Now you have got a feel for your subject through your research and reading, now is the time to start writing. Don’t forget, this is historical fiction, not a textbook. You need to convey a feeling and a flavour of your chosen subject, not reams of fact. Your most important resource is your imagination.
Here are some exercises and suggestions to start you off:
1) Describe a scene relating to your chosen subject in one paragraph (no more than 5 sentences). Short descriptive passages inserted into your story at relevant places are far more effective than long chunks of text which can slow down the pace of your narrative.
2) Get to know your characters. Write their CV. Who are they? Where do they come from? Where are they going? How do they interact with their surroundings and the other characters? What are their unique features? What do they think and why? What are their likes/dislikes? Like someone applying for a job, your characters have to convince you that they are worthy of a place in your story.
3) What is the plot? Work out a rough narrative arc, that is, a beginning, middle and end.
How will the setting and characters help to give your story momentum and credibility?
Don’t rely on pure narrative. Use the characters to tell the story. Make it live through them.
4) Don’t worry if you cannot work out every detail in advance. Gaps and inconsistencies can be worked out at a later date. Just get something down and see where it leads you. You’ll be surprised how your story develops as you start writing.
5) Use your senses. Work in subtle details of how something – or someone – looks, smells, sounds. Don’t put all the detail in at once. Weave small elements into your story to give it texture.
6) To hone your skills, why not enter a competition. This will give you a theme and a deadline to guide your writing. For instance, the SaveAs Writers’ competition “The Bigger Picture – Reflections on the Great War” invites entries of poetry or prose written in response to any work of art (e.g. a painting, song, poem, film or soundtrack to a film) connected with WW1. The closing date is 23rd August. For more information, click here
Next: Writing Tips 3 – Editing