Writing Historical Fiction is Hard: Fact.

I googled Historical Fiction images and this is what I found.

I googled Historical Fiction images and this is what I found.

Last night on the bus home, as I scrolled down my twitter feed, I suddenly remembered a writing project I’ve been having a break from for a few weeks. ‘Oh yeah,’ I thought, as I clicked on to a Buzzfeed article about the runaway Thelma and Louise llamas, ‘I should probably do something about that.’

The story I was thinking about is historical fiction, and the reason I have needed time away from it is for pretty much that reason. Because it is historical fiction. And, understatement of the year, folks, – writing historical fiction is hard.

I love a book with a historic setting: it doesn’t matter whether it’s a classic or a book written by a modern writer, so long as it’s interesting, well-written and has more of a plot than just being smut with corsets. I am history nerd, out and proud. I love learning about history, and I love reading about it in fiction too. Particularly if it involves

a) Elizabeth I,

b) strong female protagonists ahead of their time,

c) a barouchelandau

d) India,

e) plots centred on times of unrest and seismic change,

f) characters who get all caught up in said seismic changes.

Blog 2 i

But this is the first time I’ve tried to write a historical story since I went through this hardcore Victorian phase when I was about ten and we were studying it in school. All my stories at that point seemed to involve smog, down-trodden yet feisty heroines and Australian convict ships.

Partly this avoidance is because of the amount of research that is involved in it. A little bit of me thinks it’s because I am put off by that lady I share a surname with, Philippa Gregory, and all the cross feelings I have over the one book of hers I ever read, ‘The Other Boleyn Girl,’ (FYI Why does everyone always portray Anne Boleyn as such vile human being? Seriously, hardly any modern historians think she was guilty anyway. But that’s a blog for some other time).

Man with the emotional integrity of a guppy fish.

Man with the emotional integrity of a guppy fish.

Anyway, the point is, despite my misgivings I have always wanted to write a historical story. One that’s more than 4 pages of handwritten Biro and ends up with a fight ensuing at a debutante ball. And that it’s only no I’m actually trying it that I’m able to appreciate how much of a hard slog writing a historical novel actually is.

And yes, I know, writing novels, especially if you’re actually delusional enough and serious about wanting to publish them, is hard, full stop. When you factor in full-time work, travel, family and social life, plus all those daily things you need to do such as shower, eat, exercise, and sleep, most average wannabe authors can tell you, it is hard to sit down and write.

The reason it’s turning out to be so hard is because this is the most research I have ever had to do for any story I have ever written.

In fact, I haven’t done this much research, note-taking, planning and thinking around a subject since I finished my Masters. It is exactly like being back at Uni, only now nobody is marking what I write, I don’t see my lovely friends as often, I have to get up at 6:30am every week day, and I don’t have all these sweet and naïve ideas about how rosy, exciting, memorable and adventure-filled my 20s will be. (Oh the woe, oh the feels).  

My Student Haunt

My Student Haunt

But yeah, aside from all the above, very much like Uni. I’ve been going to the library to see what I can find in the fact section, and I’ve spent ages online scanning blogs, university and Goodreads recommended lists, on-line e-books and sites like BBC history and the National Archives.

And yes I know how sad I actually now sound by admitting to that. I know. Honestly, I do have a life and family and friends. Really, really.

And I know for other writers none of what I’m saying is news. There are a lot of genres which require a lot of research and planning in advance. As nice a notion as it seems to just open a blank book or Word page and start writing/ typing, the fact is most of us can’t write spontaneously like that. We need an idea, a plan, something to go on first.

And I also know it doesn’t seem like it, but I’m not OCD for accuracy either. I mean, I think historical stories should be fairly accurate- see previous misgivings about The Other Boleyn Girl. I don’t think it’s OK for authors to just do away with significant or important historical facts, but I think it’s totally fine to use a bit of artistic licence too.

All the same, you definitely need to learn your chosen period of history, that’s for sure.

Which is why I’ve been having a break from it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I feel a little… stuck. I don’t want to give up on this story. I am excited about it. I’m passionate about the plot and the themes and the period of history it’s about. I want to write it. But I don’t really know how to go about doing that right now. Because, surprisingly, despite being a single and childless twenty-something with aparently plenty of time to waste on social media, I don’t have an inexhaustible amount of time on my hands to dedicate to this story.

