So, if you’re a writer of historical fiction, which comes first: the research or the writing? Or do they happen at the same time? I recently looked back over the author interviews we’ve featured here at The Damsels because I was curious about how other writers handled this. I found that only a couple of the interviews discussed this aspect of the research.
For example, The Humming of Numbers author Joni Sensel said, “I’ll admit, though, that I wrote much of the first draft based on what I already knew before doing the bulk of my research. I don’t recommend that, but fortunately the revisions I had to make to correct misconceptions (including some bad information in early research) were relatively minor. And when the story is ready to be written, I’ve got to write it then, while it’s hot, or I’ll lose it.”
Recommended or not, I did exactly the same thing with my first draft of An Inherited Evil. I wanted a setting for my fantasy and chose the 1890s because I enjoy reading novels set in this period. In fact, all I really knew about the time was a bit of school history and what I’d read in those novels or seen in movies. But I jumped right into the writing. There were times that I paused long enough to read Internet resources for correct terminology or looked for old photos of clothing and such, but for the most part, I trundled on through. And, I have to say, I enjoyed doing it this way.
The interview with Kim Ablon Whitney, author of The Other Half of Life, shows another method. “There is so much information about the Holocaust and WWII that one challenge was stopping myself from continuing to research and starting to write,” Whitney said. “If I had wanted to I could have researched the topic my whole life and always be learning new and important information but at some point I had to dive into the story.”
Ah, getting caught up in the research–definitely a danger. But, what’s your method? I’m sure there are as many ways to research and write as there are writers. So, give us your secret. I’m always ready to hear new ideas that could improve the way I do things.