Monday, September 16, 2013

Historical Research

I'm making progress on my novel, which delights me because I love this story. It's my favorite thus far. But last week, I had to put the story aside and work on an article.

To my delight, my editor wants me to include history on whatever town or destination we're featuring, so I have to do a fair amount of research before I begin. I'm not satisfied with regurgitating basic history I find on official websites. I like to dig a little deeper and make connections that aren't always obvious. With this current article, I wanted to go farther back in the town's history than its incorporation. Years ago, I had read Edward Bland's A Discovery of New Brittaine, in Narratives of Early Carolina. Most of the landmarks he mentioned had different names at that time, so I recognized little, but I knew part of the purpose of his trip was to find survivors of Raleigh's Lost Colony. That became my starting point.

As it turns out, researchers are uncertain as to whether Bland and his party made it as far south as the region I was researching, but I had a few names of people and some familiar places, and researching those led to other names of people and places. I found primary sources on UNC's Documenting the American South and on a Virginia site, which I cross-referenced with old maps, and I finally made the connection I was hoping for.

Why mention it on a fiction blog? Because fiction writers must often to do the same, even for a contemporary novel. In the story I'm currently rewriting, one character is from South Carolina's old Dark Corner. Although light now shines on the escarpment--revealing gorgeous scenery--the history of the area plays into the character's family and his upbringing, and the impact is had on his morals, beliefs, and behavior. I may not mention everything I learned, but by going back into the history of the area, I'll be prepared to make crucial connections.

Monday, September 9, 2013

My Own Fiction

I haven't been around, that's clear. I've been writing for years and every now and then, I get burned out. Tired of the creative process, of the never ending edits and revisions without an end in sight, my muse often packs up and takes the hike that I'm dying to take.

When this happens, I often find myself staring at the monitor or typing out a plethora of one-syllable words. Mental scenes still flow, but they hit a dam somewhere between the right side of my brain and my fingertips, and pool up in whatever corner of the brain words are stored. A part of me is demanding I quit this nonsense, that's it's been too long. I can't. Writing is too engrained. My imagination, too vivid.

However, I can back off, and I do when it's necessary. During those times, I write articles that need to be written and peck out scenes. I also knit, read, and take pictures, all in an effort to work out thought processes that are kinked like an outdoor hose.

In paradoxical fashion, my writing has improved. With the help of a published author who has very graciously and generously taken time out of her schedule to give me pointers because she likes my writing, my eyes have been opened to technical errors I've been making and means of fixing them. A story I'm in the process of rewriting is my best. The author working with me has yet to see it. I can't wait until she does.

But my blogs have languished. Getting back on schedule is next on my To Do list.