write your novel. Does that make sense? You should know a little about your time period though. Going in blindly might not be the best thing to do.[/quote]

I think I see both sides of what you say: I do need a decent grounding before starting to write, but if I keep revising until the manuscript is 100% historically accurate, I will be locked away raving mad and my MS will never see the light of day.

Essentially, what I am hoping to get out of this thread is a rough road map to getting the work done - both research and writing. Knowing what works for other people will hopefully help me figure out what will work best for me.
Even the mighty oak was once just a nut that held its ground.

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Sun April 19th, 2009, 10:38 pm

It depends on the story. If I were using real historical figures I would do a lot more research in advance.

My current trilogy actually started with a movie idea and developing an elaborate backstory for it. It's not all that detail oriented, but I make a point of checking little things I'm not sure of. I also have basic outlines of major story developments for them.

I'm always looking into history anyway and some things just get files away for future use. When my kids are older I intend to do a LOT more research. I may even have to visit Europe. Poor me. :D
Last edited by LoveHistory on Sun April 19th, 2009, 10:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Anna Elliott
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Post by Anna Elliott » Sun April 19th, 2009, 10:52 pm

I do the majority of broad background research while I'm outlining a book, letting the sense I'm getting of the history shape the story. Usually the characters come to life in my head during the research process, too; as I know more about the time and place and events that would have shaped people's lives I can imagine the kinds of people who might have lived in the world I'm researching.

I do research all during the writing process, too, but it tends to be a bit more specific--looking up a certain fact or detail that's come up in the story.

Best of luck! I agree with everyone who's said not to get so bogged down in research that you never start writing. When the story is to the point where it's at your fingertips, begging to be told, go for it!

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Divia
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Post by Divia » Sun April 19th, 2009, 11:17 pm

Lauryn, what time period are you thinking about writing in?
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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Sun April 19th, 2009, 11:59 pm

I research the broad brush strokes of my story - the need to know before hand. I then write a detailed synopsis and the first three chapters and polish them until they glisten - mainly because I've to present them at an early stage to my agent and editor for approval. Then I begin writing the first draft and I don't look back. While editing I am researching in more depth and it is multi-disciplinary. Primary source, secondary source, location visits, re-enactment and experimental archaeology (vital for me) plus my psychic research. Also research not just on my chosen subject but all around the general area too. For e.g. I'm just reading up on coopering and how barrels were made in my chosen period at the moment. It might not go into the novel but it will inform my background knowledge. I immerse myself and get as far into the mindset of my characters as I can. But it's all done alongside the writing. I edit numerous times and in different mediums rather than just on the PC. I will edit around 4 times on the PC, do at least one hard copy edit and then read the entire thing aloud x 2 to get a feel for the flow.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon April 20th, 2009, 1:59 am

I'm very demanding on period accuracy and geographical accuracy in what I read: mindset, mannerisms, morals, customs, class prejudices, languages, literacy levels, diseases, folk religion, high religion, political pressures from neighboring countries, money, art, textiles, architecture, commerce, products, animal husbandry, crops, seasons, food, everything. So when I write, I write for a reader like me--but with a much shorter attention span.

This limitation means I write one period, and one only, the same period that I re-enact and speak on: the renaissance. But I have enjoyed every step of the way -- my research has become my recreation!

Once you have immersed yourself in a period and a place, you will find inspiration springing to mind from that source. Not to mention all the fantastic documentation now available online through sites like the Gutenberg project, stuff that used to be available only to people who had the time and money to travel and root through dusty research libraries.

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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Mon April 20th, 2009, 10:01 am

[
QUOTE=MLE;25842]

This limitation means I write one period, and one only, the same period that I re-enact and speak on: the renaissance. But I have enjoyed every step of the way -- my research has become my recreation!
Absolutely MLE. I've been researching my part of the Middle Ages for 35 years now - and the more I do, I realise how much I still have to learn! But it does become a very enjoyable obsession. The research should be enjoyable, as should the writing.
I know I'd have a heck of a job getting up to speed if I chose to write say a Regency. Pulling in all the background material that won't necessarily appear in the novel but will give the bedrock of veracity would be a long haul! To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, it's knowing not just the magic but the 'deep magic.'
Once you have immersed yourself in a period and a place, you will find inspiration springing to mind from that source. Not to mention all the fantastic documentation now available online through sites like the Gutenberg project, stuff that used to be available only to people who had the time and money to travel and root through dusty research libraries.
I've found some fabulous material online of late - including all the pipe rolls for the reign of Henry II - you'd think I'd won the lottery :D But yes, you are so right, inspiration does indeed spring to mind from immersing yourself in your given period.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

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