Awesome Romance Writer and fellow Wild Rose author Kathleen Buckley writes Regency romance with a historical depth not found in most contemporary novels about this period. Her novel The Unsuitable Duchess is one of my 5 star recommend reads. You can find my review here.
Today, she shares some great writing tips for new writers.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
As soon as I learned to read, I wanted to write. I remember in first grade I sat down after school one day and began to make a list of all the words I knew. My first book, science fiction, was completed in the late 1970’s. It never sold—and I even had an agent!
How much research do you do for each book you write?
I always know something about the setting and topic when I start. Having to research virtually everything would be daunting, which is why you will never find me writing a novel about civil engineering in India or Central Africa in the mid-19th century.
When I began writing An Unsuitable Duchess, I knew a fair amount about the first half of the 18th century, but not enough. Fortunately, I was able to fill in the gaps with an 18th century dictionary, maps, Google and some 18th century literature. Oh, and Sir Walter Scott, whose novel Waverly provided some interesting Scottish background, and a glossary of Scottish terms.
In my current project, I did more research, as I needed to know about 18th century French muskets, coat pocket pistols, ships, the lead-up to the 1745 rebellion, London squares, potted shrimp . . . a bunch of things. But it was all fairly easy: when I wanted to smuggle muskets from France, I googled “18th century French muskets” to find out what kind, how much they weighed and so forth. The hardest thing was finding a good description or illustration of the inside of a schooner. I never did, so I pieced together a description from various sources.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
I used to, until I realized that it was the result of trying to make my characters do something they just flat did not care to do. I don’t plan the entire novel in advance so the characters develop as I write, and I get to know them and how they would act or react. In a crime novel I wrote several years ago (which is still sitting in my computer), a background character I intended to kill turned into the main character. Now, once I’ve started writing, I let the characters direct the action, and writer’s block is a thing of the past.
Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Oh, yes. A few years ago I completed a sort-of-funny novel about a dumpster-diving (and proud of it!) adolescent loner and how he grew up. I still think it’s a good story. At the time, I thought there was no alternative to the brick-and-mortar publishers except paying for a vanity press publication. The traditional publishers all seemed to insist on an agent. None of the three dozen (approximately; may have been more) I queried was interested; some didn’t bother answering. Now that there are other options, I may try them; I loved how The Wild Rose Press handled An Unsuitable Duchess.
What project are you working on now or what book will be next?
I’ve submitted my current project to The Wild Rose Press. It’s set in 1745, and concerns smuggled French muskets intended for the Young Pretender. The working title is Most Secret but may change. Next I’ll be starting my third romance, set in 1740, which will make use of some of the minor characters from An Unsuitable Duchess, and will have a good deal to do with the shipping industry. No, really, it will be more thrilling than it sounds—I hope! There will be romance, crime and maybe even pirates.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
Both of them came on the same occasion. I’d submitted a story to a Westercon (the big science fiction convention on the West Coast) in the mid-1970s. A panel of notable authors critiqued the finalists. One of the authors said of my submission, “It’s just another brain-in-a-glass-jar story.” Another said, “I wish I’d thought of this.” I guess the lesson here is that judgment of fiction is a very subjective thing.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
You have to do it. Sit down and write. It’s best not to talk about it until you’ve done it. Talking about what you intend to write or are writing may take away the internal pressure to actually do it.
Once you have written something, be aware that it almost certainly needs improvement. Don’t take constructive criticism as an attack upon you, personally. Do members of sports teams get bent out of shape when told they need to work on their ball-handling or blocking skills?
You’ll need criticism either from someone who is a good writer, or at least better than you are, or someone with good taste in the kind of fiction you’re writing. There are lots of writers’ groups and classes, even free or inexpensive ones (our local senior centers often have classes).
Your mother, your sister, or your best friend are not good critics. Even if they’re writers themselves, you probably need to get perspective from someone who isn’t close to you for the same reason it’s easier to learn to drive from someone other than your family. If you can’t stand any criticism of your writing, you will have to grow a thicker skin or learn to be more impersonal about your writing, because there will always be criticism. Some will be justified, some won’t. But if you hear the same critique from two or more readers, take it seriously. For example, “Most of Chapter 3 talks about the plight of chimney sweeps’ lads but it has nothing to do with the actual story,” or “If you circled every adverb on the page with red pen, it would look like a bad case of measles. Ditch the adverbs.”
Proof read! Do not rely on Spellcheck: it presents you with possibilities, NOT NECESSARILY THE CORRECT WORD. This is why you so often see “it’s” used in place of “its”, or “there” instead of “their”. The grammar function is almost worthless.
Last, whatever you write, be aware that if you put in something outside your personal knowledge, you’ll embarrass yourself if you don’t do your research. A Glock 17 9mm pistol is not a fully automatic weapon like a machine gun. Regency ladies wore underwear consisting of a chemise and stays. Period. No underpants. They didn’t wear high heels, either. All knowledge is contained someplace on Google. Make use of it, even if you do no other research.
Finally, write. Just write and keep doing it.
After her guardian’s death, Anne Sinclair comes to Town seeking an interesting gentleman to marry. With only a competence, she means to find a man with broad interests, rather than broad estates. But why did her late guardian think it might be difficult for her to make a match? She intends to find out, only to discover that London can be dangerous for a young lady with a hidden enemy.
Lord John Anniscote unexpectedly inherits inherits the title and responsibilities of his dissolute brother, the Duke of Guysbridge, including houses, servants, tenants, and the need to provide himself with an heir. Formerly poor, cynical, and carefree, he finds himself hunted by marriage-minded females. When a plot against a young lady up from the country touches his honor, the new duke takes a hand to safeguard her reputation and repair his own.