Tag Archives: how to write a novel

Curious Opinion about Writing Historical Fiction – What Do You Think?

I just discovered this YouTube posting about “What Not to do When Writing Historical Fiction” and I have some thoughts.

I agree on some points and disagree on others. Tons of writers use real people as their main character in writing historical fiction, so does that mean that she has never read books by Margaret George or Alison Weir or Phillipa Gregory? She said she NEVER reads historical fiction books with real people as the main character, and after taking a chance by reading “Mrs Poe” she NEVER will again.

In one of my favourite books about a real person – “I, Elizabeth” by Rosalind Miles – uses Queen Elizabeth the First as the main character and fictionalizes the relationship and conversations between her and Robert Dudley. We weren’t there, so how do we know?

I agree with the notion that you have to be careful in not crossing the line into slander or out-right lies when pertaining to real people in history; but, for the most part, fiction is FICTION, and since none of us were ‘flies on the wall’ of said history and their lives, can we not fictionalized some of the parts of their lives while remaining true to what we do know?

I do not mean changing our historical knowledge of, let’s say, the moral uprightness of Abraham Lincoln, his manner and speech, into one of depravity and weakness (which we know to be untrue), but a conversation betwixt he and his wife about the grief they shared (of which none of us were privy to) might be considered an aspect of fictionalizing the details of a real person. For one, I don’t see anything wrong with that. Anything beyond that is delving into alternate historical fantasy (i.e. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer)

I do think, however, it is a dangerous thing for reviewers to be so dogmatic in their opinions about a genre. Taking that sort of stance is rather polarizing, if you ask me. Either you are going to have a huge number of supporters or you are not which, maybe that is what this particular reviewer is going for. I mean, in the world we live in, you can draw a line in the sand and people are going to take sides, for or against.

I am not that sort. I adore historical fiction and the authors who write in the genre. I know their struggle since it is my own-the endless days of research, the time travelling in your brain to another era, and pounding the keys to develop a world where readers can escape from the ordinary day-to-day monotony of today. Who wouldn’t want to leave the Covid-19 world of today to walk down the Bubonic plague-infested streets of London of long ago?

I give authors a hundred years from now permission to fictionalize my life in 2020 in whatever way that is going to provide a measure of escapism for the readers of the 22nd century. This is art, and art is in the eye of the beholder. I’m not going to scrutinize Monet’s Hay Stacks painting and question if there really was more than two haystacks in the landscape. I’m going to accept it for what it is: an incredible work of art built on the passion of the artist. And isn’t that what we are, artists of the written word?

Here is the link to the video if you choose to watch, and please, comment below and let me know what you think on the subject!!

D. K. Marley


Chickie’s Writing Tips #1

I am at a loss for words, and here I sit trying to write a post for this blog. I mean, I’m not really at a loss for words but you know how it goes when something moves you beyond anything you hoped for and you are dying to tell someone. That is where I am at after attending an online Zoom workshop from Free Expressions Seminars and Literary Services by Donald Maass and Lorin Oberweger.

I knew it, of course, that it would be exactly what I needed to bump up my writing for my new work-in-progress; after all, I attended a 10-day workshop over 14 years ago where Lorin was one of the instructors. The experience and the knowledge gained resonates even to this day.

So, I determined that this topic is the very first in my “Chickie’s Writing Tips”. As a writer we often do not do very many things for ourselves except sit in a room alone and type away at the keys to bring our story to life, maybe sipping our favorite coffee or tea with a pup or kitten at our feet. We push ourselves to flesh out the characters and scenes in our head like some Dr Frankenstein pulling the handle and praying a jolt of electricity will bring it all to life. What I have found is that sometimes that jolt comes in the form of a well-renowned workshop where you immerse yourself in learning before writing, or during your writing.

I say, well-renowned, since I have heard of workshops that just do not deliver and left some of their patrons feeling deflated about their prospects of being a writer; but, if you attend one under the tutelage of some high-profile names in the industry, I think it is a safe bet that you will come from that classroom refreshed and electrified.

Free Expressions offers online workshops via Zoom at the moment because of the Covid-19 pandemic known as the Weekly Writing Webinars, but in normal circumstances supports in-person workshops such as “The Breakout Novel Intensive” by Donald Maass and the “Boni Graduate Learning Retreat”, as well as the “Wake Up & Write Writer’s Retreat Workshop” (the one I attended in 2006). At Free Expressions, they even offer a two-year Story Lab that you can apply for where they help you bring your novel from idea to finished and revised draft, with a view toward big five publication! Ooo, if only my ship was approaching the dock . . . right? Still, if you can afford it, then why not do it for yourself and for the stories begging to be told? I know I would if I could, in a heartbeat!!

So, what do you learn? Well, let me give you an example. Yesterday, I listened to the workshop called “Emotional Tipping Points” given by Mr Maass since I was struggling to push my characters further in the story. Well, I shouldn’t say struggling, I actually need to say I knew there was more there and needed a little jolt to breathe some life into them. The workshop delivered more than what I needed. In just two and a half hours, Mr Maass was able to ask enough questions of me and my characters to flesh them out, as if he reached inside my protagonist’s heart and resuscitated her. Just in the first chapter alone, I discovered ways of turning up the emotional impact for the reader, after all, isn’t that what we are trying to do for them? If a reader cannot connect with your characters, especially with your main character, then how long will they stay with the story? Or even want to read another one of your stories?

I’d love to share some of his questions, but that sort of spoils the fun of the experience, does it not? My advice is to check it out for yourself. This one workshop was only $39, but you can get the whole series for $399.00! A steal!!

So, this is my writing tip #1 – do something for yourself as a writer, sign up for a workshop, and not just any workshop – get the best. To me, the best by far is the ones I mentioned above. You will never regret the investment in yourself and your career as a writer.

Where to sign up?


Who they are?

Donald Maass founded the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York in 1980. He is the author of The Career Novelist (1996),Writing the Breakout Novel (2001), Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook (2004), The Fire in Fiction (2009), The Breakout Novelist (2011), Writing 21st Century Fiction (2012) and The Emotional Craft of Fiction (2019).  He is a past president of the Association of Authors’ Representatives, Inc.

Lorin Oberweger is a highly sought-after independent book editor and ghostwriter with almost twenty-five years experience in publishing. Her company, Free Expressions, offers intensive, deep craft workshops nationwide. She’s also known for her one-on-one story mastermind session for writers of all genres of fiction and creative nonfiction.

Lorin’s students and clients have millions of books in print and have been published by HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, Simon and Schuster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Disney, and many other presses. They have also gained representation with some of the industry’s leading literary agents.

An award-winning author, Lorin has co-written and ghostwritten eight books, several for New York Times bestselling authors of fiction and nonfiction. Her work, commissioned by major publishers, has received glowing notices from the New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, NPR, and others.

With bestselling author Veronica Rossi, Lorin is the author of the New Adult books, BOOMERANG, REBOUND, and BOUNCE, published by Harper/William Morrow under the pen name Noelle August.  The novels were praised by Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, among others, and BOOMERANG was chosen as a “new and notable” selection for Target Stores across the US.