Writing a Book – External Part II (Continued from Internal – Part I)

At this point, I know essentially what the story will be about. And I know most of what I need to regarding the characters and general plot before I start to write it. I particularly like to write historical stuff. And that means research. Lots of research.

It’s important for me to learn about the clothing of the time, transportation, money, cost of products, the music (and dance if it’s involved in the story at all), the vernacular, the work available to people, technology or lack thereof. I also need to understand the general educational level of that time and even some of the subjects studied, if that comes up. (As it did in my mid-grade novel, Luvella’s Promise.)

If the setting of the story is not in my current home town, then I must go to the place where everything occurs and learn about that territory. Homes, work, shopping areas, churches…everything is very likely different there from where I live, especially if I go back years in history.

For my YA novel, Prison Break (working title), the setting is 1929’s Auburn, NY, which is also my original home town. So much of my research was in my head from having grown up there, but I still had to learn about prison conditions (which contributed to two major prison riots in 1929), traditions, operations…the whole nine yards. After the prison received approval from Albany (our state capitol), I was allowed to visit and was escorted from the front entrance, from one small hall to another at a time through locked bars each time, and to the administration building. I was not allowed into the prison population at all, and I did not request to be. Those sliding bars locking and bolting in front of and behind me in a safe area were enough!

For my YA novel, The Heartbeat of the Mountain, to be released in a few months, I went to the settings of that story in Muncy Valley, Dushore, Eagles Mere, and Forksville, PA. For Luvella’s Promise, the prequel to Heartbeat, I additionally went to the Wyalusing (PA) Council House, a small museum for the Delaware Nation, of which the Muncees are a tribe, in the House’s very early days. My mother and I were even invited to attend a Pow Wow (we graciously declined) and I was, for years, on their mailing list.

The evidence I discovered on that trip showed me I had another story and that’s how Heartbeat was conceived.

Researching can be exhausting sometimes, but it never fails to excite, inform, and entertain. And for my story to have a solid foundation and be believable, I firmly trust in reliable research.

NOW. I have to put butt to chair and begin the writing process. I’ve tried several ways to outline:  using Goal, Motivation and Conflict charts (described in detail in the book of that title by Debra Dixon), the regular old-fashioned outline, chapter by chapter (which I find dangerously leading to writing in episodic fashion), and what I’ve settled on is a simple, but detailed, synopsis. That’s what works for me. I simply enlarge on each stage of the synopsis, filling in dialogue, conflict, personality development and so on. If you write, you know these processes are the hardest part and take a long time.

I am not a novel-a-year writer; I take a few years to complete each novel. But I must say, I do like the stories once they’re out there in the world.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Joan Foley Baier
    Feb 06, 2017 @ 16:29:59

    Hi Joan.

    I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your blogs on writing. (I wanted to say so as a comment on the blog itself, but can’t quite figure out how to do that–the site is not accepting me, even though I’ve been on there before.) I enjoyed hearing about your process and I think it’s good for aspiring writers to see how much thought you put into your work before you even start to put words on paper. (It’s a good reminder for me not to rush and feel I’m not doing anything while I’m at that crucial “pre” stage.

    I’m looking forward to Heartbeat, but especially to Prison Break.
    Vivian Vande Velde


  2. Joan Foley Baier
    Feb 06, 2017 @ 16:30:50

    Thanks, Vivian! Nice words, especially coming from you.


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