The ‘Julius’ Chronicles: Research

July 1, 2009Research, The 'Julius' Chronicles

For almost three years, I’ve been working on a novel that I’ve titled Julius. It started with the NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month ) challenge to complete a 50,000 word draft in one month. After I completed the task, I saw that the silly and spoofy story I had imagined had become something much more substantial.  Now, two and one-half years after the fact, I’m still researching, rewriting and revising. It’s an endless process.

How did  the story begin and what is it today? For starters, it all had to with Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a car drive through the town of Ossining and my father’s comment about prison towns and the electric chair.

How did the novel change? Here’s an example of one sentence I wrote in the very first draft:

Too bad it’s not 1936, we could have run off to Spain with the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, fight the fascists along with Alvah Bessie and George Orwell and feel like we accomplished something worthwhile.

What was a passing mention of Alvah Bessie, the Abraham Lincoln Brigades, and the Spanish Civil War became a quest to know everything about the war, Bessie and ALBA (Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archive), and the CPUSA, and with that, the research became an all-consuming obsession.

When do you stop researching and start writing? For me, they go hand-in-hand. I may find something and discover it might be a good fit–so in it goes. Does it make the final cut? Maybe, maybe not. Research,like revisions, can be an endless task. If you’re like me, a notorious procrastinator, they can be impediments to writing and finishing your novel.

And on that note, it’s time to do some writing. . . .

The Eight Hour Writer and Procrastinator

June 29, 2009Author comments

I belong to a great online site, The Internet Writing Workshop, and on the writing list we recently had an ongoing thread about the author Nora Roberts who was recently profiled in The New Yorker.

Roberts is a self-taught writer and has published 182 novels.  She writes eight hours a day and her advice to writers: Ass in the chair.

I couldn't have said it better.

But that ass in the chair doesn't mean a disciplined writer. In my previous blog, Exiled at the Beach, I wrote about procrastination and how it sabotages my writing efforts on a daily basis. I actually named it Clementina and lamented how she would seduce me to do anything else, but write. 

Do I have her under control? Yes and no. Yes, because I write for a living; no because I'm not as productive with my novel. I still make excuses to not write. These run the gamut from:

  • Walking the dogs
  • Reading a book (with the excuse that as a writer and book reviewer I have to read)
  • Taking a shower for inspiration
  • Go to the post office for the mail
  • Email, email, and email!
  • Reading other blogs
  • Plain ol' putzing around

Before I know it eight hours have whizzed by, and  if I did write anything that day it might have been five pages for my novel Julius. And I consider myself lucky if that's the case. Five pages a day can easily turn out to be 150 pages a month, but that rarely happens. It just might be five pages for the entire month or even three months. Pathetic, n'est-ce-pas?

And because I don't want to be pathetic or rushing through my work, it's time to sign-off and write. . . .