Tuesday, July 22, 2014

End of Part Three

After some crossing out, reshuffling, and changing the ending of part three into the beginning of part four, I am done with part three of my fourth draft of my WIP.

Yessss. *fist pump*

So, as always, full doc stats first:

Full doc:
Words: 73,718
Pages: 263

Part Three stats:
Chapters: 23 to 40, so 17 chapters
Words: 33,994
Pages: 122

First line:
When Mr. Hogwood of Banner's Edge died childless in December of 1799, the villagers' main topic of conversation revolved around the estate's future. 

Last line:

"Mr. Keegan, I'd like to try to write it myself," Pearl replied, straightening her shoulders.  "I have things I want to say. Miss Gresham can help me."

Monday, July 21, 2014

30 Books Read

All right, everyone. I just finished Book 30 five seconds ago! Here are books 21 through 30 in my Goodreads 2014 Reading Challenge of reading 40 books this year.

I'm beginning to wonder now if I'll pass 40 books this year.

21. Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford--5 stars--Historical Fiction/Depression era

22. Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn--4 stars--Regency Historical Romance

23. Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker--4 stars--Anthology/Short stories/Literature

24. Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon--4 stars--Biography/English history/

25. A Night Like This by Julia Quinn--3 stars--Regency Historical Romance

26. The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn--3 stars--Regency Historical Romance

27. When Half Is Whole: Multiethnic Asian American Identities by Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu--4 stars--Non-fiction/Asian Americans/Racial identity--Review

28. Soulless by Gail Carriger--4 stars--Fantasy/Paranormal/Steampunk--Review

29. Frederica by Georgette Heyer--4 stars--Regency romance

30. Changeless by Gail Carriger--3 stars--Fantasy/Paranormal/Steampunk--Review

What are you reading right now?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Things I've Learned About Writing Historical Fiction

I am a firm believer that writers learn more about writing with every new project. With the ability to apply what you've learned, every time I have a new story idea, I find myself doing things a little differently than last time, all resulting in a better story, better writing, better execution, better revision.

Before I dived into the first incarnation of The Keegans of Banner's Edge---way, way, way back when it was a Regency historical romance--I'd never really attempted to write an historical fiction. I'd had a lot of ideas going that way, but I was intimidated. Could I be that accurate? Could I really recreate a bygone era? Did my ideas need to be historical?

In 2010, for NaNo, I wrote 50,000 words of a Tudors-era story, which I never finished, all because The Pilgrimage of Grace fascinated me. Then I went back to the Keegans, but this time, as historical fiction.

It's probably not a huge surprise that my next idea is also historical fiction. These are just things I've picked up from working on The Keegans and intend to carry on into my next project.

1. Preliminary research
I don't why I become fascinated with certain trends, eras or events in history, but it happens. When you think of a story idea and have an idea of the time period it is set in, start looking the time period up. Even if your historical fiction is based on a real person or event, you should still read up on the Roaring Twenties, the Napoleonic Wars, or ancient Greece as a whole. It'll give you an understanding of how certain events came to be or why your person is the way he or she is.

My new story is going to be late Victorian. As part of my preliminary research (while I finish up The Keegans' 4th draft), I've come up with a reading list of both broad (What was the Victorian era?) and specific (The Glitter and the Gold by Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan) as well as compiling a timeline of the era.

2. Notebook of notes, eventual outline
It wasn't until after the third draft of the WIP that I realized that I was going to need a real detailed outline because that draft was beta read and there were some serious issues with the story. I wrote the outline down in a little notebook and since then, I've been taking notes in it ("Taylor is a contact of Beak-Nose making it a little hard for Miles to set up business in Bristol" is my last note). I cross out and draw arrows in between points of the outline I want to change as I'm going as well. It's a central place to keep myself and the story organized. There's something about paging through the notebook that works better for notes than scrolling through a document.

That being said, research notes are typed into the computer because I type way faster. 

3. Letting the History Dictate the Plot
This is something you'll see a lot among historical fiction writers--and if you're writing about a real life person or event, then yes, of course, the history must dictate the plot. Guess what? Even if your historical idea is not based around a Big Fat Historical Moment or a real person, history can still dictate the plot.

A small example: England had a bad harvest in 1799 and 1800. I didn't know that until I was about to start the third draft, so I then was able to incorporate that.

But in a bigger way, if I'd let history dictate the plot of the Keegans a little more (instead of vice versa), then maybe I'd actually have a plot.

4. Brainstorming--"What If?" 
The other day, I was in chat with my writing group. My writer friend Krystal is already a fan of the new idea. I don't have much of an idea of where the story is going beyond a certain point yet, so Krystal helped me brainstorm.

