#FixYourNovel #5 – Authentic Details Nail Time and Place

I had a bit of fun last week in posting a five-part series about my bizarre accident in January and the equally strange ensuing weeks. I hope you enjoyed my tale of woe.

Today it’s back to work, though, on the craft of writing. This post is geared toward writers, but I think we can all learn how to communicate our thoughts more vividly whether in the written word or in our conversations.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Advice from Barbara Kyle

In her email on March 27, 2020, author and writing coach Barbara Kyle gave some welcomed advice for writers having trouble concentrating on their writing during the coronavirus-19 pandemic. She recommended that writers use this time to do research, if they’re having difficulty producing creative words on the page.

In my recent weeks of confinement due to my fractured leg, I’ve worked on some blog posts in advance. That’s the case with today’s post as I continue my sporadic #FixYourNovel series.

Time and place

The more a writer knows about the geography, demographics, history, culture, and people of her story’s location and time period, the better. You don’t have to tell everything you know. In fact, please don’t! You do need to draw from your first-hand knowledge and research to discern which details to give the reader.

Example:  The historical novel I’m working on

The historical novel I’m still editing is set in the backcountry of the Carolinas at the close of the 1760s. Specifically, the story is set in present-day Lancaster County, South Carolina and present-day Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, and Rowan counties in North Carolina.

Without knowing what I was preparing myself for, I’ve soaked in the history of this region all my life. My study of local history, colonial American history, and my own family’s history have grounded me in the time and place in which my novel manuscript is set.

Have you heard of en.esosounds.net? (Pardon the pun!)

I recently discovered a helpful website (http://en.ecosounds.net/) as I was trying to add local flavor to the sounds my characters were hearing as they rode along a dirt road in July of 1769. It was a cold, dreary, blustery day as I was trying to transplant my mind and ears to a hot and humid piedmont Carolina day in July. Since I grew up in a rural area there, I know in my head the sounds I want to share with my reader. Putting those sounds on the page can be a challenge. I have to assume my reader is not familiar with the mid-summer sounds in rural South Carolina.

Something I found beneficial as I wrote the sounds my characters were hearing in the countryside on that hot July day in 1769 was this website:  en.ecosounds.net. On that site you can listen to recorded sounds form various localities. Listening to a couple of those recordings was the perfect backdrop for me to listen to while I edited that particular scene.

Borrowing the wisdom of Barbara Kyle again

In her book, Page-Turner:  Your Path to Writing a Novel that Publishers Want and Readers Buy, Ms. Kyle writes about the importance of using “concrete” words and images in one’s writing. Here’s a quote from chapter seven:

“For example, let’s say you’re describing a man in clothes that are damp from rain. If the reader is given just the appearance of those clothes, the man could be across the room, but if they read that the man’s sweater gives off the musty, wet-dog smell of damp wool, they’re right next to him.”

Ms. Kyle goes on to explain that including sensory details in our writing pulls on the reader’s emotions and thereby makes the writing more memorable for the reader.

Barbara Kyle’s website is https://www.barbarakyle.com/, in case you want to know more of what she has to offer writers.

A case of serendipity

I love when serendipity happens. I had been working on this blog post on March 3 when I changed gears and stopped to read some blogs. I follow Joanna Penn’s Creative Penn blog. I read her March 2, 2020 blog post, ”Opportunities in Audiobook Publishing with Michele Cobb.” (Here’s the link to it: thecreativepenn.com/2020/03/02/opportunities-in-audiobook-publishing-with-michele-cobb/.)

Michele Cobb is executive director of the Audio Publishers Association, the publisher of AudioFile magazine, and a consultant for the audiobook business at Forte Business Consulting.

In an interview Joanna Penn did with Ms. Cobb, they discussed the speed at which audiobooks have caught on around the world and the trend that audiobooks are the thing of the future as people like to listen to books while driving, cooking, crafting, or doing any number of other things.

The thing that jumped out at me from the interview was the following quote from Michele Cobb:

“And when you create specifically for the audio format, you might have multiple narrators, you might have music, you might have sound effects, and you may never want to put that experience into a print format because it wouldn’t work with your eyes.”

Joanna Penn added, “Actually, enhanced ebooks are audiobooks with all the sound effects.”

Maybe such ebooks exist. I haven’t listened to one yet.

I couldn’t help but think about my experience of listening to meadow and forest sounds on en.ecosounds.net while editing that scene in my book. How the book listening experience could be enhanced if there were sound effects on an audiobook! The possibilities are limitless.

