Good morning, everyone! Here's our first topic. Read through the materials, take the poll, and then we'll discuss the topic through the day. At the bottom is also the assignment for the day. This evening we will post the winners of today's contests and the result of the polls. Have fun!
WHAT IS A HISTORICAL ROMANCE? Moderator: Minnette Meador
RWA defines the historical romance as follows: “Romance novels set in any time period prior to 1945, and taking place in any location.”
Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_romance) gives a great definition and even outlines the different sub-genres, as follows (note: I shortened these to save time – see the previous link for a full article – it goes into the attributes of the hero and heroine by each sub-genre. Very interesting):
Viking - These books feature Vikings during the Dark Ages or Middle Ages.
Medieval - These romances are typically set between 938-1485.
Tudor - These romances are set in England between 1485 and 1558.
Elizabethan - These novels are set in England between 1558 and 1603, during the time of Elizabeth I.
Georgian - These novels are set between 1714 and 1810 in England.
Pirate - Pirate novels feature a male or female who is sailing, or thought to be sailing, as a pirate or privateer on the high seas.
Victorian - These novels are set between 1832 and 1901 England, beginning with the Reform Act of 1832 and including the reign of Queen Victoria.
Colonial United States - These novels are all set in the United States between 1630 and 1798.
Civil War - Set in the former Confederacy, these novels cover the time period of the American Civil War and Reconstruction.
Western - These novels are set in the frontier of the United States, Canada, or Australia.
Native American - These novels could also fall into the Western subgenre, but always feature a Native American protagonist whose "heritage is integral to the story."
Americana - Set between 1880 and 1920 in the United States, usually in a small town or in the Midwest.
Regency is considered a genre by itself and is described by the RWA as: “Romance novels in which the majority of the story is set against the Regency period of the British Empire.”
Fiction Factor adds a few more sub-genres: Historical Romance - Romance stories set in the past and generally before the World Wars. Unfortunately "before the World Wars" is a broad classification and can be stretched so far back into our history to include: American West, American Colonial, American Civil War, American Revolution, American Reconstruction, Native American, Australian Colonial, European Dark Ages, Early European Renaissance, French Revolution, Celtic, Medieval England, Middle Ages England, Victorian England and Regency England. The odd Pirate tale also shows up every now and then under this classification.
And for me, personally, I’d like to add the Ancient Historical Romance, which includes from the beginning of mankind to the European Dark ages…just like to know I have a sub-genre somewhere!
However you define it, historical romance has been around a long time and is here to stay.
MAKING RESEARCH FAST & FUN – TIPS AND TRICKS ON WRITING HISTORICAL ROMANCE
I majored in Western Civ when I went to college many, many years ago and then realized a history major wasn’t going to get me much in the way of a job. Very few history majors (beyond professors and other teachers) make a living at it. Like archeologist, anthropologist, geologist, or French literature majors, historians usually end up doing something else unless they teach…or write.
What I discovered while I was writing my first historical romance was that research is VERY DANGEROUS. If you love history as I do, every fact you find leads to several hundred other facts. You can spend your life doing research and never write a word.
So that brings me to suggestions for research with the preamble that these are just things that worked for me. Everyone has their own way to do research for a book. I think everyone needs to find their own way and methods, but maybe this will help you avoid some pitfalls.
1. RESEARCH TO THE BOOK – It is very easy to get so involved in research that you lose sight of writing altogether. I try not to let myself get distracted by a subject that is off topic. Believe me it takes discipline…I LOVE studying history, especially ancient history. So when I find myself off on a topic that has nothing to do with my book, I add the link to a special favorites folder (or make note of the book) and come back to it when I have the luxury of researching for research’s sake or for the next book. Keep in mind you are a writer…not a historian.
2. PUT IT WHERE YOU CAN FIND IT LATER – One of the biggest mistakes I made when I was first doing research was not keeping track of where I found the resource. It’s easy to add an internet link to a favorite’s folder or writing down a library/book resource as you’re going along. It’s next to impossible to do it miles down the research road when you’ve forgotten it. Keep a log. The reason it’s important? I can’t tell you how many times someone has questioned a fact…I knew I had looked it up, but couldn’t remember in my hours of research exactly where. I then had to go back and re-research it. Trust me, it’s a very frustrating process. Keep track of your resources, especially those you use directly in your writing.
3. FOCUS – I try to focus research on only the time, place, people, and events taking place in my novel unless I need background information I’ll need to build in later. As with any writing I do, I research the general time quickly and concentrate on specific details as needed for the story.
4. TOO MUCH BACKGROUD – Weaving historical information into the fabric of the story gives it depth and pulls the reader in. Too much information is distracting and makes people start skimming. Keep your facts to a minimum to push the story forward and built them in gradually, not all at once. As with any writing, ask yourself these questions: Does this information have something to do with the novel directly? Is it vital to the story? If it isn’t, don’t use it.
