Sunday, 10 July 2011

The ABBA litfest is

up and away - and great fun it is too. I have said it there and I will repeat it here. It must have taken a lot of organisation.
It looks simple on the surface. Send out a few e-mails to members of ABBA. Tell them the general idea. They write their bit and up it goes. Simple! Perhaps. It would have been a lot more work than that.
There have been some posts about doing the research in order to write. The emphasis is on historical fiction. Of course research has to be done there. How can you possibly write about Romans or Greeks, Egyptians, Aztecs or the Victorians without doing some research?
If you write something and get it wrong someone is sure to tell you.
Cynthia Harnett, author of the Carnegie Medal winning book "The Woolpack" spent about two years researching each book she wrote. She did not write very many. The Woolpack is a masterpiece. I read it as a child and it added to my determination to go to the United Kingdom one day and see some of those things for myself. (When I eventually did get there events conspired against me and I saw far less than I wanted to see but I did see a little.)
There were other authors of historical novels I enjoyed too but Harnett's were the most detailed and they were detailed in an unusual way. They described every day life not just great events.
It is perhaps even more difficult to do that and make it real, believable and interesting.
But it is not just writers of historical fiction who need to do research. All writers need to do some research. The late Dick Francis, writer of apparently light-weight racing mysteries, must have done a considerable amount of research for at least some of his novels. They have themes apart from racing so that we learn something about film making or glass blowing or using an artificial limb. Susan Hill uses her Simon Serraillier novels to air other medical issues, as does Elizabeth George. Getting the law right is also an issue for many novelists.
And so even I do research. If I want to get something published I have to have the facts right. It is a constant surprise - and yet not a surprise - how much research needs to be done in order to make sure that what you right can be believed. How do you get away from a fast moving bushfire that is almost certainly going to trap those in its path? What is it going to feel like?
Finding out something about that was very difficult.
I have consulted maps, railway timetables and regulations. I once read a book about lighthouses. Even setting something in the almost-present-day requires research. Is what you want your hero/ine to do possible? How do you make it difficult enough to raise the tension to the right level but let them get there in the end?
Reading about other writers, published writers, doing research at the ABBA Litfest has been reassuring. It also makes me wonder whether creative writing courses do or should include a subject called, "Research Skills for Writers". There is a lot to learn.


JO said...

. . . and learning can be such fun!

catdownunder said...

Research can be fun - just don't let it take over!