It’s a common enough assertion but I expect very few people, relatively speaking, actually make the attempt. It is not surprising really, I mean, the idea of writing a book seems so easy, you sit down with a pen or typewriter or word processor or ipad or whatever takes your fancy, a blank sheet, and your imagination and start writing – right?!
Well, you could, and some great authors have done just that, I suppose it all depends upon what sort of book you want to write? The fact is most books require a degree of preparation and this can prove very frustrating when you are full of the creative drive. The easy answer, at least for me, was to indulge the creative spirit first. I did this because I accepted the first piece of wisdom that I came across when I decided to write a book, which is: after you have finished writing your book; re-write it!
This is an invaluable piece of advice!
So I wrote my book, at least the bare bones of it. I chose historical fiction for my genre but the historical period the story was set in was one that I knew precious little about. How did this come about? Well, I was driving back from York with my wife one day, we love visiting York, and we went past Stamford Bridge as usual when travelling down the A1079 towards Hull. I had recently seen the movie ‘300’, a rather skewed account of the Battle of Thermopylae between Greece and Persia, and it I had been thinking ever since that there must be a comparable event in British military history. Seeing the road sign for Stamford Bridge caused me to recall from the depths of my memory the fact that King Harold defeated the largest Viking army ever to set foot in England at the very spot. This was my starting point.
I read a comment from the author Bernard Cornwell that you should not let the historical facts get in the way of a good story. I agree with this point of view to a sensible degree, that is, that history is not set in concrete. So I wrote my book as a story first, then I researched the period of 1066 and became immersed in what many wrongly refer to as the ‘Dark Ages’. Once armed with a significant amount understanding and factual detail for the period I rewrote my book.
Now let me state for the benefit of anyone else out there who has asserted that they will write a book one day; this is hard work! Fitting in the writing and the research and the re-writing between the demands of a family life and work, not to mention major surgery, is not easy. It doesn’t matter too much what genre book you are writing, some degree of research is necessary. In historical fiction there is a lot of research required. But it was fun! It should be fun. If you don’t find it fun then maybe you are working in the wrong area. Sure, it can be tedious at times, confusing even when different sources contradict each other, frustrating when you cannot reconcile the facts even, but that was when I applied Bernard Cornwell’s principle; I made the obscure or questionable facts fit my story instead of the other way around!
Like so many things in life it writing was – is – a journey, and this blog will illustrate some of the more interesting points along that road…well, at least I hope readers will find it to be interesting anyway.