Rules of the society

If you’re writing historical fiction you need to keep in mind the rules of the society.

I found the note among my grandfather’s papers.
note about girl going to the bishop's court for riding a horse "straddle"
Phoebe Amelia Richards a daughter of Dr. Willard Richards.
Called to the Bishops court for riding straddle with a girl friend, and on a Sunday!

This happened in the mid-1800’s when side-saddle was the way for a proper young lady to ride. It’s important to note that her father was mentioned because he was of some importance to the church -one of the Apostles-, whereas the other girl remained anonymous.

You should also notice the use of “girl friend” meaning young female friend as opposed to the more intimate “girlfriend.” But my favorite part is that they dared to do it on a “Sunday!”

I tell ya when it comes to strict behavior Southern Baptists don’t have anything on those early Mormons.

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Basic Biography
Phoebe Amelia Richards daughter of Willard Richards and Mary Thompson
Born 7 Jun 1851 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, USA
Married Jacob Peart, 24 May 1869, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah -7 children
Died 15 Jan 1943 Rupert, Minidoka County, Idaho, USA
Buried Salt Lake City Cemetery Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, USA

National Novel Writing Month redux

My first National Novel Writing Month -NaNoWriMo did terrible things to my ego, and I’ve been finding excuses not to write since then.

On the upside, by trying to write a novel in 30 days learned a lot.

Next time around, I need to:

  • Set aside more time.
    I don’t type as quickly as I thought I could.
    The arthritis in my joints and scars on my fingertips make for a great excuse, but the cold hard truth is that my lack of organization and tendency to repeat mistakes slowed me down.
  • Organize notes/ideas in a single location.
    I kept information scattered across Scrivener, notepad++, plain text files, and hand written notes.
    Which left me struggling to find anything
  • Layout rough story/character arcs
    My writing style is almost stream-of-consciousness. Which is great for getting the basic premise down on paper, but requires twice as much time to break it down into scenes that I can edit than it did to write it in the first place.
    A slow tedious process is okay if you don’t have a deadline, but 50K words in a month is a bitch.
  • Start researching now.
    I spent more time than I had allotted researching and trying ideas.
    For instance, I wrote about a professional thief and was amazed by how little I know about locks and alarm systems.
    For future reference, I’m going to research and make detailed notes, before committing to a project like this.
  • Make a basic character sheet and stick to it.
    My protagonist started out as one of those guys who would see a burning building and rush in to save a little girl’s kitten. But, at the end, my stalwart hero would see a burning building and rush out to buy marshmallows.
    –I like the second guy better, because, for better or worse, at least he’s not boring.
  • The bottom line is, I need to Get Organized!

    This is something else a writer suggested.
    As an exercise, pick a situation and write the first character, then wait a day, and put another personality in the same situation and so-on until I find someone I like.

    The others can become sidekicks, bureaucrats, or generic background characters.

    NaNoWriMo 1 me 0

    I know it’s only the 28th, but I give up. National Novel Writing Month -NaNoWriMo- wins.

    It did not kick my ass. It chewed me up, spit me out, and pissed on the pieces.

    After 30,000 words I realized that I had contradicted –badly contradicted– pretty much everything I said in chapter one.

    I tried to reconcile the two and that just ain’t gonna happen.

    The personalities are diametrically opposed. For instance, personality #1 was a teetotaler and personality #2 always had a drink nearby. This was easy enough to explain, add something devastating to the dude’s life and it works. Unfortunately, it only works until the critical scene where he pulls a gun out of a nightstand and puts two 45 cal Hydra-Shoks in a man’s heart.

    Needless to say this complicated matters to no end because the original guy had never owned or fired a gun in his life. The whole never deliberately hurting anyone was integral to his “live by your wits” point of view.

    There were other small complications, however, the major problem was that the only way my hero could be both pacifist thief and gunslinger tough guy was to have multiple personalities.