In the meantime, a writer still needs to hone her skills in writing sensory details. I think we’ll always have printed books, even if eventually the only “printed” format of books is electronic. If the prose is particularly beautiful, I want to read it over and over again. If I were writing this in 2040 or even 2030, perhaps I’d say, “I want to listen to it over and over again.”

My head is swimming as I try to imagine an audio of my novel with the buzzing of flies and bees, and the chirping of native birds playing in the background as my written words are being read.

I guess you could say I’m “old school.” I just started listening to books on CD a year or so ago, and more recently started downloading MP3 books onto my tablet. In the interview with Joanna Penn, Michele Cobb said that of the CD versus digital books being published today, 4% are on CD and 96% are digital!


Since my last blog post

I’ve sat in my chair with my fractured leg elevated on a stool. My chair is by a south-facing window through which I can watch a variety of birds at one of our birdfeeders. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve watched the maple tree go from bare limbs to tiny red buds that blossomed into green leaves.

Dogwood blossoms. Photograph by Janet Morrison

I’ve watched a dogwood tree transition from bare limbs to tiny buds to gorgeous white blooms. I’ve watched as the goldfinches almost overnight went from their drab winter US Army greenish brown to their brilliant yellow and black feathers. The Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds are due back from Central America any day now, so it’s time to put out our hummingbird feeders. Many of our azaleas are in full bloom.

Azalea. Photograph by Janet Morrison.

I am blessed to live where I do. Sunshine streams through my south-facing window every morning. I can see the road on which an occasional car, truck, bicycle, moped, or green John Deere tractor passes. I can see the Carolina blue sky and puffy white clouds. I can see the pollen piling up on my red pick-up truck. I can see my brother’s pine tree farm.

I can see the open meadow across the road that is now harvested for hay to feed local cattle. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the rows of soybeans Uncle Ross used to grow there, but I especially remember the years he planted red clover to replenish the soil – and how the red heads of the clover swayed in a soft summer breeze when I was a child.

What more could a person have than what I have outside my window?


Until my next blog post

I hope you stay safe and well as we all journey through this coronavirus-19 pandemic. We truly are all in this together.

I hope you have a good book to read or listen to while you live under “stay-at-home orders.”

Please tell your friends about my blog.


Let’s continue the conversation

As recently as a couple of years ago I did not like listening to books. Now audiobooks make up probably 75% of my reading.

What about you?

What are the pros and cons of audiobooks?

Have you listened to an ebook that included sound effects?

Janet

5 things I learned about Social Media this weekend

If you follow my blog, bless you! If you follow my blog, you know that, among other things, I share my rocky journey into the world of social media. If you’re in the same boat, I hope you have found some information in my blog that was new and helpful to you.

Today’s post deviates from my plan to share a piece of my history writing. On Friday, I plan to post an article I wrote in 2007 about an 1897 head-on collision between two trains in Harrisburg, NC. Today I share my thoughts about five areas of social media that have come to my attention over the weekend.

Contact form on my blog

I was so proud on Friday that I’d figured out how to insert a comment form within the body of my blog. So far, that form has been a total flop. No one used it. If it was used, it didn’t work. I won’t try that again unless or until I learn how to benefit from it.

Quora

I mentioned Quora.com in my blog post on January 27, 2017, 3 Things to Try on Social Media in January , http://wp.me/pL80d-tt) and I’ve played around some with it some. Over the weekend, I found a 6-minute February 10, 2017 podcast offered for free on http://mschool.growtheverywhere.libsynpro.com/how-to-attract-9000-visitors-a-month-from-quora-ep-194 that/which gave several suggestions for those of us who are still trying to figure out how to best utilize Quora – or, more specifically, trying to determine if it is even a good tool for us or not. My problem is that I’m far removed from my college studies of political science to address most of the questions that come up in that area and I don’t feel qualified to answer questions about writing until I’ve gotten my first novel published. Bottom line:  I’m leaving my options open with Quora as I continue to find my niche.

Pinterest

On Saturday afternoon I finally got serious about trying to figure out where historical fiction fans hang out on social media. Finding https://www.statista.com/statistics/246183/share-of-us-internet-users-who-use-pinterest-by-age-group/ was helpful in a round-a-bout way since it presents the statistics for Pinterest users in 2016. Here’s the age breakdown:

36% 18-29 years old

34% 30-49 years old

28% 50-64 years old

16% 65 or older

I can’t afford full access to statista.com, but this bit of free information was helpful. These stats are not specific to fans of historical fiction, but I enjoy using Pinterest and it is beneficial to know what age people use it the most. It’s a piece of the puzzle.

