Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Research & Writer’s Block

February 5th, 2016 • by Karen A. Chase • 1 Comment
Writers block means going back to the books. (Public Domain Image: Ivan Kramskoy. Reading woman.)

Writers block means going back to the books. (Public Domain Image: Ivan Kramskoy. Reading woman.)

Writers often dread the idea of becoming stuck, and Writer’s Digest (WD) has a great post this week about 5 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block.

I’ll admit that I’m not a big believer in writer’s block as this staring-at-a-blank-page, drink-in-hand, woe-to-the-tortured-Hemingway-like-writer syndrome. Much like the WD article author, Molly Cochran, I think the reasons for why writers might stall are pretty straightforward. And Molly’s tips are a great help for overcoming those problems.

But I will add to her list a sixth reason, and it’s primarily for all the historical novelists out there. Lack of preparation or research.

I write what I call “Factual Fiction,” whereby my plot, story and characters are not loosely set in history but intrinsically tied to real events, people and places. So if I am having difficulty with my plot, or what my characters are doing or saying, it’s because I simply don’t know enough about the event, person or place with which they must interact.

To overcome those moments when words come to a screeching halt, I read (or sometimes reread) about an event. I take out pictures of the locations I’m featuring, or I read second-hand accounts or bios about the person they’re speaking to. Once, I had to request a historian’s dissertation from a California university to overcome a lack of information.

Usually within an hour, or in that one case a couple weeks, I’m humming along with ideas again. No more writer’s block. Then my only problem becomes whether or not I’ve blocked off enough time to write.

7 Years in 1776

January 29th, 2016 • by Karen A. Chase • 6 Comments

Many years ago, when I worked at a corporate job, my employee review indicated I was doing well, but “lacked patience.” I was not surprised. I’d heard it before, and was well aware of both the positive and negative aspects of such a trait.

Fast forward, and this week my novel, in the hands of my agent, is going out for the next round of feedback from publishers. As I wait, once again, I’m reminded of that review, and I wonder if this novel shows how my lack of patience was probably not a trait, but a symptom of circumstance.

Back then, I wanted to my career to advance faster (now), because I was working jobs that fit me about as well as that too-tight pair of wool pants I can’t seem to part with.

But this book, set during 1776, is a passion project. Potentially a new career. And so it’s more like a cozy sweater-dress I bought at Goodwill a couple months ago–it fits so easily, and makes me feel fantastic. Consequently, my dedication to it can been seen in the numbers:

I began researching 7 years ago, worked with 5 different editors, 9 early readers (friends who gave advice and corrections), 100s of historians, librarians, museum directors and more. I wrote and rewrote a total of 8 drafts. Went through 6 months of agent-query rejections, and now, after 1.5 years editing with my agent, we’re heading for the final gate–a publisher.

I’ve grown. I’ve matured. And yet all I can think is, “Now? Have you heard from a publisher now? How about now?”

(I will indeed let you all know when I hear, per this old post about getting the agent, I will fly the Canadian flag when I have a publisher.)

Character Development and Pets

June 5th, 2015 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments

Last weekend, the New York Times Book Review section had an article about what authors do Between Books by Ann Packer.  In it she said sometimes she has trouble moving on with new books because of characters. Not that she wants to hang out with them longer, but because she is “giving up the ease I developed with writing them.”

As I work to finish my first big novel, I understand. My characters are like my old cat was in the last years of her life. We ebb and flow around one another. I know why and when a particular voice is used. We’ve settled into our daily routine. We have an understanding. It’s easy.

New characters are like puppies and kittens. When they’re “on” it can be chaos. They don’t always go where it makes sense. They don’t speak or participate properly in the environment I’ve created for them. There’s a bit of cursing, and certainly training. On their part and mine.

Given this notion, my goal is to enjoy these last few moments with my old characters. My protagonist who was a young, eager pup–he’s now a great travel companion who comes with me to the office every day. My antagonist, who started out simpering like Snidely Whiplash, has grown into a lovable mutt (who has gotten mean as he got older, sadly).

And I’ll enjoy the ease of their company before I find myself laying down papers for my new pets ahead.

. . . . . . . . . .


And this week we say goodbye to a great character. Bandit. The little dog who lived (and worked) next door to me in Paris. He had a long, happy life with Dorothée, eating well at the crab shack and summering at the beach. He was featured in several entries, along with this picture, in my book Bonjour 40. Bandit, may there be unlimited bread wherever you are now. You certainly begged for enough of it in this life.