Thursday, September 29, 2011

Defeat and Determination

Have you ever had an idea only to find out that it's been done?

I'm sure you have; how else did that phrase "Why re-invent the wheel?" get coined? I don't know about you, but I've never been much for using someone else's leavings. And so it should come as no surprise that I recently had my lovely Restoration England novel idea pooh-poohed when I discovered that another novel featuring my historical figure is about to come out.

I'll come right out and say it, I was planning on writing a novel about Frances Stuart, the Duchess of Richmond and Lennox. Known as "La Belle Stuart" she was the one woman that evaded King Charles II. Yes, she refused to become the mistress of a king. In fact, she was so beautiful that Samuel Pepys made several notations about her in his diaries. Charles was so mad for her that when she secretly eloped with the Duke of Richmond, they were bascially persona non grata with the king for many years. But sadly, I found out yesterday that another historical fiction writer has written about Frances. The book has been released in the UK and is days away from reaching the shelves in the US. She's a cracking good writer too as I read her novel about John Donne and his wife Anne. So, I suspect that I will be picking up a copy of The Painted Lady and dreaming about what could have been. I know that having a rival book out there doesn't neccessarily spell doom for me, but Frances Stuart isn't Anne Boleyn or Marie Antoinette. Her life is not subject to various interpretations and so I feel that it is best to tackle new ground.

I was pretty bummed about this revelation yesterday but I woke up with renewed determination this morning and I think I have found a new subject. This historical figure will take me to Georgian England, an era that I'm a bit more comfortable venturing into. Hopefully no one else has stumbled upon this character!

So what about you? Have you ever started researching (or writing) a novel only to discover that it's been done?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Going Off the Tracks....

I think I've decided to shelve "The Enemy Within" for a while. I don't know how to define "a while" right now, but I think it's taken me this whole long unproductive month to see that I need something to invigorate my writing once more. I've even despaired of having writer's block. *shudder*

Though I dearly love "Enemy," I'm just tired of it. It's no wonder since I've been working on either finishing it or editing it for two years straight. I've read it so many times that while I enjoy reading some of the more brilliant moments, I am a bit tired of going over it again and again. I think the second half may be going off the rails a bit even though I love what happens. I think I need to take some more time to get feedback, not to mention figure out how to make it more cohesive. But ultimately, I think it may not be the right time for it. I'm sure American historical fiction will come sailing into the market again, and when that happens, I'll be ready for it.

And so what to work on next? I had "Rebellion" mapped out, but when I finally cracked open my laptop the other evening to re-read my progress, I just wasn't happy with the result. There is nothing worse than being uninspired by your own writing. So I've taken a step back; I don't think my characters in "Rebellion" are ready to tell their stories yet.

In light that, I've decided to do something that will be a complete challenge to me. I'm taking a real life historical character and a time period that I only have a passing acquaintance with. It's a time period that is slowly becoming in vogue, and I know if I want to do this, I better get "on the stick" (as we say down here in the south)! I'm going to keep the storyline close to my chest right now, but I will divulge the era: Restoration England. The country, of course, is my all time favorite, and the period has always fascinated me. I've spent some time researching the person I want to write about and now I need to research all the ins and outs of one of the most hedonistic courts in history.

Good times will be had by all, I promise!

So what about you? Have you got any shiny new ideas percolating?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On Being Motivated...Or Not!

Thanks to Anne Taintor
Two posts back I briefly touched on what holds us back from writing. I have to admit that good ol' fashioned laziness often holds me hostage although I refer to it as "just not feeling the writing today." I haven't been "feeling it" for several weeks now, but I haven't been very hard on myself since I have so many crazy things going on in my life. I've spent the last two weeks unpacking boxes and have finally gotten to the point where most everything is accounted for (except my passport...and the TV remote) and placed where it should be. Art work is slowly making its way onto the wall and I've already begun an exhaustive list of improvements I want to make if/when our purchase of the place goes through.

I'm still not quite at home, largely due to the fact that I have no sofa. A living room is not a living room without a sofa! That particular piece of furniture was my favorite place to write so I can only guess that my writing is being held up by its absence. OK, so that might be a far reaching excuse! Fortunately, I have felt the stirrings of Miss Muse the last few days--which is a good thing. I've been rethinking some of the early chapters of Rebellion and have determined that I am doing some of my characters an injustice. I certainly need to rectify that!

Anyhoo, motivation has been in short supply. So I was quite happy when a former colleague of mine sent me the link to a blog by Ollin Morales, an author who is writing his first book. He details 10 Tricks to Motivate Yourself to Write and I was pleased to see that his tenth tip was simply "Write." Write in your journal, post a blog, or my perennial favorite, write in your head. I haven't been actively writing in my head lately as my brain has been cluttered with so much lately. But just reading this post reminded me that sometimes you have to get back to basics and since my writing career began at age 10 with the elaborate stories in my head, I figured that's a good place to get back until I can sit down in front of a laptop again.

So what are your tips and tricks to keep writing?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I'm still here...

I think.
Or perhaps just barely.

So the past few weeks have been a blur for me, and I thank you all for bearing with my sporadic posting schedule. I've been on a writing hiatus while I sort out my living arrangements. I don't think I have cracked open my laptop in at least a month, but you know, I'm OK with that. I've taken the time to do some reading, namely The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly, who is one of my favorite writers. I love her books. I remember reading The Tea Rose back in college. I had the misfortune of picking up this book during exam week and could barely put it down in order to study. In fact, I raced through it in less than two days and then after exams I went back to read it again.

There is nothing I love more than reading a book that makes you want to read it again and again... I think the quality that hooks me into a book is the characters. Characterization is everything to me. I love characters so life like that when you stumble upon a villain, you want to throw the book across the room because he/she is so evil.

I want to create characters like that. I want my readers to cheer, laugh, cry, and growl as they make their way through my writing. It's a tall order, though. It's probably why I put down 75% of the books I read. The characters just don't grab me. Their stories are just...well, blah. They're not different; they have no humor or they don't evoke sympathy. It's really sad that agents/editors/publishers are sacrificing characterization for sensationalism. Set the same old characters in the prevailing popular time period and...voila! have a "bestseller".

But I digress. The real subject of this post was about how I am determined to read some of my favorite books (now that they have found their way out of boxes and onto my lone bookshelf) and identify why I love them. And then I will endeavor to evoke those characteristics in my own writing.

So what about you guys? What draws you into a book? Do you try to capture those same things in your own writing?