Although every genre has its own challenges, many writers shy away from setting their stories in the past because of the extensive research involved. Dozens of details need to be factual, including linguistics. Why are some historical novels so immersive? Because the authors understood how to translate their research into dialogue, narration, and action that convey the bygone era in its full splendor, without resorting to anachronisms that yank readers out of the story.
Story Embers Staff Writer
Quinlyn Shaughnessy’s writing journey began at age eleven with her first blog about American Girl dolls. In 2010, she discovered NaNoWriMo and decided that novel writing was her calling (along with giving NaNo free advertising by plastering posters on her walls and discussing it with everyone she met). Since then, she’s forayed into short stories, poetry, and professional blogging. Although she’s made a commitment to try writing every genre at some point, her favorites are historical fiction, biography, sci-fi, and YA lit. She holds a BA in Mass Communication & Media Studies and plans on going back to school for a graduate program. When she’s not working at her media literacy internship, she enjoys watching TV, singing, pretending she’s going to take up painting, and rearranging her desk. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about how to make character playlists on Spotify or just want to say hi.
Back in 2012, I started writing my first fantasy/sci-fi novel. I chatted about the characters with my friends, enjoyed coming up with scads of different plot lines, and experimented with all kinds of tropes and techniques. But despite the effort I went to, my manuscript stayed in a constant state of flux. Beta readers, though quick to offer support and encouragement, couldn’t tell me why. Not until year five did I begin to see the truth.
When writers work hard and pursue publication, at some point their words will be on a shelf or webpage for the public to consume. But the downside of our Internet age is that readers can instantaneously share negative opinions with thousands of viewers. We’ve all encountered posts about an author who got “cancelled” because of something their book included or excluded, and that can fill us with anxiety about how our own stories will be received.
“The first draft of a novel is supposed to be terrible.” We’ve all heard that charming advice, and it’s usually true. But why do many first drafts fail? Because writers lose steam halfway through. I can’t tell you how many manuscripts I’ve abandoned after hitting a rough patch somewhere between the midpoint and the final act. Only a handful of my novels have ever reached “the end,” and the most structurally sound one came from a short story.