I learned from Pinterest Analytics that I average having 13,440 views per month, but only 174 of them were engaged in my content. My most popular pin in the last 30 days was Chimney Tops Hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In fact, three of my most popular pins were from my Great Smoky Mountains board. I originally set up that board (and the Blue Ridge Mountains board) to help draw attention to my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. If this book sounds interesting to you, you can purchase in paperback or for Kindle on amazon.com.

I read another WordPress.com blogger’s post pertaining to historical fiction writers. https://kmguerin.wordpress.com/2016/07/18/social-media-for-historical-fiction-writers-part-4-facebook/https://kmguerin.wordpress.com/2016/07/18/social-media-for-historical-fiction-writers-part-4-facebook/ gave a good suggestion:  Find a trending topic or article related to the time period you are writing about and post it. I have a board on Pinterest, “Novel in Progress:  The Spanish Coin,” in which I pin photos and information pertinent to 1771 in the Waxhaws area in present-day Lancaster County, SC, as well as the Rocky River Presbyterian Church community in present-day Cabarrus County, NC (part of Mecklenburg County in 1771), and Salisbury, NC. These are the three geographic locations in my novel. I have 69 pins and 24 followers on that board as of February 20, 2017. I need to attract more people to that Pinterest board. I invite you to visit me on Pinterest by clicking on the Pinterest icon in my blog’s sidebar. Pin this blog post to one of your Pinterest boards by clicking on the Pinterest icon below.

Reading Medieval historical fiction author K.M. Guerin’s July 18, 2016 Time-Worn Pages blog post, https://kmguerin.wordpress.com/2016/07/18/social-media-for-historical-fiction-writers-part-4-facebook/http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-get-more-pinterest-followers/ tipped me off to the fact that I was giving my blog readers a way to pin my posts to their Pinterest boards or share a link to my blog posts to their Facebook pages, but I did not provide a way for them to connect with me on social media. The proverbial lightbulb finally came on, folks!  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  I am not technologically savvy. What I’ve learned, I’ve had to dig up myself. I suppose that’s the best way to learn something new, but it surely is tedious. I read the above link to socialmediaexaminer.com on February 18, 2017 and worked until I figured out how to add “Follow me on Social Media” buttons in my blog’s sidebar. You wouldn’t believe what a sense of accomplishment that gave me!

LinkedIn and Instagram

I also picked up some ideas from reading a February 29, 2016 blog post by Jessica Lawlor on The Write Site. (https://thewritelife.com/quick-social-media-tips-for-writers-part-2) You can follow Jessica Lawlor on Twitter @jesslaw.) My takeaways:  (1) Republish some of my blog posts on LinkedIn; and (2) Instagram is a platform where I can build my brand and community, and I should refer to the link to my website or blog as found in my profile (i.e., using the words “Link in profile” somewhere in my post) because LinkedIn only allows accounts to display one link. I haven’t given up on LinkedIn, and I haven’t tried Instagram.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

I love getting back into the process!

I love getting back into the process of writing my historical novel, tentatively titled The Spanish Coin! Having a computer again and making time to get reacquainted with my 97,000-word manuscript has been fun and reassuring.

A few days ago I started with the first chapter and went to work tweaking words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. I have changed the layout of the house that Nancy Craighead Richardson lives in based on some things I saw in October in a house at Hart Square in Catawba County, North Carolina. That necessitates making consistent changes in the book as people move from room-to-room or can or cannot hear conversations taking place in another room. As I work my way through the manuscript for the umpteenth time, I still search for more precise words, more vivid descriptions, and tidbits to add in order to make my characters come alive.

The first hurdle I had to jump before plunging back into my manuscript was to once again come to grips with the fact that I am writing historical fiction. The historian in me was faced (once again) with a conundrum. When I write a history article or nonfiction book, I am a stickler for making sure every fact to checked and double-checked. Writing historical fiction based on a person who actually lived 250 years ago is a challenge for me. My fear is that someone will read The Spanish Coin and fall into the trap of thinking it is all based on fact.

In my manuscript I took a 1771 Carolina backcountry event and the lore that grew out of that event to weave a “what if?” story. In fact, I visited the Lancaster County SC Public Library in Lancaster on Friday just to make sure I had not overlooked something in my initial research for The Spanish Coin.

If I am fortunate enough to get my manuscript published, I must trust the readers to read it and appreciate for what it is — a work of fiction.