Monday, November 9, 2009

Writing Historical Romance: It’s the Journey

I write sweet Alaskan historicals. I’m working on a Gold Rush series; my last manuscript was set in 1898 Skagway, and the current one is set in 1900 Nome. For me, the most fun is creating the setting and characters. To create that world, I start with a lot of research on the place and time period. I love reading books on the topic, and digging around the internet to find interesting things my characters would be doing back then. (If you’d like to see a list of books on Alaskan Gold Rush history, see my Schoolmarm’s Library at my web site, I’ve even been lucky enough to go to the places I’ve written about and do some research there. I went to Nome this summer and learned a great deal from some very generous people in town.

The hard part is deciding when I’ve done enough research and need to do some writing. Sometimes I’d like to go on and on, finding out more obscure facts and figures that might be helpful for my book. But at some point I have to admit I have a good sense of the time period and place and I’m ready to move on to the actual writing. Now the real work begins.

When I am writing, I am conscious of all the fun things I know about that setting and want to cram them all into the book. But as Jackie Ivie says in her online class on historical romance, “DO make the story a romance - above all. The emotion is what counts, not how vast your knowledge of the era, nor how spectacularly you form words for the description.” So I have to add little tidbits at a time, and try not to shortchange the characters or the plot just because I know some cool stuff about Nome in 1900. If it’s cool and useful for the story, it’ll find its way in. If not, I’ll have to keep it in my notes and see if it finds a home elsewhere. Sigh.

But along the way, I learn about interesting things and people, fall in love with a setting and its characters, and get to live life in their world for a little while. That’s why I write historicals. It’s the journey.


Juniper Bell said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences writing historicals! I think you do a great job balancing the historical tidbits and the emotion of the story. Nice post, Lynn!

Tamera Lynn said...

I sure admire you historical writers and the way you pepper in research to make a novel seem real. Thanks for sharing some of your process!

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Thanks, Juniper and Tamera. I imagine each genre has its own elements and challenges. Paranormal writers have to keep all those vampire and werewolf legends straight, or contemporary writers have to be up on pop culture, for example. Keep writing, everybody!