Carolyn’s Online Magazine
OOOOH, IT’S TIME TO RISE…TO PREPARE TO WRITE
PART 2—2nd Progress Update
Why would someone take over a decade to write a novel?
I have dedicated the time between January 15 and April 15, 2015, to completing the first draft of my historical (romance) novel. This is the second update on my progress. The first update, Ooooh, It’s Time Rise..to Prepare to Write , was published February 11.
Why, I ask myself, would it take over 10 years to write a novel? It’s the same question many other authors, who produce their works relatively (to me) pretty quickly.
My answer is learning curves.
It’s taking me decades to write this novel-under-construction because I’ve had to immerse myself in many learning curves, most requiring much research and a long “stewing” time.
The first thing I discovered when I began this project was how little I knew about the subject I caught myself in. Before I could write anything I had to learn, to study. I found myself immersed in 1700s handwritten documents and 1800s history books. I learned I could access most of these materials through a friend who works at a university. She took great joy in borrowing these books for me, and had much faith that I wouldn’t misplace any of them.
One day I eyed a pile of books ordered through a university’s interlibrary loan. It included the 2-volume set of Rev. Manasseh Cutler’s Journal. Another time I eyed 2-volume set titled William Bingham’s Maine Lands.
Oh, my. Anyone coming into my house and seeing these might erroneously think there was an intellectual living here.
Then there were—are—the piles of paper. For example, my husband Monte and I printed a great number of the Gen. Henry Knox letters, on microfiche at Edinboro University. We stopped there when returning from Buffalo, New York to the Ligonier Valley in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
The learning curve I was traveling that day was a specialized subject: the Scioto (Ohio) Land Grant. How many of you have heard of that? I won’t tell you how long it took me to sort out those land grants.
(The Scioto Associates land speculation was a sub-grant of the Ohio Company in the Northwest territory—in case you are curious…)
Another learning curve was deciphering cursive handwriting on these and other documents, including many deeds. I typed them out so I wouldn’t have to squint over them each of the many times I reviewed them. Some are in foreign languages—these I need to find someone to translate. I have great respect and appreciation for the persons who assist me in the translations. The document pictured is in the language of The Netherlands.
I’ve grown adept at reading documents, scanning thick tomes , and skirting around institutions in order to locate the minutiae of information needed to maintain the hisorical integrity of my writing. I’ve maneuvered around so many learning curves, most of which are twisted messes, that a history professor at Kent University dubbed me an independent historian. That’s quite a title for someone who hates history.
Regardless, only some of the topics I’ve had to study were (are)
- Founding of Gallipolis, Ohio
- 1790s history of Redstone (Brownsville), Pennsylvania and the Nemacolin Indian Trail
- The history of Acadia in Maine/Canada
- The Gen. Henry Knox/Col. William Duer and William Bingham land speculations in Downeast Maine
- The year without a summer, 1816
- Religious culture of Massachusetts at the turn of the 19th century
- Background of the first Wall Street crash
Enough—it’s exhausting—and I want to complete this article.
I must admit, however, writing this novel has created adventures. My husband Monte and I have visited historical societies, courthouses, and college campuses from Cleveland, Ohio to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Ellsworth/Lamoine, Maine—and in our own community.
In each location we’ve met wonderfully helpful people.
And the most surprising/interesting discovery I’ve made on these learning curves is that by studying/writing about the 1790s I’m really learning about today. I can best illustrate this by saying I read an article about the housing bubble and commented to Monte that if I simply exchanged land speculation for housing, and plugged in the 1790s characters in my novel to replace current names, then the article could have been published in, say, early 1792.
After all the effort, study, time, and travel, will anyone want to read my novel when it is completed? My only answer is that I’ve already been approached by an agent, and many persons have expressed an interest in knowing when it will be available. Only time will tell if it has sustainability based on my writing and historical integrity.
Either way, if it’s read or not read, I’ve been rewarded in many ways on my novel writing journey. I’ve learned, I’ve traveled, I’ve met many nice people along the way. There is reward there.
Still, I can’t help but ask: Will you read my novel when it is finished?