For weeks, after trying to start a new historical novel, I seemed unable to concentrate and generate ideas on paper. Family concerns were uppermost in my mind and I filled days being busy with jobs, sorting and tidying. I did anything other than write!
Then I tried reading outside my own arena as it were and that helped. I enjoy Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks mysteries; reading them took me back to England, revealed characters I got involved with and opened my mind to possible solutions about how to build momentum. I also noted how Robinson planned his novels and how the different factors knitted together to make sense at the end.
Each night, I read some of Joan Chittister’s The Heart of the Temple which was inspiring . I was moved by her clear thoughts and her challenges to me as a woman. I knew I wanted to write about two women from different cultures who were determined and independent. One had faith in God; the other relied on the Great Spirit, the Creator. There was a bond that both women could appreciate, I felt and it would keep them in touch. But that was for later in the novel.
I just had to get started in a way that would show how these two met. By day, I mapped out ideas more and wrote character sketches but that wasn’t enough to get me started. I had been reading so many books close to a topic that interested me that I was getting too many conflicting ideas. How would I hook my reader and hold her attention? I needed direction so I took a new route.
I spent time listening to The Art of Creative Fiction, a series of lectures I picked up from Great Courses. The lecturer, a woman, emphasized the value of creating good fiction based on sound facts. That fitted with all the research I had done and the lecturer made some good points about ways to bring out the characteristics of one’s hero and reveal relationships through vivid conversations and actions. She also gave examples about how to grab a reader in the opening sentences. This was just what I needed to encourage me to get back to the ‘drawing board.’
I began to write. I saw a way to hook my readers by having a dramatic capture of my main heroine soon after the book began. I involved others with whom she travelled and I was soon engrossed again. Then I introduced a wonderful young Shawnee woman who would become her friend, showing her anxiously waiting for her husband’s return. With him were many captives and my Catharine Malott was among them. That led to her first meeting Tecumapese and the story developed naturally from that point.
Spending time in different books as well as getting out of the novel I was trying to grapple with, made all the difference. I returned with new ideas and energy. I also found a fresh way of writing each chapter from different points of view. It took me two years to produce a 43,000 word novel but all the effort was worth it when I had a printed copy of Two at the Crossroads in my hands.
This book is available from Jane at www. janebutterybooks.me. Please contact her.