History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

17 October 2008

Author Interview

Question: What is your writing regimen? I write by hand on yellow lined note paper, usually at night propped up in bed or in my den (or on airplanes, in restrooms, hospital waiting rooms, dentist's office, etc.) and the next morning I type my daily goal of 4 handwritten pages into the computer. This prints out about 5double-spaced pages, about 1200 words/day. That afternoon or evening I (1) edit the printed pages and (2) write 4 more handwritten pages.

I don't particularly recommend writing by hand unless it comes naturally to you. I was an editor for 34 years and it feels "right" to draw circles and arrows and move things around on the first draft. But I do recommend writing consistently--every day, if you can manage. Even a little bit, 10 minutes, keeps the creative juices flowing.

Question: Do you enjoy the research stage of writing? Oh, boy, do I! I'm really a frustrated history major at heart and I love doing research. On the other hand, it can bog down the writing time, to say nothing of clogging the written story itself. My suggestions for not bogging or clogging are two: (1) do the research concurrent with the writing; (2) in your book, use the specific concrete details gleaned from research as you would use other adjectives, for example, the "carved silver box," the "heavy gold-link pendant"; the folds of her "green silk gown."

Question: What was your favorite part of writing Templar Knight, Forbidden Bride? The tournament at Carcassonne! Derring-do and brave knights and lovely ladies, oh my!

How do you balance your historical information with telling the story? Mostly, I don't. I love using the historical details I find, and I tend to "flavor-up" my stories a lot. My editor first says, "Great--it feels like I'm actually there." Later she adds, "But the reader doesn't really need to know who was fighting whom in 12th century Spain."

I usually write about a period I love, and I read books and look at pictures until I'm immersed in the era. I want the setting to feel real to the reader.

Have you any advice for aspiring authors? Oh, wow, where's my soapbox! First, try to write consistently, every day if you can manage, but not if you have a migraine or your child has the measles. If you wrote 2 pages/day, you could finish a 365-page novel in 6 months!

Second, go to workshops, writing groups, and classes. Join the toughest critique group you can find. You may suffer, but you can learn a lot from published writers. You can learn a lot from how-to books, as well.

Third, read widely--not just in your own genre. Note how other writers deal with things like point of view, foreshadowing, tension, etc.

Fourth, always, always use correct grammar and punctuation. If you need better control over the tools of this trade, take a basic English class. One good book for quick-reference is Write Right, By Jan Venolia (paperback).

Note: A version of this post was previously published on Shauna Roberts' For Love of Words blog at: http://ShaunaRoberts.blogspot.com.


Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

My editor . . . says . . . "But the reader doesn't really need to know who was fighting whom in 12th century Spain."

All I can say to this, Lynna is, "OY!!!"

Congratulations on the new release. The cover and title remind me of Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert and Rebecca from Ivanhoe, even though your story is set further south.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Beautiful cover. The inside cover photo of the knight is also VERY cool. ;-)

Congrats on the latest! I read it and loved it!

11:02 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

PS...did you know Susan Wiggs also writes by hand? Does the same thing you do. Gulp. I don't think my fingers work like that anymore. ;-(

11:03 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I always find myself wanting to ask, have you read Tirant lo Blanc? It seems so up your alley. I read it years ago (like 20+).

11:08 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Lynna, great post and congratulations on your new release. I too write in longhand before I transcribe into the computer, where I make edits. I find for me, having a blank notepad in front me, isn't as daunting as a blank computer screen! Great comment about using historical research, I often find myself having to go back and cut because I know although the information is interesting, it's not exactly moving the story forward. And I also find it easier to research while I'm writing, putting a note in the manuscript of what exactly I need to know.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Lynna Banning said...

Kalen--tell me more about Tirant lo Blanc? Is there an author?

12:19 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

From Wikipedia:

"Tirant lo Blanc is one of the most important books of Catalan literature. Written by Joanot Martorell in the 15th century, the "Tirant" is a chivalric novel that also appears to have a strong autobiographic component. It tells the feats and adventures of Knight Tirant lo Blanch from Brittany. At times, it parallels the life and adventures of admiral Roger de Flor, a Templar Knight and participant in the last crusade, leader of the Almogavar (Catalonian and Aragonese) "Catalan Company". This historical resemblance is also evident in the description of events occurring around Constantinople and the defeat of Sultan Mehmed II "the conqueror," and ultimately leading to the fall of Constantinople in 1453."


1:54 PM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Loved the latest, Lynna! Great read and very rich in texture!

Great advice too. I used to write everything long hand, but now I have gotten used to the computer. Now if I can just discipline myself to write every day as much as possible in spite of the dreaded day job!

Now the research is something I could devote my life to at this point. I LOVE English history. A day spent pouring over research books is my idea of heaven!

7:05 PM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

I just realized I didn't exactly answer your question! I take copious notes in longhand on lined notepads, and sometimes I get on a roll and write full paragraphs rather than scribble down a few details I'll need. With my fiction, I tend to make notebook after notebook of notes, but I write on the computer. On the other hand, I can't edit on the screen. I have to have a hard copy in my hand to mark up and revise, otherwise I have no sense of "flow." But with my nonfiction, as inspiration strikes me, I find myself writing a lot of full paragraphs in longhand on my notepads as I incorporate the research into what I want to be saying. I've found on some occasions with the ROYAL AFFAIRS manuscript and now with the book on royal marriages that even though it takes me a very long time to do my research and make my notes, that often I can more or less transcribe whole sections of those handwritten notes onto the computer, so that some of the actual writing of the book has in fact been done during the note-taking process.

6:32 AM  
Blogger Mary Blayney said...

Very romantic cover, Lynna. A classic with a medieval touch.

I use the computer to write everything -- even thank you notes. And then I write them longhand -- since I now constantly edit everything I write (even thank you notes) it helps to have it on the screen before I pick up the pen.

Kalen, what haven't you read? And hwo do you remember them all after twenty years?

5:17 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Books just stick in my head.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Congrats on the releasem Lynna! I too love the cover. I'm impressed that you write your entire first draft long hand. I do most of my writing on my computer, but if I'm waiting somewhere without my laptop, I will had write in a notebook or my daytimer or scraps of paper if that's all that's available (I once drafted an entire scene in the margins of a program waiting for a recital to start :-).

2:02 PM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

Tracy, I do the same thing! If I don't have a notepad at hand, I'll scribble things of scraps of paper or on Playbills, too!! I was watching something on B'way once and couldn't wait for intermission because I had an idea in my head and was worried I'd lose it if I didn't write it down. And I didn't want to fumpher through my purse for a pen and disturb everyone; besides, it was too dark to see the white space on the Playbill.

7:30 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Amanda, I'm so glad to know you do the same thing! Did you remember your idea once intermission started?

11:09 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm in the same deranged club. I jot down ideas on all kind of scraps. I TRY and always have a small notebook with me (I love those moleskine ones with the elastic band to hold them shut). I think it's a holdover from my days as a poet.

I write longhand when I’m stuck. Something about the process of scribbling on the page just seems to kick my brain into another mode (this may be a poet holdover too, LOL!).

12:57 PM  

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