5. CLOSE YOUR EYES – I do this exercise whenever I start a project. It gives me a wonderful way to figure out where to start in my research and saves me a ton of time…and it also helps me to figure out what is important. Give it a try and see if it works for you: I sit in my comfy chair, close my eyes, and concentrate on the story. This, to me, is the best part of writing…shutting out the modern world and putting myself in another time and place. Imagining what your day would be like as a Roman soldier, a Celtic queen, or a gladiator. What is my “home” like? What did I have for breakfast that morning? What clothes did I put on that day? Who’s my best friend? Do I own a dog? I ask lots of questions. I try to put myself in the character’s shoes (or his underwear as someone once suggested) and imagine what his/her day would be like. I make a list of all the gaps…those things I don’t know. Once I’ve done that, I have a whole list of areas to research. In order to make the history come alive, you have to share what goes on with this person on a very intimate level.
6. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE AN EXPERT, BUT YOU MAY NEED TO FIND ONE – I do not consider myself a historical expert. As a matter of fact, I am a “closet” historian who admires the real historians who spend their lives in search of the truth of history. These people teach at our universities, write books, contribute to history channels and movies, and head wonderful museums and associations. I’ve discovered, to my delight, that they LOVE to talk about history. I have worked with a couple of museums and a prestigious reenactment association to help me with my scenes just by emailing them and asking questions. The reenactment people actually choreographed my fight scenes for me. So don’t be shy…ask! The worse they can say is “no” or completely ignore you. The beauty is there are lots of museums, libraries, and academia out there.
7. WHERE TO FIND ANSWERS – Everyone has their own method for research. For me personally, I use books, articles, and the internet. Here are a few links I’ve used for my subjects, but the library is a great place to start and of course places like Wikipedia.
8. ARTICLES ABOUT RESEARCH – Here is an article I wrote about doing research for Rose City Romance. There is a plethora of articles written by other historical writers on research. Do a search…just make sure you don’t spend all your time researching research. ~LOL~
*Haunt used book stores (pun intended). Particularly their history section. You'd be surprised what amazing tid bits you'd come across and for cheap!
*Best source for cheap research books? www.half.com
*Haunt garage sales and estate sales. Some of the best books can be found long forgotten amongst piles of dusty books. And for dirt cheap!
*Go through old newspapers. No matter what era you write in, old newspapers are where it's at. Whether you get them through your library or online, use them as the best resource for the time period you wish to delve into. There's no better source than the year of the source.
*Google key words that interest you and see what that yields.
*Use Google Books to hunt through countless books you normally wouldn't have access to.
*Ebay. There are treasures still to be found. You must be willing to hunt.
LYN’S CONTRIBUTION: Research is a huge part of being a historical romance writer and can be daunting and time consuming. Some authors do not venture into the genre for fear of getting a historical fact wrong and the time it takes to research. But I’m here to tell you to take the plunge. If you love reading historicals, than half the battle is done. You would be amazed at how much information and authentic facts you’ll gather by reading your favorite historical authors.
I won’t lie to you, research can take up a lot of your writing time, however, the websites that Minnette pointed out are extremely helpful. And I hope to help you navigate through our history with some time-saving and fun tips on research.
Tip #1 Wikipedia and Google are great friends to have. Although, be aware that the internet does not always offer the correct information, but it can point you in the right direction.
Tip #2 I’m a big fan of buying used research books on the era I write about, which is mostly medieval Scotland. Whenever I pass a secondhand bookstore, I pop in to see if they have any historical books on Scotland or pirates. These books are inexpensive and an accurate source for historical facts.
Tip # 3 Don’t be afraid to buy children’s historical books. They tend to have only the most important information along with great visual facts and settings. You won’t get bogged down with hordes of data in the adult books and this will save you time when you are looking for something specific.
Tip #4 Find yourself a die-hard historical reader to critique your manuscript. These people tend to know the smallest information on history. I have a main critique partner who gets all my manuscripts before anyone else. She checks for historical facts I might have overlooked along with any modern language that slipped through.
Tip #5 To make research fun, I suggest before you start to write, rent a heap of movies set in your particular era. For eg, Regency (Sense & Sensibility), Ancient Rome (Gladiator), Pirates (Pirates of the Caribbean, Cutthroat Island), etc.
Sit down with a pen and paper and note their costumes, setting, body language, dialogue and any other tidbits of interest. This will give you heaps of ideas and it’s a fun way to research. Although, be aware that some movies can be relaxed on authentic dialogue. Pirates of the Caribbean had many modern terms.
This leads me to my last tip.
Tip #6 If you are not sure if a word is historically accurate, then log onto www.Dictionary.com and type in the word. Beneath the description, it shows the year the word was developed and sometimes the origin. I tend to run this website while I am editing my manuscripts.
DISCUSSION: What other methods of research could be used? Be creative with your answers.
DAILY ASSIGNMENT: Pick a time, place, and event in history (must be at least fifty years in the past) that you have never done research on. Put yourself in that time and then do research (or library if preferred) for one hour. At the end of the hour, write one-page on what a day in your life would be like in that time. Send your assignment to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll post them where everyone can take a look. If you don’t want it posted, please let me know when you send it.