Take Time to Look at the Past

Writing in the Historical Genre.

When I started writing it wasn’t hard for me to choose a genre.  As a young girl I loved reading Nancy Drew. Nancy was everything I wanted to be, smart, popular, and fearless. When I turned thirteen all that changed with a book I checked out from the bookmobile. It was called “The Distant Summer” by Sarah Patterson. Romance had taken hold of my page turning habits.  Boy meets girl just made my heart zing. In high school I found a new love, history. Putting my love of history together with romance just made my world complete.

My first novel is set during the American Revolution. With some help from a writing group; a brainstorming session created my hero and heroine. The historical facts took a bit longer. A lot of research goes into historical fiction writing.

There are many sources available to research a historic period. Books, the internet, libraries, and historical societies are all a wealth of information. This summer my husband and I went to Washington, D.C. for a short trip. About two hours south of that city in Virginia is  Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum. I fell in love with the place! Doing a research trip is totally worth it. I found so many interesting stories while doing my research. There are truly so many real characters who played instrumental roles in forging our country that adding  your interpretation of those historical characters to your novel can add a bit of authenticity.

Throw a dart at a map of our original thirteen colonies and land on a spot rich in history to use in your historical novel. You could choose any time period and do the same. Some of my favorite historical novels are not necessarily considered romantic. You can weave a historical tale without the romance. A character study of a type of historical figure like a spy during the American Revolution, or the Civil War, who happens to be a romantic is a great historical story.  The possibilities are endless.

I have learned through this writing journey to listen to the advice from those who have traveled this worn path. Save everything. Not that you need to become a hoarder mind you, but there may come a time when your historical facts need to be proved. Keeping track of your sources will make this less stressful. A notebook, or three ring binder for keeping documents and the ideas you’ve chicken-scratched on little bit of paper. I also keep a notebook on my nightstand, I can’t tell you how many times an idea will present itself while I lay in bed at night.

There is also a computer application called Scrivener which will allow you to keep all your sources, documents, notes, pictures, and your manuscript all in one place. It will even help you format your book. So, think about those days gone by, there just might a story there.

 

Take a page from the #past

 

Writing Prompt: You just found a diary in a dusty old trunk in your Grandmother’s attic. It tells a story of one of your long lost ancestors. Tell me about him/her and the time period they lived in.

Research: The Inspired Prompt Way

Research. We’ve spent the month of March dissecting this topic from all angles. From how to start, to research on the road, and current events research, a way to gather information should be coming clear.

I’ve asked the Crew to share their go-to source when it comes to research. Here’s what they said:

Harriet Michael: As a Christian nonfiction writer who writes a lot of Biblical pieces—devotions and essays to a Biblical theme, my go-to resource is Bible Gateway where I can look up passages, do word searches, find commentaries, and find passages in all translations. Here is their link: https://www.biblegateway.com/

Jennifer Hallmark: Sometimes when I write, I just can’t think of the right word so I use an online thesaurus. Even if I don’t find what I need, it often gets my creativity flowing so I can move forward in my writing. Their link is http://www.thesaurus.com/

Kristy Horine: I find the Blue Letter Bible www.blueletterbible.org to be a great resource due to its interlinear concordance, cross references, language explanations, and access to commentaries. It has an app that is free that can be downloaded to your phone.  In addition, www.biblestudytools.com is helpful in the commentary area.

Another source is www.thoughtco.com. This is not a Christian-based resource, but it sure is fun for those strange and unusual questions like if brain cells regenerate, or the difference between racism and prejudice. It is based on the idea that we should be lifelong learners and seeks to teach just that. Plus, it has a really neat daily email you can sign up for. And, for numbers: www.barna.com and www.pewresearch.org

Betty Thomason Owens: I attended a class on researching at the Mid South Conference. The instructor gave us the Library of Congress website. It’s huge. You can find articles, photos, and lots of other interesting studies and stories and books. https://www.loc.gov/  I also love History.com  https://www.history.com/ and the Smithsonian.com https://www.smithsonianmag.com/.