Right now, I’ve saved my files and decided to leave it a while. My other current project, my, ‘I’m not doing a Lena Denham but I am trying to write a book all about the ISSUES of being a millennial 20 something woman’ novel, just is proving that much easier to finish.

The only thing I can safely say, is that, unless you’re an already established writer, or you have a PhD in your chosen time-period/ work as a museum curator/ can afford not to work, writing historical fiction is definitely a labour of love.

Either that or you need this,

blog 2iiiii

Or this.

pic time

© Laura Gregory, ‘Laura’s Musings and Meanderings’ 2015. All Rights Reserved Worldwide under the Berne Convention. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Laura Gregory at ‘Laura’s Musings and Meanderings’ 2015, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you.

Unfinished Book Business

Unfinished Book Business


Right, down to business. First blog post- here goes!

I think I may have mentioned briefly already in my intro/ ice breaker blog that I really love reading, and that a good amount of posts on this blog will probably become dedicated to my thoughts on what I’m currently reading, different authors, plot-lines and characters and just everything book-related. There will probably be some ranty post about film adaptations of novels that didn’t do justice, and at least eight posts dedicated to my undying love for all things Jane Austen. Don’t ever say I didn’t warn you- my love for books is borderline obsessive.

But.

And it’s a big but too…

I have a confession to make.

It’s something that’s been getting worse and worse for the last two years or so. It never used to be like this. It’s a real burden.

I seem to have acquired a pile of unfinished and unread books.

And yes, I know that this really isn’t the worst bookworm admission ever. In fact, it isn’t an admission at all. Who doesn’t have a few unfinished books floating about their bedroom floor gathering dust next to that file you keep your Important Documents in? It’s hardly like I’m coming out as a fan of 50 Shades (disclaimer- Not A Fan).

But still, for someone who happily tells everyone she meets how much she loves reading, it’s a little… frustrating and annoying. Especially cos I’m such a conscientious goody-two-shoes studious type (I Was Hermione Granger before anyone had ever read of Hermione Granger).

I’ve managed to plough my way through some door-stoppers in the past- A Suitable Boy, for example (which is good- read it!)

I’ve managed to finish a few pretty awful ones too. Joseph Conrad anyone?

And I was one of about only five people from my 2nd year Uni Renaissance Lit group who made it to the end of Thomas Moore’s Utopia (I don’t even know how I managed that. All around good guy though he was, his writing was… lengthy).

I mean, I’m not berating myself or beating myself up about it. Not really. All that I’ve written above was said with tongue firmly in cheek. Life can be tough sometimes. Things happen. Books get forgotten about, or put aside with well-meant promises to return to them when it’s more convenient to. Some books are just so bad you can’t make yourself finish them, because life is short, and, in all honesty, that’s OK.

But still, this is a pretty big pile. I mean, just look.

Here’s the ones on the desk.

11012269_688683962553_1116102064_n

See the many bookmarks?

The ones on the floor.

Complete with unhoovered carpet.

Complete with unhoovered carpet.

And let’s not even begin on the e-Reader… ‘Reigns down curses upon Amazon and all who work for their advertising team.’

My e-Reader referencing my geekyness for the Tube.

Which is why on Shrove Tuesday I decided enough was pretty much enough.

I’ve decided that over the course of Lent this year, from now, until Easter, I will try to finish every unread or unfinished book I own. And I’m not allowed to buy new ones til I do. And if you know me at all, in real life, you’ll know that a whole 40 days of not buying books, or even loaning them from the library is a very, very big ask.

Now before you click the x in the corner because you don’t want to hear any more of my arrogant ‘get me’ bookworm bragging, don’t worry. I’m not being pious (even though I’m Anglo-Catholic) or trying to show off, I am not going to try to make anyone else feel guilty or anything for not having the time to finish whatever books they have lying around.

Frankly, I’m just writing this in the hope of some solidarity, because currently it’s turning out to be a really bloody hard task. I’m currently trying to finish ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ and, somewhat rather unlikely, it’s proving stupidly hard, which is nuts, seeing as a) it’s short and b) the writing style isn’t exactly hard-going and c)it’s all nice and light-hearted. It’s like walking insand trying to read this book. But some books are just like that: you can’t warm to the characters, or the plot isn’t drawing you in, or the writer’s style just leaves you cold. Each to their own.