    This guys original personality was the story’s anchor, but up until the changes crept in he was boring, ungodly boring. The paradigm shift made him a lot more interesting.

    I know what I did wrong, I wrote it one chapter at a time, only concentrating on the scene in front of me.

    The end result, 30,000 wasted words, eyestrain, headaches, heartburn, and no frozen dinners left in the fridge.

    I need a break. no more editing, no more grammar, no more punctuation, no more spelling, no more…

    Field Notes Notebook

    This is the notebook that lives in my back pocket.
    worn field notes notebook
    I buy them on Amazon at 3 for $10, so they’re cheap enough to keep several around.

    There are a bunch of cheaper brands of notebooks, but, after trying several cheap units, Field Notes has turned out to be the best compromise between cost and durability.

    On the other hand, if you want a notebook that can withstand an amazing amount of torture, go with Moleskine. They come in all sizes and shapes, and it’s taken me two years of continual use to start seeing the damage.

    My favorite size is 3.5 x 5.5. They fit perfectly in my pocket so they’re always there. But, as you can see, after several months of abuse they do begin to wear. They also develop permanent lumps and folds. That makes it difficult to write. However, since I use this one for quick thoughts and reminders to buy groceries, it may be annoying, but the book is still useful.

    The one in my pocket is a general purpose notebook for those days when inspiration strikes. The rest in a desk drawer or my briefcase, and are generally labeled by subject.

    Sometimes I actually stick to the subject. Mostly not, but sometimes.
    (And this is why I don’t keep a bullet journal. If you’re OCD or at least reasonably well organized, a bullet journal is wonderful. But, they don’t work for someone whose mind bounces around more than Ricochet Rabbit. -Like me, for instance.)

    At any rate, the point of this post is this: How often have you found yourself searching for something to write a phone number or that flash of inspiration on? A small notebook like this can save your life. They’re inexpensive, unintrusive, and handy if you need to write a note-to-self.

    I always have one with me, but at home, I use cheap, spiralbound, subject notebooks, or legal pads.

    Legal pads are the most fun. They leave me enough room that I can write what I need to get down, and I still have enough room that I can scribble spider webs in the corners, while I stare into space wondering what the heck I’ve gotten myself into this time.

    Hobby Lobby sale

    I went to the Hobby Lobby out in Henderson to buy a cork board to keep track of my characters and their relationships.

    Simple enough; until I got sidetracked by a cheap 18×24″ dry erase board. It was $8 and the store was giving an additional 20% discount. While the 20×28 unframed cork board was about $9 but wasn’t stiff enough to suit me.

    I was forced to spring for a set of erasable markers to go with the board. But at $6 for a multicolored set, it’s probably cheaper than buying all those of post-its and thumb tacks I’d need if I went with the corkboard option. And, the markers take up a lot less space.

    hobby Lobby dry erase board label

    Hobby Lobby dry erase board

    I haven’t fastened it to the wall because I like to sit back and scribble down my thoughts. Being erasable, I can also stare at it for a few minutes and make whatever I don’t like disappear.

    The front is slick white, but the back is plain brown with no slick finish, so I can also use it as a support for my drawing pads. Of course, that will smear my notes, but by the time I resort to sketching, I’m pissed at the characters anyway.

    This system works for me, but I grew up in a time long before computers and smartphones became ubiquitous. As a result, I prefer a handshake to IM, and writing physical notes rather than relying on my computer. –Besides, if the power fails, I can keep working.

    But if you’re a lot younger than I am, and almost everybody is, you may want to stick with a tablet or computer.

    Yes, I know I can do anything in Scrivener I can do with a whiteboard, but it doesn’t feel the same.

    Yup, I’m old. So, pencil and paper suit me just fine.

    As a side note: taking the advice of a published author. I’ve gotten in the habit of giving my characters generic names from the git-go, like Ralph, George, or Nancy, so they feel more like people. Which makes it easier to give them personalities. That way I have a chance of figuring out what the heck they’re going to do next.