Do as Diana Gabaldon does, not as I do

Those of us who were members of the former CompuServe Literary Forum witnessed the birth of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. She uploaded snippets of the work in progress, encouraged discussions about them, and later when she became a successful author continued to support the forum and answer our questions about the art and craft and business of writing novels. Her gracious support of other writers included her writing a blurb for my novel The Sun Singer.

In our craft discussions, she and I disagreed on one thing. And that was, should the author stop writing while completing a gap in the research, or should s/he continue writing and fill in the correct information later?

She said: “Keep writing.” I said: “Stop writing.”

She argued that when the author was on a roll, stopping to fill in historical or other information would simply derail the flow of the novel and the author’s daily writing process.

I argued that writing while something is still unknown could very well send the novel down the “wrong road” and necessitate a lot of needless rewriting later.

She preferred to put a “placeholder” in the manuscript, reminding her that she still had some facts to verify before submitting the book to her agent.

I preferred (and still prefer) to know the facts–whether they apply to history, geography, customs, or whatever–before I write the next scene or chapter.

It goes without saying that her Outlander series of books–and their spinoffs–have been infinitely more successful than my novels. So, I suggest you follow her advice and keep putting words down on the page even if you’re not finished verifying your information.

The fact that I’m eight years older than Diana doesn’t mean that I have more wisdom. It simply means that I’m eight years more set in my ways. I’ll freely admit that as I continue pausing my writing while checking my facts.

If you’re not set in your ways, putting a placeholder in our MS is probably the smart thing to do until you have time to look up what you still need to lookup.

Malcolm

My novel-in-progress, “Weeping Wall,” sat for several months while I verified the geological information I needed in the first paragraph.

Friday Finds: ‘The Space Between’ by Diana Gabaldon

FRIDAY FINDS, hosted Should Be Reading, showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

SpaceBetweenI’ve been reading Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander Series” since it began in 1991. The latest novel in the series, An Echo in the Bone, was released in 2009, with Written in My Own Heart’s Blood expected this June.

While waiting for the June release, I was happy to find Gabaldon’s novella, The Space Between, which came out last month.

From the Publisher

Joan MacKimmie is on her way to Paris to take up her vocation as a nun. Yet her decision is less a matter of faith than fear, for Joan is plagued by mysterious voices that speak of the future, and by visions that mark those about to die. The sanctuary of the nunnery promises respite from these unwanted visitations . . . or so she prays. Her chaperone is Michael Murray, a young widower who, though he still mourns the death of his wife, finds himself powerfully drawn to his charge. But when the time-traveling Comte St. Germain learns of Joan’s presence in Paris, and of her link to Claire Fraser—La Dame Blanche—Murray is drawn into a battle whose stakes are not merely the life but the very soul of the Scotswoman who, without even trying, has won his heart.

While this book, like A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows (2012), is outside the mainstream series, it’s an interesting look at related characters and themes.

Malcolm

SeekerCoverMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Garden of Heaven Series, a three-book fantasy and magical realism saga, including “The Seeker,” “The Sailor” and “The Betrayed.”