What Is So Historical About Research?

By Tammy Trail

When I began to write my first novel, I knew it would be a historical. I love history. I love the idea of our nation being shaped by hardworking men and women who sacrificed to live in an untamed country. I chose Frontier/American Revolution because that’s what I like to read.

I began of course with WHO, WHAT, WHERE, and WHEN. I was given advice from a writer friend to research everything for accuracy and keep notes on where I found that information. I may need it later to educate or confirm my research.

If you just google Historical Research, you will find a plethora of options. Historical research involves examining past events to draw conclusions about the future. That is one definition I found. Instead of drawing conclusions about the future, we who write historical fiction pour our definition of past events and how they might have affected our characters onto the page.

Some material that may help in your research are newspapers, diaries, letters, speeches, or interview a person with firsthand knowledge. Museums, historical societies, and old pictures are helpful too. I would really love to take a “research” trip one of these days. Williamsburg Virginia has been calling my name for years.

Other information you may need to research.

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Trades
  • Politics
  • Travel
  • Weapons

In my American Revolutionary story, politics plays a huge role because it set the social and economic climate for that period. I read about some of the lesser known places and heroes that played a part in our winning independence from Great Britain.  I also asked myself what roles would a woman have played during the American Revolution? How does life go on when your men are away from home?

I have even read novels from other authors who write in my chosen time to get a feel for that era. I stay away from books that have a plot like my own. Some authors write blogs about their extensive research to share with others. Something as simple as shoes were totally different over 200 years ago. Beware of doing so much research that your story becomes bogged down with just facts, and not enough story. You can do too much research and never introduce your character to the world.

I have used Pinterest to keep pictures of my character’s lives. I can look at them and imagine what the interior of a home would look like, how my heroine may have dressed for chores, or how she may have dressed for a party.

I also dabbled in writing a western set in Wyoming territory in the early 1800s.  My heroine is a Chinese national who arrives in San Francisco on a ship. During my research for that story, I found a ship that sailed from China to that port in 1854. Now some of the other facts in my story had to be changed to fit that timeline. And that’s OK. It adds authenticity. I also needed to learn about the US Calvary, Indian tribes who were indigenous to that part of the country, and what obstacles my heroine might encounter because she was not born in the United States.

When you have all your questions answered and you begin to write, chances are you will find you have more questions. Keep researching or seek out an experienced author. I find that someone is always happy to help.

Writing Prompt: In what year did the following events take place?

  • Senator Daniel Webster endorses a bill as a measure to avert a possible civil war.
  • Millard Fillmore is sworn into office as President of the United States.
  • California is admitted as the 31st state.
  • P.T. Barnum introduces Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind to an American audience.

Click to Tweet: What Is So Historical About Research @InspiredPrompts #writetip #amwriting

 

Let Me Call You Sweetheart

By Tammy Trail

Valentine’s Day is just days away. Have you gotten your sweetheart a gift yet? I have done a bit of research on the history of Valentine’s Day. It is rooted in a pagan holiday that ensured fertility.

Roman Emperor, Claudius II ruled that young men in the Army were to remain unmarried. He felt that this would make single men more aggressive in the field of battle. The Emperor put a young cleric by the name of Valentine to death for secretly marrying young couples.  Valentine was later made a Saint by Pope Gelasius and given the date of February 14th to celebrate Saint Valentine.

In the 13th Century, it was synonymous with love and romance because it was believed that this was the beginning of mating season for birds.

In the 15th Century, written valentines were given to sweethearts.

In the 17th Century, valentines were exchanged between those who were smitten with one another.

In 1840, the first mass-produced valentines appeared in the United States. Valentine’s Day is the second most popular card giving occasion. It is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, France, Australia, Denmark, Italy, and Japan.

As a child, I remember my mother scouring the house for shoe boxes to be made into valentine mail boxes to decorate for my desk at school. There would be a party, of course, with lots of good treats. After school, you would open your box and read the paper gifts of admiration your classmates gave to you.

I have tried in years past to make my own valentines to give to family members and friends. Last year I made these for my grandsons.

I filled the little sack with treats. They really enjoyed getting a valentine from their Mimi!

I am already diligently looking for options for this year. You may find it just as rewarding to make your own as well. I find a great source of inspiration with Pinterest. What a treasure trove of ideas!