Anyway, long story short (ha-ha) that’s my current book thoughts and news. I’ll probably write a mid-Lent update of how I’m doing in a week or two. Here’s a list of all the books I have to read.

You’ll notice it’s quite a mixed bag.

Watch this space!!

The List.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry- Rachel Joyce

One Summer:America 1927-Bill Bryson

Almost English- Charlotte Mendelson

Us- David Nicholls

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris- Jenny Colgan

The Pillars of the Earth-Ken Follett

Singled Out -Virginia Nicholson

We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves-Karen Joy Fowler

The Lowland- Jhumpa Lahiri

Further Tales of the City- Armistead Maupin (One of my Favourite Authors Of All Time. Ashamed this is on the list).

The Age of Innocence-Edith Wharton

Down and Out in Paris and London – George Orwell

Also- I love how my spell check tried to just change Armistead Maupin’s name to Farmstead Maupin. Hmmm.

Till next we meet, tinterweb.

© Laura Gregory, ‘Laura’s Musings and Meanderings’ 2015. All Rights Reserved Worldwide under the Berne Convention. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Laura Gregory at ‘Laura’s Musings and Meanderings’ 2015, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you.

Back to Basics: (re)introductions and other necessary things.

Hello, reader person! I’m Laura, and  this here is my new blog. Thanks for stopping over, and welcome!

I’ve tried a few times in the past to start successfully writing a blog, but I’ve never really gotten in to it. It’s been a case of the usual reasons: life, work commitments, various things going on at home and socially, and as enthusiastic and as full of ideas as I’ve been, ‘START BLOG’ has just constantly been jotted down, half forgotten about, at the bottom of my to-do list, scribbled in the margin in a stubby HB pencil, under things like ‘Passport renewal’ and ‘Water orchid- (underlined in red ink several times).’

Every time it’s New Year’s Eve/ my birthday/ the new school year, I get all caught up and inspired by the inevitable but brief feelings of optimism and shiny hopeful newness they bring, and each time I have said (loudly, usually at 9pm when everyone’s just sat down to watch a DVD and isn’t particularly listening) ‘This time I WILL write a blog!’, only to get about three posts in and get distracted by banana loaf/ caught up in work admin/ struck by a sudden case of writer’s block where all the words start to wiggle on the page and taunt you til you give up and end up watching back-runs of Modern Family.

But- hopefully- not this time. This time I am actually going to try and do this properly, simply because I really love writing. I write about anything, but in the last few years I’ve mostly been trying to write A Novel (quelle surprise!) and I now have several well-intentioned ‘Novels Under Semi-Construction’ for my troubles (my aim is I will finish A Novel by the age of 30, which gives me 3 years, 4 months, eeek!). Because of this I’ve been less focused on writing non-fiction/fact/opinion, etc., so I want to get back to the habit of writing non-fictional bits and bobs as well as actually completing A Novel, and of doing so more often, even if all I manage is to write a paragraph or two a few evenings a week, even when it’s only 50 words of inane fluff about The Good Wife at 10pm on a Thursday night or something.

Mostly this blog will be a bit of a jumble of my thoughts on writing (shock horror!), reading (my love for books borders on obsessive), pop culture, things I’m generally interested in and life in general. I’m also planning on writing about topical stories that catch my eye, issues that are important to me, or (when I feel brave enough) sharing my many musings, ramblings and woes about the highs and lows of life as a late-20 something millennial women with a disability. But don’t let that put you off! I hope that people will enjoy reading this blog and that I might even occasionally have something interesting, important or entertaining to say, but, don’t worry, the one thing I can promise is I am most definitely not under any illusion that I’m the voice of my generation.

Anyway! Here it goes! I hope you stick with me and I look forward to seeing what this blog will become!

Laura G 🙂

© Laura Gregory, ‘Laura’s Musings and Meanderings,’ 2015. All Rights Reserved Worldwide under the Berne Convention. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Laura Gregory at ‘Laura’s Musings and Meanderings,’ 2015, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you.