Though I’m writing fiction, being that it is “historical” fiction, it’s very important to know my history. And even if I wasn’t writing historical fiction, and was writing a story involving horses, then I had better well know a lot about horses! I’ve always heard, “write what you know.”
I confess. When I started writing about the Civil War, I knew very little. Aside from the fact that I knew the North won, and that slavery was an issue in the war. Having grown up in the Northwest, I learned more about Lewis & Clark than I learned about the war. I can’t say that I remember much about them either. The things we learn in school often times drift out of our memories, unless we have an interest in a particular subject. If you’ve ever watched an episode of “Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader” then you know what I mean!
So when I started my books involving the war, I decided that talking to an expert was a good idea. Sometimes the information I get on the internet isn’t completely accurate. Hmmm…
I took pages and pages of notes and when I completed the chapters pertinent to those notes, I forwarded them to my expert, holding my breath until I heard back from him. He told me that all but one small detail was accurate. Whew! So, change that one small detail, right? Sure! Not so easy. I think I finally understand what so many fellow writers have told me about editing. As a writer, I’m “in love” with my work, and it’s hard to change it. But I’ve found that if I listen to people who know what they’re talking about, I will have a much better product. So, I toyed with the event, and hope I came up with a good alternative. I’m still waiting to hear back from him on the changes.
I could have just stuck my nose in the air and said, “It’s my book. I know better about what it needs than you do.” But, that wouldn’t have helped my story. I would be destined to have that one Civil war expert read it, (though I’m not sure many of them read women’s fiction), and have him throw the book across the room screaming, “How could she be so stupid?!”
Having experts on board is a plus. My good friend, Diane, is my horse expert. When she read my “horse” chapters, she gave me incredible insight into horse behavior. Her words of wisdom ended up driving my story forward in a way I’d never expected. Thank you, Diane!
Moral of my post: Be willing to edit, even if it hurts!! It will only make your stories better.