The spy who hoodwinked the Nazis with sorcery: file under “interesting if true”. As opposed to “Operation” Cone of Power in which British witches actually tried to repel the Nazis, Operation Mistletoe was just propaganda. Allegedly orchestrated by spy and occultist Cecil Williams, this article suggests it’s uncertain whether this fake ritual happened at all. (Tangentially, a whip ’round Google for “Napoleonic magical ritual” nets nothing about the alleged witchcraft used to repel Napoleon mentioned in the article. Still, possible inspiration for Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell?)
I’ve managed to trim down the first third of my book to under 100 pages! This is something of an accomplishment, as the first draft weighed in at a hefty 475 pages – long even for historical fiction, and inexcusable for a first time author. I’m currently rewriting the second third–if I can slim it similarly I’m on the right track.
Cutting has been remarkably easy. Because I wrote the first draft out-of-order many chapters wound up with “last time on [book]”- type introductions. Rewriting in order makes these obvious, and they’re the first to go.
Also: anything that bores me. The first draft adhered too closely to the historical record which includes a lot of pedantic to and fro and preparation. Such interludes hobble the story, and if I’m tuning out I imagine my readers will too.
Speaking of which, the day job and other amusements have impeded my going to my local critique group. As such I joined Scribophile at the recommendation of a HNS acquaintance. I’m getting good feedback, in record time and in the comfort of my own home. Gotta give to get though, and I can only hope I’m as helpful to my fellow writers as they are to me.
I’m not going to have the second draft complete by the HNS conference in late June, but I’m further ahead than I thought I’d be, simply because there’s so much I can get rid of!
How are everyone’s works in progress (writing and not)?
Like a lot of histfic fans I’ve been enjoying Starz’ “The White Princess”. I’m not sure how historically accurate it is. I’m not sure it matters.
The story plays with one of the gaps in our knowledge that is so ripe for fictionalization: how did Henry VII and his queen Elizabeth of York develop a happy marriage? Sources tell us Henry mourned Elizabeth deeply when she died, but not how a woman could be happy with a man who killed her uncle and deposed her family. Two episodes in I think the miniseries (based on Philippa Gregory’s novel of the same name) plays with this question admirably.
Even if the Woodvilles did try to lure Edward IV into marrying Elizabeth through supernatural means they may not have had to: she was reputed to be a great beauty and charming to boot.
Still, if those lead figures were Jaquetta’s she was using them for something, but that may not mean much. People at all levels of society dabbled in witchcraft during the early modern period. For that I do have a footnote: Keith Thomas’ Religion and the Decline of Magic.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of suck, I will not falter…At least, I hope I won’t.
It’s fair to say that I’m not going to have the second draft done by the HNS conference in June. Well and so–I work with the time I’ve got and while it’s not as fast as I’d like at least it’s steady.
But I’ve run into parts of this book that I…despise is not too strong a word. One section in particular I still hate despite acting on quality feedback, and though I move on to the next part I have to wonder if my second draft isn’t turning into just another, worse, first draft.
My plea to my regional Historical Novel Society chapter resulted in: get more critiques. Which I can’t argue with. Second (and third, and fourth) pairs of eyes catch what I can’t because I’ve been looking at the damn thing too long.
I have a local critique group but can’t always get to physical meetings. I’m checking out Scribophile on the recommendation of another HNS colleague to see if online critique exchanges are equally helpful.
Totally unrelated (or not?): my fencing game has been in the valley of suck as well. New coach, new footwork, so I’ve been clomping all over the strip like an asthmatic elephant for months.
Until this past weekend when some of it finally “clicked”.
This is a consistent pattern with my fencing: I have to sweat away in the valley of suck to make a higher (how’s that for a cheesy/tortured metaphor?) I wonder if my writing progress will be the same. I’ve been fencing sixteen years and this pattern remains. I’ve only been writing for four.
Four! (I started at the cusp of a previous government shutdown, and here I am again).Has it been that long? Or has it been that brief?
How The White Princess is a Girl-Powered Game of Thrones: short version: the real Game of Thrones. George R. R. Martin borrowed heavily from the Wars of the Roses but the history doesn’t need much embroidering: woman has to marry man who just killed her uncle – the uncle who may have killed her brothers to take the crown for himself. Throw in conniving relatives and shifting alliances for spice and I’ll be watching.
Not the kind of plot bunny I can just scratch a couple of lines and save in my “to write” file either. It’s a really great weird historical/intrusive entity/questionable reality type bunny.
It’s so good I’m loath to share it with anyone for fear of getting scooped (which is silly, but that’s another post). So good, in fact, that I’m tempted to drop the novel-in-progress to plummet down this new research rabbit hole.
But I reined myself in.
Look, I’ve been struggling with rewrites. My schedule is cluttered of late and distractions of every sort compete for my limited time. Research is comparatively easy because I don’t have to invent anything or kludge all the cool stuff into a coherent narrative: all the things I beat my head against with the WIP.
But part of this novel-writing thing is finishing the damn book. That means keeping at it even when it’s not fun or easy.
So I’ve (carefully, lovingly) trapped the plot bunny with a list of sources and ideas and filed it away with the others. Pro: I’ll never run out of ideas. Con: I can only do them one at a time.