Do you write Historical Fiction? Writing historically accurate fiction starts with RESEARCH.
Well, duh! I know that!
What most writers forget is that they take for granted a great many aspects which can lend more credence to their works, as well as a better experience of the story they want to put forward to readers. Additionally, if you want to be considered historically accurate, you must behave as a historian–do you due diligence. Can it always be done? Some things might slip past you. No human is perfect. Try your best. This series is going to help by presenting articles of interest from around the internet and get you started on the research necessary to complete an amazing manuscript.
Caring For Your Writer
I am probably walking into a hornet’s nest of controversy bothering to write this out, especially as part of this series. The truth is, though, if you don’t care for yourself, and you don’t help those around you understand what you do and need to do to get your work done, your writing is going to suffer.
Another truth is, relationships are work! People don’t just come together and find instant and permanent bliss. A great deal of giving and taking is involved. What helps is knowing who and what you are, and helping those you care about, and who care about you, to better understand you as well. Each writer is different, so I can only write about the topic in general, or in a personal capacity. In a previous article from the blog, I wrote about how writing helps make human beings happier and healthier.
First of all, let’s agree that all relationships require and revolve around similar parameters: give and take balance, things in common, affection, and investment (to name a few). As an author, you must realize that your writing, though it is the world to you, will not be as important to anyone else in your life or the world. It is YOUR writing. And, this is okay. So what do you do when it feels like a friend or loved one doesn’t empathize enough with your need to write? You have to decide for yourself if you can help them to empathize better by teaching them how important it is to you, let it go, or deal with the consequences of distancing yourself. In the case of a romantic relationship, this could be a deal breaker, am I right? Take into account that, despite how often you hear about how someone wants to be a writer too, that the people in your life might be experiencing a writer for the very first time on such a close level.
Communication is key.
You’re going to have to use those excellent communication skills to make it clear what you need. Don’t be a diva about it either. Life isn’t just about you! Although you are the center of your writing world, the Earth will continue to revolve when you’ve passed on. Sorry to have to deflate your ego. It probably is offensive to you to hear this for a couple reasons: you think a great deal about yourself or your not that into you. Don’t be offended. Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. You might not think that much about yourself, but take other for granted, insist they work around your schedule or not make enough time for them.
Self assessment is communication with the self. You’re going to need to learn to be honest with yourself. Take a long hard look at what you’ve been doing. If your family and friends are upset with you, there might be good reason.
Family members should also do the same on their end. Relationships are not just one sided. Ask them to be clear on their needs. If they have something they need you for, it’s only polite they ask and schedule the time with you, instead of just expecting you to be there because they happened to mention something about something a couple months ago. Clarity. You can’t be unclear and then have a clear expectation of another person.
A great tip about communication in any situation is understanding the What’s In It For Me? method. What do you need from the request? How can you cooperate with the other person and find out what they need? Is there a compromise that can be made? Then communicate that! For instance, your husband/wife needs you to mow the lawn, they’re busy doing cookies for the kid’s first grade class, and they have to be done today. The grass is almost knee high, you’ve been working on your book for weeks, every weekend and haven’t been helping to keep up chores. Your partner doesn’t do so good with the mower. How do you resolves the issue?
You’ve been working for weeks straight. A break is probably in order, huh? Do you have a deadline? If this is just a book, not an article or manuscript that is due in a couple days, put it aside. Go mow the lawn and enjoy the meditative repetition that can help you plan your next steps. You see? You’re still working AND you’re getting a chore done, so that your partner can focus on those cookies.
What if you have a deadline? Did you plan appropriately and the work has proved too overwhelming to manage in the time allotted? Or, did you just roughly put things together and now you’re rushing? Perhaps better planning next time? You’re still gonna have to take care of life and mow that lawn, kid.
What if everything fell apart over the last few months? Can you afford to hire someone to come do the lawn and order a cookie tray from a bake shop to help both of you? If money is tight, help your partner do the cookies, and then allow them to do the lawn regardless of how crappy they manage to do it and promise them something they want in exchange for later.
How’s your mood?
In the article I mentioned above, I confessed a bit about how I can get moody when interrupted. We all know that one guy at the office who gets huffy when you stop at his desk to ask him something. But, do we ever stop and ask ourselves, am I just barreling in with the expectation they’ll drop everything to help me, and maybe they have a deadline or a project that requires their full attention? Perhaps I do this too often, or the whole office does this to this person—too much! There is always a bigger reason than stopping at the desk to say hey. Please don’t assume they’re just a jerk, and then get all riled up—that’s just your ego being pissy. They’ve got things to do too!
In more intimate relationships this can get tricky because we feel more comfortable expressing our discontents. More likely, my switch is due to the time constraints I am constantly under: I can only write in the evenings and on weekends. It’s as exhausting as any other job, if not more so because it takes a lot of mental gymnastics. To be interrupted breaks my thought, which sets me back, possibly by hours. Those interrupting me, though I’ve explained this to them, continue to break in on my time. That can snap anyone’s mood, because it shows that regardless of what you’ve said, you’re not being listened to.