For me, I tend to go into my historical projects with a character, situation, or partial plot already set, then try to apply history to them. I forget the fun "what if?" aspect of writing.

Even for the most accurate, authentic, researched historical fiction idea--don't forget that it's fiction. You can always play the "what if?" game with fiction.

5. Being Specific
Once you have broader knowledge on your time period, it's time to start getting specific. Your initial idea might already be the specific, so get to researching the Pilgrimage of Grace, slavery in Barbados,  or the Dollar Princesses.

But even more specific: Bristol, England in 1800. Sugar prices in 1798. The lack of active abolitionist societies in 1800. 

Specific things I'll be reading up on as I think out the new idea: West End theater in the 1890s. Paris in the 1890s. American heiresses marrying English lords. The Diamond Jubilee.

Historical fiction addicts and writers---what would be your tips for writing and researching historical fiction? What have you learned through your own writing processes?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Sunshine Blogging Award

Hi guys! The lovely, awesome, and my blogging buddy Krystal Jane at The Narcissistic Rose has bestowed The Sunshine Award upon moi.

Isn't it pretty? It totes fits in with the decor round here.

As part of the Sunshine Award, I have to answer 10 questions about myself, then pass it along. I'm answering the same questions that Krystal answered on her blog.

1. Favorite Color: Purple. I'm happy with all shades of purple and lavender.
2. Favorite Animals: Ooh...bunny rabbits. Cats.
3. Favorite Number: Um, really? I don't know!
4. Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drink: Mugicha, which is a really refreshing Japanese drink of roasted barley tea that's cooled in the fridge. Or mango juice.
5. Favorite Alcoholic Drink: Well, my standard is a rum and coke. I like cranberry and vodka as well, but I get drunk quickly on vodka, so I can't drink too many of those too often. Also, I'm fond of margaritas.
6. Facebook or Twitter: Twitter
7. Passions: Writing, clearly. Reading. Historical stuff. Movies. Music.
8. Prefer giving out or getting presents?: Both.
9. Favorite City: New York. Did you really expect me to say anything different?
10. Favorite TV Shows: Okay, prefacing this by saying I don't watch a lot of TV. But I like MasterChef and Chopped. I'm watching season two of Graceland and am really happy that TURN is getting a second season. I like BBC's Sherlock...and, oh yeah, I'm really into Downton Abbey.

So...all of that being said, now it's time to nominate a few people. I'm nominating Diane Carlisle at Are We There Yet? for her always interesting posts, on writing or other subjects. Nominating Randi Lee at The Emotional Process of Writing a Novel for truly being a ray of sunshine in our blogging world and Michelle Tran at Michelle Tran Writes for her fun posts on writing, her book reviews, and the food pics.

Also, little note: my laptop has to go to the shop for a bit, since the half the hinge seems to be trying to detach from my screen. Not cool. So I'll be laptopless (waaaahhhh) for a bit.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1)Soulless by Gail Carriger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I came across Soulless several years ago on Kristin Nelson's blog. I liked the cover, LOVED the blurb, and then forgot about the book because I don't usually--or ever--read fantasy/steampunk/supernatural stuff. And then I decided to give it a shot because I was in the mood for something fun and fantasy.

Boy, this did not disappoint.

This book was a fun ride of a great narrative voice, awesome kickass lead heroine, and a host of quirky but interesting characters. I loved the alternate history of supernaturals being accepted for centuries by Victoria's reign and what their society is like. I loved that the supernaturals had their own societies and turned supernatural due an excess of soul.

The only reasons why I'm giving this 4 instead of 5 stars are:
-Titles. Look, I know most people don't know this stuff, but I do: Lord Conall Maccon, Earl of Woolsey is either Lord Maccon or Lord Woolsey, not both by the British order of peerage. I went with it because I figured alternate fantastical world, alternate fantastical peerage, as well.

-The head hopping. There were definite moments of sudden POV change that threw me off a tiny bit.

Still, a rollicking adventure and I can't wait to read the following books in the series.

View all my reviews

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Victorian Era

Compared to the late Georgian era I've been mucking around in for The Keegans of Banner's Edge or the Regency era which I loll around in when I'm reading my preferred time period of historical romance or the Edwardian period of Downton Abbey or Revolutionary America (when watching TURN), I've always been scared of the Victorian era.

Why? A few reasons. First of all, there was this woman, Queen Victoria, after whom the era is named:

We are not amused.

Then there are the clothes:

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1861
Victoria and Albert. 
Does that seem like a comfortable dress to you? And then there's the facial hair, the Dickensian plight of the poor, the Industrial Revolution, the repression, the prudishness, the unsmiling photographs, the general stern air of the times, the patriarchal attitude, the colonialism...

