I’m currently working on a new book about writing, which has the working title of Perilous Path: a Writer’s Journey. The book contains 30 short pieces I’ve published online over the past 6 years, both on ezine articles and on this blog, all on the subject of writing a novel.
Here’s a taster from the book. And below the article I’ve posted the current Contents List of the book. I’d love to know if, having read it, you feel you or an aspiring writer you know might be interested in such a book – and whether you would buy it as a paperback or would find it more appealing as an ebook. Over to you, my online audience, for your views and comments!
Research for novel writing – use the internet
How big a part should the internet play in a novelist’s research? My mind is immediately drawn to a quote from Dan Brown’s novel The Lost Symbol. How often, muses Robert Langdon to himself, has he advised his students that “Google is not a synonym for research”. I couldn’t help laughing at the sly irony of that. For I defy anyone to read this novel without wondering how long the author spent on Google researching his subject matter; and how soon you will get onto Google yourself after reading it, to corroborate his facts – or to fall into the very trap Robert Langdon warns against!
I confess the internet has been a wonderful resource for me as a fiction writer in double-checking my remembered facts. But of course we should never assume whatever we read on the web is necessarily true. It’s important to at least triple-check. But when it comes to writing fiction, I believe most authors will have chosen their subject or theme out of passion – and therefore he or she will have spent a considerable portion of their life researching the subject through multifarious means – personal experience, observing and interacting with people, reading all sorts of printed material about it, visiting places, maybe (but not often) living out some of the things they depict their characters doing…
Therefore the internet is a valuable tool, but cannot serve as the sole source of material when researching a novel.
I may take as an example the Cotswolds location for my first published psychological thriller Mystical Circles. I was inspired by three places. Firstly Totleigh Barton at Sheepwash, near Beauworthy in Devon where I once attended a five day Arvon Foundation poetry course: it boasted a monk’s room, as does the farmhouse in my novel. Also the diverse group of students on the course inspired me for the group dynamics of my story. Secondly my imagination was fired by the Lygon Arms Hotel in Broadway in the Cotswolds, a wonderful setting for a psychological thriller. My favourite piece of research involved afternoon tea there. The manager took us for a tour of some of the historical rooms in the hotel including the Cromwell Room. The owners of the inn were neutral during the English Civil War and thus hosted guests on both sides of the conflict. I used some of the details of the interiors here in my descriptions of the sixteenth century farmhouse. And thirdly, for my setting, although I ultimately chose the Cotswolds as my favoured location, I was also inspired by a farmhouse near the Forest of Orleans in France owned by the eccentric uncle of my then boyfriend. We visited his uncle there several years ago. When I met him, he displayed a love of practical jokes, leaving plastic rats and spiders for me to find in odd corners. He also owned a parrot, which I came upon by surprise in his sitting room, exactly as I describe my main protagonist Julie coming upon the gold and blue macaw in Mystical Circles.
I hope all this will serve to illustrate how every aspect of your life can be regarded as research for your novel. Life itself is one long process of research. Bad experiences and good, failures and humiliations… nothing is wasted, or lost. Surely this is the ultimate recycling! – it is certainly one of the things I most love about fiction writing.
Contents page of proposed new book: Perilous Path: a Writer’s Journey by SC Skillman
Introduction: The Writer’s Journey: Pursuing your Creative Passion
- Research for novel writing – use the internet
- What’s creative writing? – tips for new writers
- Elements that make up a good fiction story
- 3 tips for creative works of realistic fiction
- Research and fiction – how to research when something doesn’t exist
- Universal themes in fiction
- Strategies to develop creative and imaginative writing
- How to pick a topic to write creatively about
- How to know which point of view to use in a story
- 5 tips on how to make your fictional characters engaging
- How to create a novel that your readers won’t want to put down
- The writing process for creating a novel in less than a month
- How to start a novel
- How to fictionalise characters
- How to develop a character in a novel
- How to create layers within each of your characters
- How to develop villainous characteristic traits in your writing
- The importance of choosing words carefully – your audience’s interpretation matters
- Character creation – the most interesting fictional characters of all
- How to structure your writing to improve the flow of the story
- How to get over writer’s block when halfway through your novel
- Good things to do to improve your creative writing
- How to successfully write the plot of your novel in reverse
- How can Carl Jung’s theory of archetypes help you in your creative writing?
- How can Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity help you in your creative writing?
- How can Carl Jung’s theory of The Shadow help you in your creative writing?
- Inspiration for creative writers from art
- Inspiration for creative writers from music
- Suggestions for writing the end of a novel
- Learning from Hemingway