Jackson Pearce (watchmebe) wrote,
Jackson Pearce

The Damn Historical Novel is SCARY

I know, I know– are you tired of hearing about it yet?

Just a reminder, if you’re new to the blog:
-The Damn Historical Novel is not it’s real title.
-It hasn’t been sold and therefore isn’t officially being released at this point.
-It’s my “just for fun” book.

I’m almost done with yet another read-thru of the Damn Historical Novel– I think this makes the third? Fourth? Usually I’ve already sent the book off to critique partners by this point, but I’ve held onto the DHN longer. It’s such a HUGE genre change for me– historical fantasy based on real events/characters– that I want to make sure it’s genuinely as perfect as I can make it on my own before I get a smidge of feedback. Which means another round of edits before it goes off to anyone– and I also need to write the ending! I always write the ending dead last, after I’ve polished the front half. Even if I know how I want a book to end, I feel like I need to make sure all the threads leading up to the conclusion are strong before I tie them in a bow. I’m hoping to get all that done by the end of November, since I need to go back to PURITY in December and January…

I got the idea for the Damn Historical Novel from an episode of Antiques Roadshow (I know, I’m a nerd) that I saw in college. I didn’t know HOW the item would play into a book, but I knew that eventually, I was going to base a book around it. I finally got the book idea four or five years later, but still stalled almost a year and a half instead of diving right in. I’d love to tell you it’s because “the story was simmering” or “I was waiting for the characters to speak to me”– and both of those reasons might be true, but the real reason I waited so long to start writing is I was scared.

See, even though the Damn Historical Novel is fantasy, it’s very, very heavily rooted in real people and real events of 1909. Which meant research. Lots and lots of research. The big stuff wasn’t that hard– what day did this event occur, where did so-and-so live?
It was the small stuff that proved crazily difficult. For example: At what point in history did people start giving the “thumbs up” sign? What was the floor plan of the house they’re in? Did people drink coffee out of mugs or teacups? When filling out a dance card, who has the pencil– the man, the woman, or the host?
I wanted to get all those details right. I didn’t want anyone to be able to accuse me of not researching well enough. And so I chickened out of writing the book for a year and a half in the name of research. I read everything I could on the time period, read books written in the time period, ordered documentaries and audio lectures…and I still didn’t feel like I’d done enough.

And then I realized…I would never be able to do enough. Even people with doctorates in the time period are always learning more. And that therefore, I needed to just swallow my fears and write the book.

So, for Nanowrimo 2009, I wrote about 40k of the Damn Historical Novel, give or take. I was amazed and excited that I’d finally stopped being a chicken and started the project. And I loved the book too– the more I worked on it, the more I wanted to work on it. I had to put it down to work on SWEETLY revisions in the spring, but picked the outline back up in April and reread my Nano words in May.

And realized they sucked. Seriously. Almost the entire 40k was terrible. There was ONE scene I felt I could salvage– about 3k. So I threw away the entire draft and, new outline in hand, wrote 114k on the book during late May and the month of June. I deleted some more scenes, edited, revised and now, in November, I finally feel like I really have something. Not something perfect, not something complete, but something. Something that I hands down would NOT have had if I’d spent May and June trying to nurse that 40k from last year back to health.

So, all in all, working on the Damn Historical Novel has taught me a lot about writing and fear:

-You can’t be afraid to start a project. No excuses. Sure, take the time you need to outline and research, but you know in your gut when “research” has become “stalling.”

-It’s okay to throw words away. I think sometimes people are afraid to throw away drafts or entire books they’ve been working on. That somehow you feel that if you trash a huge amount of words, you’ve wasted your time. The truth is, everything you write is just practice for writing the next thing. Writing is kind of like a sport– you have to train before you run the marathon (Not that I know anything about running marathons, but I see them do it on TV and it looks difficult).

-You also know in your gut when something is broken-beyond-repair or broken-right-now. Broken-beyond-repair needs to be thrown away. It might be hard, it might be scary, but chuck it and start over. The time spent working is going to go by either way– would you rather it go by working on a book you’re making better, or go by on a book you’re just trying to keep above water?

-When something is broken-right-now, you can’t give up on it. Even if it’s terrifying to rip it up and get your hands dirty, you have to give it a chance to thrive. Prune the tree so it’ll grow better.

Damn, I am full of metaphors today.

Off to keep working!

Mirrored from JacksonPearce.com.


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