What do these two things have to do with each other? Nothing really! Except that I’m going to talk about both.
First, get thee over to Fiction Groupie and sign up for the contest! You could win one of the following:
Hannah Moskowitz’s Break
Lisa Desrocher’s Personal Demons (ARC)
A query or first five pages critique from Fine Print Lit’s intern, Gemma Cooper
A query or first five pages critique from Janet Reid’s assistant, Meredith Barnes
A query or first five pages critique from agent Suzie Townsend
A query or first five pages critique from editor Brendan Deneen
Awesome, right? So what are you waiting for? Go, now!
Second, let’s chat about research for a sec, shall we? I write historical fiction. My current WIP is set in medieval England. Now, I didn’t know much about medieval England before I set out to write it, so obviously I had some learnin’ to do. I suppose this is a byproduct of my TYPE-A (all caps for a reason) personality, but I’m the kind of person who reads everything there is to read on a subject when trying to learn something. It also caused me some minor problems early on my in legal career (Boss: “Yeah, um, that’s great that you read every treatise on Westlaw on motions to compel, you can’t bill 27 hours for drafting a 3-page motion, so knock it off and just read one next time”). And let’s not ask my husband how many childcare books I read while pregnant. Point is, I’m thorough to a fault.
I’m glancing over at my bookcase as I write this and counting just under two dozen books on English history, some specifically tailored to the Middle Ages, some dealing with costume, some with social customs. I’ve read every one of them. And my first draft reflects it. This is a nice way of saying it’s boring as hell in parts. I read through it and wonder, did I really need three pages of describing in pain-staking detail what was for dinner? No. Nonononono.
This is an easy trap to fall into. Heck, I spent all this time researching, so I need to let my readers know, right? Wrong. I can picture someone reading my first draft and saying, “OMG, I get it. You read a lot of books about medieval England. Enough already!” I think there’s a fine line between being historically accurate and shoving that accuracy down your readers’ throats, one that I’m discovering now as I rewrite. Research needs to blend into the background, to be woven effortlessly into the plot. If not, you lose your reader, plain and simple. I know I’ve personally given up on books where it seemed to me that the writer was trying to show off all the research s/he’d done.
What do you think? Have you read any books that have made you throw up your hands in frustration because the research has overtaken the plot and characters?