Category Archives: Writing Tips

H.G. FERGUSON–TO RESEACH HIS OWN…I MEAN RESEARCH

This week I am thrilled to host author H.G. Ferguson as he shares some insight into his research process and how he incorporates that into the story without turning the book into a non-fiction info dump.

For a writer, regardless of genre or subject matter, research is critical.  But it is ever so critical (to quote Jezebelle) for writers of historical novels and stories to craft their tales as close to “historical accuracy” as possible.  French and Indian War British soldiers did not use bolt-action rifles, for example.  And even seasoned “giants” in the field can sometimes crash and burn, as when an unidentified bestselling romance novel author sets her story in 1811 and employs a drug in it that was not even discovered until 1836…

 

This does not mean every single thing must be perfect.  That’s impossible, as horror and historical novelist Robert R. McCammon pointed out.  In his Matthew Corbett tales set in early 18th century New York, he tells us he had to cut corners somewhere, and he did it with money to avoid confusing the reader due to the overwhelming variations in currency at that time.  But his depictions of dress, atmosphere and “feel” of that period are off the charts.  It can be done!

 

I am primarily a visual rather than a literary person.  That means I learn best visually.  And it is also the way I conduct most of my research into stories, whether contemporary or historical.  For Jezebelle I drew upon photos and artistic representations of antebellum southern belles, both from extant sources and contemporary re-enactors.  I also studied closely models, actors, actresses and performers in various media who suggested and/or exemplified certain qualities I sought in the characters.

 

I also paid very close attention to the antebellum portion of the immortal Gone With The Wind starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable in order to absorb the “feel” of that time and place so excellently evoked in that movie — the manners, the coquettish flirtation, the vanity, not just of Miss Scarlet but everyone.  I tried to “soak up” as much of the atmosphere and blend it into my story where appropriate.  Ten minutes spent on an accurate visual portrayal of these kinds of things is more effective — for me — than ten hours poring over “Daily Life in X Y and Z for Writers.”  The flip side of that is when I watched the 1992 The Last of the Mohicans for another story — 25 times.  Kid. You. Not.

 

I also draw upon my own experiences in what I write.  My father was stationed at Napier Field, Alabama during WWII and personally encountered German POWs set to work in the cotton fields.  This found its way into Jezebelle.  In 2003 while visiting my ancestral homeland I personally witnessed, in the heart of what was once a bastion of intolerance, a biracial couple in a restaurant just having a meal and enjoying undisturbed each other’s company.  This too appears in my story.  Local color, local texture.  Above all, truth.

 

And that’s the key to research.  Find the truth.  And tell it!

headshot-cropped

A native of Southeast Alabama now at home in Phoenix, Arizona, H.G. Ferguson has always loved the strange, the unnerving, the horrifying — in short, looking at things that go bump in the night, particularly monsters, outside the box.  A connoisseur of classic horror both literary and cinematic, he floods his writing with originality, creativity and a passion for Truth —  even when shrouded in shadows, like a candle flickering in a mortuary window.  H.G. is the author of New Blood, and his latest release, Jezebelle, comes out October 31 at Amazon.com

 

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Difficult Seasons

There are seasons in our lives that are very difficult. In fact, this day is bittersweet for me–it’s my mother’s birthday. She’s been gone more than 30 years.

This article provides writing tips for writers during hard times.

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help” (Psalm 121:1 KJV).

I stare out the living room window, my vision blurring and tears forming. I shuffle into the kitchen and peer out the back window. Perhaps the view from there would be different and change my situation.

It didn’t. My brother was still gone.

And I had writing deadlines. Learn more.

Donna

Nuggets of Writing Gold

Co-written with Leeann Betts: Nuggets of Writing Gold, a compilation of essays and articles on the writing life and journey, full of nuggets of ideas and helps for writers at any stage of their career. Topics include the passion to write, making time for writing, organization, editing, dialogue, and a resource section. Available at Amazon.com Learn more. 

Donna

Critique Groups

I’ve learned many new things in critique groups. It is helpful to have others read what we write.

With a new year facing us, now might be the perfect time to think about starting or joining a critique group.

The first thing to do is ask before you start or join is: what is the purpose of a critique group? What do I want this group to do, or not to do? If you are already involved in one group, perhaps you need to assess what that group does for you, and decide to accumulate a different group of writers with different skills. And if you aren’t already in a group, consider what you think you need the most. Maybe you need to join two groups to meet different needs. Learn more.

Donna

Encouragement for Writers

Here is an interesting article for writers.

I’m a member of several writing groups, and I’m always amazed at the different reactions people have to similar situations. For instance, one writer might leave a critique session in tears, questioning whether or not the call to write was real. Another writer might have just as challenging a critique and leave energized because she now has the insight she needs to improve. Learn more.

Donna

Writing Inspiration

Need some writing inspiration? Check this article out.

A new writer recently expressed concern that their words weren’t important. With so many great writers out there, how could their story make a difference?

I can relate to that. Even after all the years I’ve been working at this writing gig I still struggle with whether my story is valuable enough to share shelf space with the great books that are out there.

Neil Gaimon once said, “Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that – but you are the only you.” He has a point. Learn more.

Donna

A Writer’s Calling

Have you felt called to write? This article is a great reminder of why writing is so important.

Recently, I had the privilege of hearing agent and writer, Karen Ball, speak at a small writers conference in Phoenix. I didn’t really want to attend the conference. I haven’t written much these last few months and had no desire to write anything in the near future, but I felt the Lord leading me to attend…so I did.

At the conference, Ms. Ball spoke about the writing process, how to “show and not tell”, and how to write effective dialog. It was a very helpful conference. I was able to pitch my latest story to her and received encouraging feedback. Learn more.

Donna

Do Authors Need Editors?

Is it a good idea to have an editor? This article provides an interesting take on that topic.

The short answer to the above question we most often hear is this: Yes. Every book needs an editor. And while Joe gave us a nice set of tools for self-editing last week, I’d like to take a moment to answer this question on a more philosophical level.

I spend a lot of time on Facebook. And one day I floated the idea that not every writer and every book needs an editor.

That’s right. I said it. Learn more.

Donna

Critique Groups

With a new year facing us, now might be the perfect time to think about starting or joining a critique group.

The first thing to do is ask before you start or join is: what is the purpose of a critique group? What do I want this group to do, or not to do? If you are already involved in one group, perhaps you need to assess what that group does for you, and decide to accumulate a different group of writers with different skills. And if you aren’t already in a group, consider what you think you need the most. Maybe you need to join two groups to meet different needs. Learn more.

Donna

The Best of Plans

Sometimes our plans do not go as we originally scheduled. This article is a great reminder of going with the flow.

When my daughter turned eight my wife and I decided to throw her a major birthday party.

This was back in that window of time when laserdiscs were all the rage. Man, I loved those laserdiscs! The Criterion Collection, the great covers. Oh, how relentless is technological change. Now I stream TCM on my phone.

In any event, there was a video/laserdisc store near our home which had a small theater in the back. You could rent that place out for parties and the like. so that’s what we did. We invited five or six of my daughter’s best friends, ordered pizza and candy and popcorn and a cake. Our daughter was excited about the party of the year.

But what movie to show? Learn more.

Donna