Author Topic: Researching for historical novels  (Read 1342 times)

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Slartibartfast

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Re: Researching for historical novels
« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2013, 10:49:33 AM »
What time period/place are you writing about?  That will determine the best way to go about researching.  In general, though, I suggest starting by reading books set in that time period and watching a few movies set there - you get an idea of what to expect, what types of things are different than we have today, etc.

(I'm writing a steampunk romance set in 1870 right now, so I'm in the middle of a ton of research too!  Anyone been to the botanical gardens in Manchester, UK and want to PM me?  :P)

This sounds interesting!  Are you going to try to publish?  I hope we all get to read this someday!

Working towards it - I'm hoping to be done by this spring and submitting it to agents and editors by the end of the summer.  It will help a lot when Bittybartfast starts sleeping through the night so I'm not tired all the time, though  ;)

doodlemor

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Re: Researching for historical novels
« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2013, 12:44:21 PM »
Thanks everyone!

Doodlemor, I am glad you like the idea I had.  It sounds better in my head (to me anyway) than when I was typing it out here, at least before I edited my post.  I was afraid it might sound stupid and only make sense to me!

I do live in a university town, and am in fact an English major at the university and we start classes back on Monday.  Whenever I have spare time this semester (which granted will be hardly ever, school is so much busier in your 30s!) I will do some research in the library.  Today I found a very interesting article from a journal on my university's library website. 

I think this little project of mine is going to be extremely fun.  Maybe I will have the research done in time for campnano this summer. 

doodlemor, I might just have to let you critique it as I write it.   :)

Thanks, katiescarlett.  I would be quite honored.

I remembered another wonderful story that I remembered that involves plots from the past and the present working together.  It is The Anastasia Syndrome, by Mary Higgins Clark.

http://www.maryhigginsclark.com/book_page.php?isbn13=9780671701239

Again, best of luck with your project.

Slartibartfast

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Re: Researching for historical novels
« Reply #17 on: January 10, 2013, 03:23:32 PM »
By the way, for any interested writers who want to get a boost on their writing: check out the Winter Writing Festival by the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood.  It's like NaNoWriMo but you set your own goals and it doesn't have to be just writing.  Revising, editing, keeping your butt in the chair without checking Facebook, etc. can all count for your personal goals if you want them to  :)  There's also a chat room for moderated writing sprints, where everyone writes for 20 minutes all at once and then takes a few minutes to chat before going back to it.  I've found it really does help me focus.

Petticoats

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Re: Researching for historical novels
« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2013, 10:37:13 AM »
By the way, for any interested writers who want to get a boost on their writing: check out the Winter Writing Festival by the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood.  It's like NaNoWriMo but you set your own goals and it doesn't have to be just writing.  Revising, editing, keeping your butt in the chair without checking Facebook, etc. can all count for your personal goals if you want them to  :)  There's also a chat room for moderated writing sprints, where everyone writes for 20 minutes all at once and then takes a few minutes to chat before going back to it.  I've found it really does help me focus.

Slarty, thank you for mentioning this; I didn't know about it, and it sounds great! I'm behind on finishing my WIP, and any structure or outside pressure I can invoke will help. :)

Katiescarlett, it sounds like you have a really intriguing project in the works. Tudor England isn't my area, so I'm glad you've gotten such good advice here from others. I'm planning to start a historical gothic later this year, and I know already that research will be so much different from when I last worked on one, about 14 years ago, before Wikipedia and before a lot of good sources were online. I remember getting really, really frustrated at the paucity of information and on having to rely on super-general books like What Jane Austen Ate.... Let us know how your book goes!

Nibsey

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Re: Researching for historical novels
« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2013, 11:01:39 AM »
If you're in uni you should have access to jstor, an online journal database. It's the main one historians start with. There are load of articles on the sweating sickness in it. The first one I saw dealt with an outbreak in chester in 1551.

I would usually recommend looking at literature from that period to get an idea of the language used etc but before the 16th century, literature tended to be more how authors wanted the world to be than realistic. However letters and journals won't be like that and will give you good examples of the vernacular.
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katiescarlett

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Re: Researching for historical novels
« Reply #20 on: January 11, 2013, 11:29:49 AM »
If you're in uni you should have access to jstor, an online journal database. It's the main one historians start with. There are load of articles on the sweating sickness in it. The first one I saw dealt with an outbreak in chester in 1551.

I would usually recommend looking at literature from that period to get an idea of the language used etc but before the 16th century, literature tended to be more how authors wanted the world to be than realistic. However letters and journals won't be like that and will give you good examples of the vernacular.

Yes I do have access to jstor and have been finding some interesting articles already.  Thanks for the info on the literature.  I had not thought of that.

KB

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Re: Researching for historical novels
« Reply #21 on: January 11, 2013, 01:30:06 PM »
Having written several historical novels, the most important thing is to make sure that you have your sources right and keep a clear record of where you got ALL your details from. People delight in picking historical novels apart so you want to be able to back up all of your points.

I echo the suggestion that letters, diaries and journals are a wonderful source of day-to-day details, but people's memories are not infallible so do your best to check all of your details against more general sources or at least other diaries etc.

If you can get your material read/proofread before submitting to publishers, that will give your more confidence in your work. University lecturers or other experts on the subject may be willing to help with that

Jocelyn

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Re: Researching for historical novels
« Reply #22 on: January 11, 2013, 11:38:55 PM »
Just start with key words on the internet.  I agree that Wiki is a good place to start.  You probably already know not to rely on Wiki as being 100% reliable, 
Wikipedia's standards have gone upupup over the years. And just about any historical text you consult can have errors or biases in it. I ran across one that said that the Plantagenets were the royal family of England prior to the Norman Conquest. If someone changes an article in Wikipedia, the original author is notified. Try it some time, and see how quickly the misinformation is corrected. :)

Jocelyn

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Re: Researching for historical novels
« Reply #23 on: January 11, 2013, 11:41:19 PM »
It is set in Tudor England.  I want it to focus on the sweating sickness, which I find fascinating.  I am still working out a plot.   
I got a freebie for Kindle book about disease in the medieval and Renaissance times...

Venus193

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Re: Researching for historical novels
« Reply #24 on: January 12, 2013, 07:14:16 AM »
Having written several historical novels, the most important thing is to make sure that you have your sources right and keep a clear record of where you got ALL your details from. People delight in picking historical novels apart so you want to be able to back up all of your points.

I echo the suggestion that letters, diaries and journals are a wonderful source of day-to-day details, but people's memories are not infallible so do your best to check all of your details against more general sources or at least other diaries etc.

If you can get your material read/proofread before submitting to publishers, that will give your more confidence in your work. University lecturers or other experts on the subject may be willing to help with that

Heather Graham (the romance author)  talked about going to auctions, garage sales, and any similar thing in the hope of finding letters written during the Civil War.  Useful not only for information but for the style of speech and writing of that period.