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Monday, November 5, 2007

Focus & Research

Holy, moley! I feel like I've had a big weight lifted off me. I finally re-completed the outline for my current wip (to my satisfaction). It was really bugging me. I had the first seven chapters going well, and had a fair idea how it was going to end, but it was starting to unravel. Not good. I think the worst thing a writer can do is lose her focus. If you can't steer the reader confidently through your story, the reader loses faith in you...and eventually puts the book down.

As a reader I want to believe the author knows what he's doing. Don't dazzle me with long winded narrative and fluffy clouds. Instead, show me there's a purpose to your story.


I've mentioned before that I am a research whore. It's a terrible affliction and easily transmitted through the ether.

One reason my current wip is taking longer is because it's been necessary to do more research than usual. I have doomed myself by writing a paranormal historical. What was I thinking?

My friend, Mike has been helping me with some of the historical details. I've discovered that my 16th century European history is sorely lacking. Mike has been good enough to give me some of the more subtle details of that particular era, things my normal American education didn't cover.

Herein lies the great disappointment with research. I've acquired all this neat information about the era, knowing full well only a smidgen of it will appear within the narrative.

Nonetheless, understanding the background is essential to writing with confidence, even if the bulk of that information remains in your mental warehouse. Sadly, my mental warehouse requires that I archive this information in computer files. My warehouse doors are hanging by one hinge and all the windows have had rocks thrown through them. In other words, I can't remember squat.

In my last novel, I had a brief mention of ale and asked one of my other CPs for confirmation that the small reference was correct. I knew I was asking the right person because she had done a TON of research on the subject. I was thrilled for the chance to pick her brain.

Never underestimate your network of peers. They can be a treasure trove of information who can also supply you with beaucoup resources.

Since my wip involves pirates, (argh!) I also bought a YA picture book on the buccaneers called appropriately, "Pirates". YA books are great for research because they assume you don't know anything about the subject and spoon feed you a lot of complex information in easy to digest bites. This book also has a short but neat glossary in the back, a list of other resources, and beautiful illustrations. I liked it for the art alone. (nice job!)

Another aspect of research, particularly when you're writing fantasy is knowing when to stray from accepted standards.

For example, the paranormal element in this book is the werewolf. I've read a smattering of different werewolf stories and studied the various legends. While I'll be using some elements recognizable in werewolf lore, I will definitely create new aspects to their mythos as well. If I've done my homework well, I think this will produce a rich tapestry for the background of this world.

That's the plan, anyway.