Jocelyn's Other Desk

The writings of Jocelyn Smith, aspiring author, soon-to-be lawyer, once and future politician, all-around opinionated twentysomething.

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Location: Orlando, Florida, United States

I'm a lawyer in Florida, working on three novels, a screenplay, and half a dozen pieces of fanfiction at any given moment.

Friday, June 17, 2005

New Topic: Writing And Selling Historical Fiction

My blog this evening has been graced by the presence of one Kate Rothwell, it seems, a historical romance writer.

Much squealing ensued.

As you may or may not know, my first novel in which I am making serious progress at last is a historical fiction (well, part historical, part mythological) set in the founding legends of ancient Rome. It's also got a pretty healthy romantic element as well, although I'm not sure if it qualifies as a wholesale romance...perhaps I should ask Kate.

But she made a very gracious comment on a previous post, and I wished to state for the record how thrilled I was to hear from her, and invite her to give input again.

(After all, when I started this blog, I had planned it to be about pro writing too, although I tend to get sidetracked when my ire is roused, as it often is, to the defense of my hobby.)

I have heard scary things about attempting to publish "genre straddlers." If I were to compare my story to a published work, I'd say it's most similar to Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Firebrand, in its treatment of history from the point of view of a minor character. But Bradley started and became established--I think--as a sci-fi writer.

What's a newbie author to do?

My published friends, regardless of your feelings about my night writing job (har har), have you any thoughts?

16 Comments:

Blogger Fandom Rebels said...

Jocelyn?
This is kinda an emergency. Could you please remove the link to Claire's blog? I think she's setting up a new one.
Jerks will be jerks, you know.
Not your fault. But next, don't link to her, okay?
Amy

3:35 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn Smith said...

Done. Sorry 'bout that. I was flattered that she linked to me, and enjoy chatting with everyone on her blog, so I thought I'd return the favor.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn Smith said...

But...but...where's the new one? It's all gone! (Pout)

8:59 AM  
Blogger Claire said...

I sent you an email. I'm sorry. just moved it. I appreciated that you linked to me. Anyway, sent the mail to the email listed in your profile. So come on back.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Nonny said...

While I'm not a published novelist, it seems to me that many historicals have a romantic subplot. Jean Auel would be a good example.

I think an important question would be: What is the main plot? If your romance is the main plot, then your best bet may be romance. If it's not, but is an important subplot, then you might try mainstream publications. You also mentioned that you have mythological elements; depending on how predominant they are, you might also consider looking into Tor-Forge's paranormal romance line or Luna. Genre straddlers, especially romance-fantasy, are coming into style, so I honestly wouldn't worry too much about it. If the rest of the book is like the snip you posted, I'd imagine it's quite saleable.

Hope this helps! :)

11:37 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn Smith said...

What is the main plot?

And therein lies my difficulty.

Romance and love (specifically, what love is and how it is created) are an integral part of the plot, BUT...Paulina's specific romance is more of a subplot, albeit an important one.

The romance takes place amidst a war, and the main story is about the protagonist being uprooted and held in an enemy nation, etc etc.

Ponder, ponder, ponder...I'll decide what aspect is more important when the whole thing's done, I guess.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

You have to be able to describe your story in one sentence.

1:03 PM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

If it's similar to Firebrand, that is, with some magic/supernatural/paranormal stuff actually working, it would be Historical Fantasy, and I think many Fantasy publishers take that.

What I've learned about the definition of Genre Romance is that the romance is the main plot, and anything else - like a SciFi setting, paranormal aspects and whatever - is secondary to the relationship between hero and heroine. Thus, if you have another important plotline, the MC being uprooted, it would be genre + romance, that is Historical Fantasy or Hist Fiction in your case.

I'm not sure about going for mainstream in the US. I'm writing for an European audience and here, Historical Fiction is a genre of its own (in Germany even more popular than Fantasy), thus I don't face those problems. I write hist fic with very little romance subplot stuff and no paranormal/supernatural elements. Think Rosemary Sutcliff's Eagle of the Ninth and books like that (only not YA).

Oh and *looks around if no one sees her* I have a night job, too. :)

7:02 PM  
Blogger Nonny said...

Gabriele's dead on about the definition of romance. From what you've said of your plot, it might fit with Luna or Tor-Forge ... that said, if it's historical fantasy (alternate histories can count, too, btw; there's a good number of "historical" fantasy novels that don't have overt magic), I'd try Tor proper, as they seem to publish a fair amount of that sort of thing.

Claire> If Jocelyn's on the rough draft, the one-liner's not so much of an issue. There's a fair number of published authors who don't have one till after the book's finished.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Coming up with a good onliner is such a pain in the posterior part. Heck, writing a frigging entire novel is easier. :)

The only blurb I like to some extent (though it's not perfect) is the one I made for Storm over Hadrian's Wall (stupid title, I know): A tribal warlord and a Roman officer must overcome their mutual hartred and thwart a conspiracy that would lead to the extinction of the Pictish tribes and endanger the Roman Empire.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Nonny said...

No kidding, Gabriele. Synopses and one-liners = evil. If a book was meant to be that short ... ;)

Love the blurb for A Storm over Hadrian's Wall, btw!

8:08 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

If Jocelyn's on the rough draft, the one-liner's not so much of an issue. There's a fair number of published authors who don't have one till after the book's finished.

Agreed. I'm just trying to save her time. Go for the tag line, expand from there. Then she'll know what she's doing for a plot. Had to do that recently with one of mine. Read the synopsis, realized I'd written something different, decided the story in the synopsis was better, so rewrote it to fit.

9:29 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn Smith said...

I do have a detailed outline of the story, and probably could describe it in one sentence. I've found that sticking to an outline or summary as I write does tend to keep the plot a little more cohesive.

8:49 AM  
Anonymous F. O'Brien Andrew said...

If you aren't creative enough to make your own world, you can always write fanfic.

If you aren't intuitive enough to make your own characters, you can always write fanfic.

If you aren't good enough to devise your own backgrounds, you can always write fanfic.

But you can't be an artist when all you do is photocopy other people's work.

You can't be published if what you wrote is hung on other people's creations. And you should be ashamed to even try.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn Smith said...

If you aren't creative enough to make your own world, you can always write fanfic.

Or if you do make your own worlds, and you simply enjoy fanfic, you can do both. Like me.

If you aren't intuitive enough to make your own characters, you can always write fanfic.

Or if you are intuitive enough to make your own characters but also feel a connection with the characters from your favorite books or shows, you can write fanfic too.

If you aren't good enough to devise your own backgrounds, you can always write fanfic.

Or if you are, you can write original fiction AND fanfic, because they're both fun.

But you can't be an artist when all you do is photocopy other people's work.

No fanwriter does that. Plagiarists do that.

You can't be published if what you wrote is hung on other people's creations.

Who in their right mind would actually try to PUBLISH fanfic, outside the web?

And you should be ashamed to even try.

My lad, why are you chiding me for things I have not done and have never advocated?

What is your point, other than to show your ignorance?

12:52 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

Um, isn't this a thread to discuss Jocelyn's original fiction, Mr. O'Brien?

2:38 PM  

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