Disrupting a work flow, as we’ve learned about in the office, causes the same inefficiency, and when an author is limited to certain times in which to write, that is a real blow to their balance. My advice to friends, family or partners of authors: try to wait for your author to take a break. I am sure whatever question you have will wait. Write it down if you’re worried you’ll forget. At some point, they’ll take a break and you can speak with them then. If it’s an emergency, can you deal with this yourself? Is it that big of an emergency? If you don’t disrupt the author, will the house burn down? Is it really just a decision you can make on your own? Although your author might be working from home, that doesn’t mean you can disrupt their work day any more than you could if they were literally at a place of business working. You might text them at work, but it’s going to be some time before you hear back, as they aren’t sitting on their phone (in most cases) waiting for your text. Lastly, is the need to ask right now simply a call for attention? You might think you are just attempting to be polite and inclusive, when this is more about you than it is them or the collective you. When they take a break, great them with some attention—a hug or kiss and mention that you noticed how hard they’re working, so you didn’t disturb them, but you have a question before they get back in the writing cave. Some partners or family members might find it gratifying to have taken notice of the writers pattern regarding their break. Do they come out for a snack, coffee or smoke? You might have something ready, so they can spend more time answering your questions, giving you attention and taking care of whatever was on hold while they were busy. That’s a give take win.
If I’m gray or moody because I’m not writing, then those around me are going to feel that, especially partners. This is never more apparent when one half of the pair ignores the needs of the other. It only makes sense that while you feel good, your relationships will feel good too. I believe that a great deal of our mood is a choice. If we can actively be aware of how we may react in a situation, then we can choose to make the best decision for our response. That said, one can only do so much when being bombarded or taken for granted and their reasonable requests ignored.
Demanding Your Writing Be Set Aside to Please Others.
Writing is a very solitary act in most cases, and we writers have little call to be concerned about the feelings of others. Because of this, you can end up alienating your partner, family and friends by seeming to take writing as more important than any of them. And, so too, it may very well be—something that those who are connected to authors really must understand. That said, we cannot use writing as an excuse to be anti-social and then suffer no consequences. If you care about other people, then you’ll need to find time.
My advice for the family and friends: Don’t ever ask your author to choose you or their writing. A writer is incapable of not writing. You’re asking them to basically amputate a limb. A balance can and must be achieved, but it takes understanding on the part of those involved, and effort. According to the study above, and many others, partners of writers should be happy to allow their writer to write, because it reinforces the romantic bond. So, concern that writing is competing with you for attention of your writer seems quite moot, and perhaps there are other reasons writing is taking the blame? Emotional manipulation ends in misery, and I don’t advise those who want to control the relationship to make use of it. In fact, emotional manipulation is abuse.
Again, relationships are not one-sided. As mentioned above, writers eventually have to take a break. It’s mentally taxing to keep writing. Be patient. They will come up for air. Perhaps, while they’re busy, you can read a book you’ve been putting off, get some of your to-do list done. Use the time apart constructively, not contemplating how ignored you might be. That is the furthest thing from the truth. Writers might aggressively work for a few hours at a time, but then they break. The exhausting nature of the work requires time letting things rest. If you’re being ignored, what is your part in the problem? Are your schedules in conflict so that you can’t find time? Is there a better way to try and make time work? Are you trying to make them meet you more than half way? For instance, every evening your writer sits down to write for a while after dinner, and about two hours later, maybe more, they come out to grab a snack. You’re watching your favorite program and barely lift your head. An hour more and you’re in bed asleep. Maybe the solution is to watch a show after dinner together. Another solution, take a nap, so you can be awake longer that night to see them when they finish their work. Unlike me, I hear that a lot of authors only schedule a 1/2 hour to 1 hour of writing time per work day. You could spend time cleaning up after the meal, also.
Do you know how your writer takes a break? Do they want a snack/meal, drink, conversation, quiet time, or diversion? If you can’t answer that, that’s a serious problem! Start paying attention!
As for the writer, the simple fact is that you have life responsibilities and they’re not going to keep waiting. If you work full time, then you know the times outside of that schedule when you can work. Advice about writing daily is not viable in my book. Life doesn’t work that way. I don’t care. Once I sit down at my compute to work, I’m going to sit more than 10 or 15 minutes. I get lost in the work, and I must to produce the work I do. Writing is immersive. You’re zoned. So, knowing that, when is the best time to be able to completely zone? If you’re a night owl, and can afford the lack of sleep, why not save your workday week hours for after some quality time in the evening?
While those of you who think you have your schedule figured out, are you sure paying attention to your loved ones? You’re just as responsible for using your emotional intelligence to recognize when you’re attention is needed/wanted. It is not just up to others to call you out of your cave, or wait until you appear.
I know you want to get that work done, like now, but again, life happens. Take a deep breath. Let that deadline go if it’s imaginary. If it’s not, explain that you have a deadline and how this is going to impact them (impacting them is not telling them you’ll have a sad for days, that’s all about you–impacting them is telling them, I may lose my job, my boss/client is pressing, or work is expecting it. I can’t keep missing the deadline. How will we make it if I lose this job?)
Writing historical fiction takes time and perseverance, just don’t forget the rest of your life while you’re building your project. Hopefully these tips will help you achieve a better balance and understanding in your interpersonal relationships. It won’t erase those snaps here and there, but it will go a long way to making them infrequent on everyone’s account. Not everyone scenario can be answered in a blog post. So if you see your exception was missed, give a good honest go over with some of the tips for other scenarios. Considering consideration is the biggest step. And, not everyone will see themselves here. Also, nothing here is a dig at anyone out there. QTIP