Whether you make your own, or buy a card for that special someone, I believe it’s a good holiday to celebrate. Who doesn’t like candy? And you will make mate, child, or friend feel important with a valentine that you especially picked out for them. You can never go wrong by making people feel loved and important.

For the writer, especially the romance writer, Valentine’s Day is a reminder of why we put words to paper. That boy meets girl stuff is what makes the story, especially when they lived happily ever after.

So, in keeping with that thought! Here is my valentine for all of you.

  1. Writing Prompt: Jessica expected a great big box of heart-shaped candy.  What she found was……..?

Click to tweet: Romance is #alive https://ctt.ec/53mP6

Back to Basics for Writers – Plotter or Pantser?

by Tammy Trail

You might be a PLOTTER if you have ever wondered if you should be more organized with your writing. Plotting is a systematic way of putting your story thoughts together. You might decide to do it by scene or chapter. You will need to know what each character’s goal, motivation and conflict are for each scene. This system may require you to write an outline of your story idea.

A writer friend showed me one method when I first started working on my story. You simply take 3 X 5 index cards and write each chapter idea on a card until you have each chapter worked out for the whole book. If you’re writing romance, a suggestion with this method is using different colored index cards for your hero and heroine. For instance, pink index cards for the heroine and blue for the hero. Using index cards gives you an opportunity to change the cards around to rearrange your chapters, or change the time frame of your inciting incident.

There are many different plotting systems you can find with the help of the internet. I have read the “Plot Skeleton”, by Angela Hunt. Randy Ingermason has a Snowflake system that you can purchase from his website. Scrivener is a downloadable system that helps organize your story and allows you to keep your notes, pictures, outline, and your manuscript all in one place. This is also a great tool if you decide to self-publish your novel.

Some writers may consider themselves ‘free spirits”, and refuse to use any kind of plotting system because it stifles the creative flow. This is the PANTSER method – you fly by the seat of your pants. I started out with an idea for a story with no formal plotting method I imagined my heroine’s appearance, her personality and motivation. Then I created a life for her in the 18th century that I incorporated into a story.

My initial first chapter is now my third chapter, and I finished the book just shy of 70,000 words. When I began to edit my story, I found plot holes; places where my story lost connection and became a dead end. Now that I’ve had time to think about my story, I’ve written a whole different first chapter. Sounds a little crazy, huh?

Well, admittedly I am flustered with the complete process. Do I feel that I’ve wasted my time? Not a bit. I have learned a lot from this first draft. I went back to my index cards and began to look at them in a whole different light. I began to fix plot holes, and really think about deep point of view for my main characters. It’s still a work in progress.

Whichever method you choose, neither is wrong as long as you write the story. I haven’t given myself a label. I guess I’m just a bit of a rogue. I love my characters and the journey I envision for them. One day soon I hope to call myself a published author. I’m still learning through my own journey. How about you?

Writing Prompt:  Tracy pushed the off button on the remote just as the first clap of thunder shook her little house. She went to the kitchen to retrieve her flashlight; storms and electricity didn’t get along in her small town. The flashlight was forgotten when she heard a  rattle at her back door. She watched in awe as the doorknob shook violently from left to right. Then the lights went out.

Click to Tweet: So you want to #write. Back to Basics – Plotter or Pantser?

1st Saturday Extra: Do Writing Prompts Really Work?

By Jennifer Hallmark

Today is our first installment of a new monthly series called 1st Saturday Extra. Each month, we’ll share a testimonial or more personal interview from someone in the writing world. So pull up a chair and enjoy my thoughts on writing prompts.

I believe in writing prompts.

I really do.

The name of our writing blog originally was Writing Prompts, Thoughts, & Ideas…Oh My! Yes, I know it was too long, but at the time I thought it was clever. We’ve shortened it to The Inspired Prompt. Prompts can be pivotal to our writing career.

Prompts may truly be inspired. Why do I feel this way?

In the spring of 2019, my first novel will be released from Firefly Southern Fiction. I am beyond thrilled, ecstatic, and Snoopy dancing. It’s my dream come true.

And it started with a small writer’s group and three simple phrases: Wedding dress designer, dusty baseball cap, faded blue coveralls. From that simple beginning in 2009, a short story was birthed which turned into a novella and finally a novel.

