Sunday, November 15, 2009

The real secret to writing--BIC

I discovered that I'm leaving the subject of historical novels. I love them. I write them. I have a strong opinion opinion about them and that is this:

The should be about history and not fantasy. If you want to write a fantasy, I think that's what you should do. There are plenty of blank spots in history. Most of history is either a blank spot or debatable. Make up stuff for that, but don't change the real history. That's my opinion. If you disagree, that's your right but please don't ask me to read your novel.

Ok. So about writing. I've been thinking about what we have to do be writers. The hardest part for many of us is the writing part. But if you're going to be a writer you have to write. And for writing, doing research, making up outlines, talking about writing, and thinking about writing doesn't count. Neither does posting on blogs. *rolls eyes*

Only writing counts.

I'll tell you what works for me to get those words down. Maybe it will work for you too. I think it should work for everyone. I write on my computer. The first thing I do is disconnect the internet. (Aha! Back foul procrastination!)

Then I write for two hours. But sometimes nothing comes and I stare at the screen. So I sit there for two hours. Sometimes to keep from going crazy and to try to prod things along, I type my name... over and over. And eventually, knowing I'm not going to give up, my mind decides that it might as well give me some words to put on the paper.

Is it painful? Well, not most of the time. Usually I write 2000 words during that time.

Sometimes, when the words aren't flowing, yes. It is. But it gets novels written for me... And even an occasional short story which as far as I'm concerned is much harder.

Next time, I'll talk about some of the other daunting tasks we face as writers.


Kat Duncombe said...

lol maybe I should shut my internet off when I log on... I'd probably get more done. For example, I'm supposed to be working on an essay right now. Hmmm...

Alianore said...

Hi Jeanne,
Sorry to be completely off-topic with this comment, but just wanted to respond to your question on my blog post, to make sure you see it!

Isabel Macduff is mentioned on 28 April 1313, when she was delivered to the custody of Henry, Lord Beaumont (her late husband's nephew by marriage): "To Edmund de Hastinges, keeper of the town of Berwick-on-Tweed and constable of the castle of the same. Order to deliver Isabella, late the wife of John, earl of Boghan [Buchan], to Henry de Bello Monte [Beaumont] or Willam de Felyng, his attorney, to be guarded by him as the king has enjoined him." (Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-1313, p. 529; Foedera, Conventiones, Litterae et Cujuscunque Acta Publica, vol II, i, p. 209)

Mary Bruce was released from Roxburgh Castle on 30 March 1310 (order to Henry Beaumont, constable of the castle, in Cal Close Rolls 1307-1313, p. 203 and Foedera, p. 105)

I can't find any references to Isabel after that date - she's not mentioned among the Scottish prisoners released after Bannockburn - and I suspect she didn't long survive that hideous imprisonment.

Jeanne Tomlin said...

No problem at all being off topic, in fact it brings up an interesting point. I had thought she probably died earlier than that considering the conditions of her imprisonment.

I'm aware that she was quite conspicuously missing from the prisoners who were exchanged after Bannockburn. I hadn't found that and it's very helpful to have it. Now I have to decide whether I should fudge the date of her death in a novel.

Mary Bruce, of course, was one of those in the exchange of prisoners as were the other Bruce women who were held prisoner for so many years.

Thanks so much for the information.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info about making up stuff for the blank spots in history. It helps if I ever want to write a historical novel.

Fred Douglass said...

As I read your comment about James Douglas killing Isabel at her request, I was drawn back to your caveat (above) about not "creating history". James Douglas did not ever get blamed for killing his lover. On another writerly point, I always taught my students that repeating a word or phrase again and again---especially on the same page was a no-no. I wonder how James could "chew his lip" again and again (and again) without removing it! Lastly, nobody but nobody with any familiarity with knives, swords, etc. tests the keeness of the blade by running his thumb ALONG the edge. You run your thumb ACROSS it, and see if the blade picks up the print pattern. Try it. My ancient ancestors were the "Black" Douglasses---two esses. The Red Douglases turned on the former in a pivotal battle (c. 1447) and were rewarded by the perfidious Stewarts with all the western (Black) Douglass lands. At least this is what I garnered from Taylor and other historic sources. Not Frederick Washington Bailey's selection of the "auld spelling". Good stuff, other than these picky points.

J. R. Tomlin said...

I don't think (or hope) that I didn't say not to "create history". My point was not to change know facts, or at least to avoid that. If you read my historical notes at the end of the novel, I state that there is no evidence that he killed her. In fact, although there are strong hints in The Brus that he had a lover during that desperate flight after the Battle of Methven, there is no evidence that she was his lover, although she could have been.

There is a difference in making something up for which there is no evidence but which COULD have happened and changing something for which there is evidence. If historical authors couldn't make anything up, it wouldn't be fiction, now would it? :)

You're right about the phrasing on testing a blade. I didn't phrase that well. And yes, I did have him bite his lip a few times too many in that novel. I think I corrected that in the rest of the trilogy.

Thanks for your comments and feedback.

Fred DOUGLASS said...

Oops. Now I've committed several errors. I intended to say "Note" in the reference to Frederick Douglass, not "Not". I should also have named the battle in 1447--it was Arkinholm (Sp?), I believe. In doing lots of research on my clan, I relied heavily on Nigel Tranter--whom I believe you've read exhaustively. I also knew and counted as a friend "Wee Davie" Ross (RIP), who wrote much about "The Douglass". He was the one who put me onto the scent of the two spellings, and the Angus or Red sept's use of one s. Davie also explained a lot about the Stewarts and the irony of the actions of Willie Douglass in Scott's "The Lady of the Lake". The Stewarts (and the Crightons) were very commonly guilty of perfidy, vav my clan. The Scott tale was the inspiration of Frederick Washington Bailey's adoption of the "auld" spelling of the clan name.

A double irony, coming from my name was that the US Navy assumed in 1968, that I was black! I therefore had been accepted into OCS as a "minority" back when applications were truly color-blind.

I hope you didn't take too much umbrance at my hair-splitting assaults on your fine work. I look forward to Volumes II and III.

J. R. Tomlin said...

Absolutely no offense taken. Whilst I don't agree that you can never make up events that could possibly happen, which frankly I did a number of times, I think it is an interesting point to make.

Even Tranter, much of whose work I have of course read, at times fudged a bit on the facts. For example, he said in his Wallace that Andrew de Moray was at the Capitulation at Irvine when at the time he was fighting in Moray.

That's amusing that the navy would assume a Black Douglas had to do with race. David Ross, lost to us much too soon, was and remains one of my heroes.