Gail Johnson: I use the Bible, Webster’s dictionary, and the Strong’s Concordance. Also Bible Gateway and the online versions of the dictionary and thesaurus.

Bonita McCoy: I love  Biblehub.com because it gives you the verse in several translations. I use it for my Beautiful Pieces of Grace blog. Also the good old library for articles for the Inspired Prompt site and my Courageous Writers blog.

Fay Lamb: My research varies on what the subject happens to be. If it is medical, I will look up medical research on various sites, but I also look for journals of people who have undergone medical procedures. I also use slang dictionaries for slang for certain times. I even have a surfers’ slang dictionary.

Tammy Trail:  I tend to look for historical societies. There is a blog I like to catch up with too, Colonial Quills. Lots of historical information there for me. I use the Colonial Williamsburg website also. For writing related information, I love Seekerville.

Carlton Hughes:  Like others, my research varies depending on the subject. I’m mostly writing devotionals now, so usually I’m searching for a specific scripture on Bible Gateway. Blogs like Novel Rocket are good for general advice on fiction writing.

Shirley Crowder:  I use Blue Letter Bible — lots of commentaries, words studies, etc. https://www.blueletterbible.org/

Karen Jurgens: I use Google for whatever I need to know when I’m writing about Paris and other parts of the world. I study maps of the city, and I use reference books I’ve purchased while visiting. For example, I bought lots of historical books and maps of Cayman Island when I vacationed there a couple years ago. I always write about settings I know personally or have visited.

Cammi Woodall: Started in September of 1998, Google is the world’s largest search engine. You know how I know that? I googled it! When you can use your search engine name as a verb, you know you are doing something right. I love other sites like AskJeeves.com or Yahoo.com, but I always come back to Google. In one research session, l learned that the world’s oldest church is the Dura-Europos house church in Syria, arsenic poison will still show up in your fingernails 6 to 12 months after ingestion, and a ten-gallon hat really only holds three-quarters of a gallon. Who knew? Google did! And now I do, too.

Thank you, Inspired Prompt Crew! As you can see, there are research sites galore for the fiction and non-fiction writer. Do you have a go-to site that’s not listed above? In lieu of a writing prompt, we’re asking you to share that in the comments below…

Click to tweet: The Inspired Prompt Crew shares their go-to source when it comes to research for writers. #research #Google

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?

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas – The Reason for the Season

Our first snowfall this year was on Halloween. My grandson was so excited he danced around the small front yard yelling at the top of his lungs in unashamed joy, “Santa Claus is coming soon.” We then explained that we needed to celebrate Thanksgiving first, before we celebrate Christmas.

I learned from a veteran Walmart employee that the holiday shopping season has been dubbed “the season of rudeness”, and it gets worse the closer it gets to Christmas. Makes you wonder what in the world is wrong with people?

Then I hear stories about a secret Santa who pays the balance on a layaway for a hard working single mom. A police officer who pulls over an unsuspecting motorist who is wondering what traffic infraction caused the red lights in the rear view mirror, only to be given a gift card, or wrapped package instead of  a ticket.

I see barrels everywhere for toy donations, and they are filled with dolls, trucks, and board games. Let us not forget those brave souls who stand out in the cold to ring a bell next to a shiny red kettle. All to make spirits bright for someone in need.

Christmas begins in the heart. Love is the reason for the season. Our greatest gift chose to come down from heaven, to be born in a barn, and raised in a humble home. Sometimes I forget that Jesus is the reason for the season, and I remind myself that all that commercial stuff makes people crazy. Sure, we all want to watch the kids open presents and see that look of surprise and joy. This is what makes gift giving so much fun!

Take away all the pretty lights, ugly sweaters and Aunt Margie’s fruitcake, and what you have left is still worth celebrating.

God gave us a wonderful gift we can celebrate everyday, all year round. I choose to focus on the real reason for Christmas. How about you? [Click to Tweet]