In AP History, we read Rudyard Kipling's poem "The White Man's Burden." It makes me shudder. 

So, of course, my next historical story idea takes place in the late Victorian era. I'm thinking the late 1880s/1890s, but I'm not sure yet. 

Because you see, a portion of Victorian and Edwardian history that I find fascinating and not too frightening is that of the Dollar Princesses, the Buccaneers. They were young wealthy women whose families were considered "New Money" by the already-rich and socially-established families of the United States. So these wealthy women made the rounds in Europe in droves and married into various European noble families. 

Many American heiresses married British aristocrats, who were losing their lands, houses, and money as their estates no longer supported their lavish lifestyles. So the British aristocrats married American heiresses---a title in exchange for money. This is how Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, and his wife Cora, Countess of Grantham, are married in the backstory of Downton Abbey

But this made me wonder about the perfectly nice, decently pedigreed but impoverished English girls who didn't get to snag that there man with that there title. What did they do? That's the basic seed of the next story idea, currently in the earliest of early planning stages in my head.

The answer to that "what if" question is, obviously, "She goes off and does cool things."

There are also cool things about the Victorian era, else I would avoid it like The Plague. That's another post.

Back to the Georgian era. Over and out. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

"I Wanna Write a Book, But I Hate Reading."

Famous Author Quotes @ http://pinterest.com/iuniverse/iuniverse-famous-author-quotes/

Like, really? Really?

I've seen more than a few of these types of posts and each time, I scratch my head and feel annoyed.

So you have a great idea, you think, or you have interesting characters and you want to tell a story. That's great! Go ahead and do that!

But please read some books before you think you can write a story. I realize that there are different levels to writing a story---maybe you're writing as a creative outlet or you're writing fanfiction or you're writing a class assignment. Maybe writing is your hobby. I've been in these places; I think every writer has at some point.

But here's the deal: If you ever want your stuff to be taken seriously--or to be published--then you can't come in with the attitude that your fictional story is absolutely brilliant, even though you hate fiction. Or your book is going to be the next Twilight, Hunger Games, or Divergent, even though you hate reading. Or that whatever you write doesn't need to adhere to basic grammar and spelling rules, as well as the most basic of formatting (indent before paragraphs, a new paragraph when a new character speaks, page breaks, quotation marks).

Because guess what? You hate fiction, but you're writing fiction? It shows in your writing that you don't read it because there are always certain expectations readers have of fiction, particularly genre fiction.

You hate reading, but you want to write a book. Do you not see the basic contradiction here?

Grammer, spelling, and formatting rules exist for a reason. It's so written language can be easily understood.

Writing books is not an easy thing to do. Plunging in without being a reader...I don't even know how that's possible.

Go read a book.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

IWSG: What Made Me Think I Could This?

This is my first post as a member of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, which two of my blogging and writing group buddies are a part of--Karla Gomez and Randi Lee. The IWSG is organized by Alex J. Cavanaugh and posts every first Wednesday of the month.

IWSG Badge

What Made Me Think I Could Do This?

To explain, I need to tell you a little about my WIP. At its most basic premise, this is what The Keegans of Banner's Edge is about: Barbados, 1799: Miles loses his wife, decides to return to his native England with his 2 daughters: one white, the other half black. 

I'm elbow-deep in the fourth draft. I've been working on this same dang story for nearly three years; I only took a break during NaNo '13 to write something else because my brain needed a rest. Of course, there are several things that make this project different from past projects:
  • It's historical fiction. It made sense in my head to at least give an honest try at writing hist. fic. because that's what I love reading. 
  • Multiple POVs. I've done multiple POVs before, but this story has five POVs. The third draft had six. Six. I must've been insane. 
  • My MC is a hard character to get into the mind of, for whatever reason. It's frustrating. 

By a fourth draft, one expects the project to be reasonably polished. I have an outline, I have three drafts with these characters, and my last two drafts were beta-read. But it doesn't feel uniformly polished.

Is the plot I finally came up with after hitting the drawing board after draft three going to be enough? And there are pesky plot bunnies nipping at my heels, going, "Write me! Write me!"

What made me think I'm capable of writing an entire coherent novel? Was it the novella, two trunked novels, and two NaNo projects I've written since 2009 that made me think that? None of them were as laborious as this thing has been. Is it because since I was 12-years-old, I've consistently said I want to be a writer? 12-year-olds, what do they know. Was it majoring in Writing in college that did it? Actually, that convinced me not to be a writer for a little while.

I'm revising, but I don't know that I'm going in the right direction. And it's a novel, so no one can tell me if I'm going in the right or the wrong direction. So we'll just have to see.

Normal people don't do this to themselves. Or at least, that's what I'm told.

Thanks for reading :-)