I have two more works-in-progress (WIP) with a few thousand words (if you’re a writer, you’ll understand) and they also had a humble beginning with prompts.

Why do prompts spark creativity? To me, the subconscious is always at work for a writer with feelings and storylines just below the surface waiting to be unleashed. Writing prompts are one way to release them. My novel could have had a different occupation or clothing item if the prompt had been different but I believe the storyline probably would’ve been similar.

Prompts, thoughts, and ideas work best with free writing, where you just let your imagination run and try to keep up with it on a keyboard or with a pen. Now my novel is very different from that original bit of free writing. But the foundation was set that day in 2009 and soon will be in print.

I can’t wait for that day.

So, why don’t you try it out? Every Monday and Friday, we’ll share a post with some type of writing prompt. I’ll be sharing one at the bottom of this post also. Find a quiet place and take the sentence, items, or picture prompt, then write down all that comes to mind.

One day, we might be reading your novel. And you’ll tell people it all started with a prompt.

Click to tweet: Why do writing prompts spark creativity? Read on. @InspiredPrompt #amwriting #writingprompt

Writing Prompt: Use these four items to create a story: deli sandwich, Atlanta, aging horse, and a deserted farmhouse. If you’d like, share a bit with us in the comment section below.

Happy Writing!

deserted farmhouse

Is There Room For Indie Publishing?

By Tammy Trail

The traditional publishing road reminds me in many ways of a dark alley without street lamps. At the end of the block is a shining orb of illumination where an author’s dreams are fulfilled. On that road to publication are potholes of promises not kept. Deep ruts of relentless proposals, and query letters with rejection notices. Like weeds on each side of the road killing off blossoms of hope for a book with your name on it. With this kind of image in mind, it is no small wonder that many wordsmiths are looking at other avenues of success, namely Indie Publishing.

I first thought this was also referred to as Self-Publishing. The more I researched, I found that this is not the case. Self-Publishing is hiring a publisher or press to pay to see your book in print. This is a risky business at best. Some works of print may not be edited well, have unattractive typesetting, and cost way more than it ought to for the privilege. A promise of marketing your book may be just getting it on a list for availability for wholesale before it reaches your local bookstore.

And then there is Amazon. Now granted, I have found no evidence in my research of plagiarized books in the Christian fiction market, but it has happened in other genres. We know how much of a creative toll our works of art take on us. The hours spent developing characters, plotting, and eye strain from spending time in front of a  computer is an investment. Then some unscrupulous, lazy writer comes along and steals your work. Not only do they steal it, they make money from your idea. One author confronted her attacker in an email. The thief apologized. With this apology email, the original author took their evidence to Amazon to demand her earnings. Others have not been so lucky. In Amazon’s defense, they now have a team of folks who watch for plagiarized material.Writers' Resolutions for 2017 by Karen Jurgens

Traditionally published authors didn’t like the idea of self-publishing either. It mocked the literary social norm. To be honest, some of those who flocked to get published quickly just want a book out there with their name on it. These works were flawed and set a bad example for a fledgling writer. They cheapened the hard work of big name authors. It has improved. More writers who follow this path are taking the time to pay for a good editor, realizing a good product produces better results.

Now Indie Publishing has once again rocked the boat. They have cut out the middle man, and all the bumps in the road by doing it all for themselves. From written word, to editing, typesetting, cover design and marketing. Is there a downside to this? I would imagine it takes a lot of time from blank page to whole book. Some would argue that if you honed your skills a bit and studied the craft more, a traditional publisher would eventually buy your book. On the other hand, there are writing styles and genre that the traditional publishers won’t even look at, and that is frustrating. Controlling your own piece of work without worry of what percentage of the profits will line your pockets is an incentive too.

As an Indie Published author, you are the product. You are the company that invests, markets, and gains the profit from your own written works. I don’t really see a downside to that, except that maybe all the middle man stuff could take away from the creative aspect of your work. Perhaps there is someone out there that has managed to do this well enough to teach the rest?

Time will tell.

Click to tweet: Indie publishing has once again rocked the boat. #IndiePub #amwriting

Writing prompt: Sally received another rejection letter. Crumpling it into a ball she vowed to…………