The Problem with Historical Fiction (and the Power of Historical Fiction)

The historical fiction shelf you won't find in most bookstores and libraries

The historical fiction shelf you won’t find in most bookstores and libraries

The problem with historical fiction is that it’s not actually genre.

Not the way romance or mystery or thriller are genres.

There are no defining characteristics – no genre conventions – of historical fiction other than the story taking place in a non-contemporary time period in which the manners, social conditions, and other details of the era are clearly depicted.

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Once Upon a Time, Once More

butterfly-net

And just like that, I’m nearly two-thirds of the way through the rewrite of my WIP.

I should rephrase that: I’m two-thirds through the second draft of my WIP, with an as-yet-undetermined number more to go after that.

And it’s not exactly “just like that” either, for I’ve been hard at work on this draft since January.  This has involved, in addition to multiple rewrites of chapters one through three, a first crack at the additional 15 chapters I’ve completed to date some of which were in much better shape than others.

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Thoughts on Re-Rewriting My Novel’s First Chapter

Not the "re-re" I'm referring to, but like the Bajan beauty in her famous revenge video, I had to get tough on this chapter

Not the “re-re” I’m referring to, but like the Bajan beauty in her famous revenge video, I had to get tough on this chapter

Writing is rewriting.

So the popular, and unfortunately, all too true saying goes.

After working on the first draft my historical fiction trilogy for the better part of three years (with a long, six-year hiatus in between), I was ecstatic to finally get started on draft two of book #1 back in January of this year.

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Revising is Hard, But Not in the Way I Expected

Keep calm and revise onI’ve now been actively revising my WIP for about three-and-a-half months.

I have to admit, I haven’t progressed nearly as far as I’d anticipated, to date having reworked only seven chapters out of a total 31.  And that’s not counting the fact I have to go over chapters 1-3 all over again.

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Thoughts on Revising My Novel’s First Chapter

One chapter down, 30 more to go (in this draft)

One chapter down, 30 more to go (in this draft)

For a while, I honestly thought this day would never come: the day I finally got to start revising my WIP.

I never set out to write a trilogy.  That’s a whole lot of writing for anyone, but for me, being such a slow writer to boot, it at times felt near-insurmountable.

I’m convinced the only thing that got me to THE END of the first draft was the iron-like strength of my discipline.  I may have many shortcomings as a writer, but showed up at the page is not one of them.

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Thoughts on Reading Through My Novel’s First Draft

My first draft chapters, bottom to top, colour coded by their revision needs

My first draft chapters, bottom to top, colour coded by their revision needs

It was like grading the world’s longest midterm paper.

Coming in at 402 pages and with all but the last two chapters having been written some ten years ago, I really had no idea what I was in for when, upon completing my first novel ever (technically my first trilogy, but I count it as one completed story), the time came to read through the entire first draft.

The age of the thing alone terrified me, for how well could a ten-year-old story possibly hold up?  I already knew going in that I’d have a fair amount of rewriting ahead of me, but the question was how much?

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Getting Ready for Revision (for the Very First Time)

First draft manuscript

If I were to equate the current stage of my writer’s journey with that of the classic Hero’s Journey, I’d now find myself at stage sometimes referred to as “The Belly of the Whale”.

Which, in my opinion, is perhaps the most perilous of all the stages – even more so than the main confrontation of the story’s climax – for at this stage, the hero still doesn’t have a complete sense of what s/he is up against; a true, Rumsfeldian “unknown unknown”.

That is to say, I’m getting ready to revise my first completed novel.

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