Monday, March 21, 2016

The challenges of writing a book (again)

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological and logistical) in bringing your book to life?

by Meredith Cole

All of the above.

The last book I've been writing, a standalone called "The Hold Up," has been challenging. The novel has been both a labor of love and, as it turned out, incredibly laborious. I did way too much research, revised and revised a zillion times, and nearly lost my mind. Oh, and got a bit lost along the way.

The first problem was deciding to set my story in 1951. I had to do a lot of research. And I really dislike doing research. I think it's incredibly distracting from the writing process. But I had a lot of questions and I needed to make sure I got the details right.

I've been surprised by how much 1951 was similar to the way we live today (cars, refrigerators, telephones, television...). But the difference really is in the details. The prices of things. The language. The options for women. I ended up doing far more research on bank security and details on life in the 1950's than will ever make it to the final pages. But I survived.

I always try to challenge myself to something new and different in each new book. In this one, I had three main characters, and played with voice and form. I made lots of attempts at things that failed, and then had to find new ways forward. It was incredibly rewarding when it worked, and incredibly frustrating when it didn't.

Still basking in the glow of the Virginia Festival of the Book here in Charlottesville. Got to see fellow Criminal Mind Art Taylor and many other wonderful writers. Such fun to talk about books, grouse about the writing process and the biz, see old friends and make new ones. And have even more books on my TBR list!


Paul D. Marks said...

Meredith, I feel just the opposite about research than you do. I love doing it. So much that sometimes I'd rather be doing that than the actual writing. I can just bounce from one subject or hyperlink to another and before I know it an hour's gone by. P

Meredith Cole said...

I did find the research much more absorbing and helpful than I thought it would be, Paul. But it also stretched out my writing even longer (which felt frustrating). It's hard to know when to stop!

Susan C Shea said...

When I switched from writing for non-profits and doing freelance articles to fiction, I rejoiced in what I thought meant I got to make everything up. Then I realized that the context in which my fiction lived had to be real enough to draw readers in rather than send them running for the exits. So, research is back, but at least it doesn't subject me to trauma if I get it wrong, like the time neither a proofreader nor I noticed a missing zero in an annual report that made it look like the college was in deep financial crisis!

Unknown said...

When researching do you ever have to call up strangers in different fields to ask questions? If so, was it a good experience or bad? Any tips on how to handle it?

Triss said...

I'm with Paul Marks. I like doing research so much I could forget to write the novel...and sometimes do temporarily lose sight of that fact that I am telling a story. With a plot. And suspense. Meredith, I'm looking forward to reading your WIP one of these days.

Art Taylor said...

Hi, Meredith --
Thanks for the great post—and the shout-out! Was so great seeing you IN PERSON in Charlottesville. Been too long!