Japanese History and Research for a Historical Novel

How to make no money and lose your mind, in one easy lesson

So, I wrote a novel. (Actually, my wife Carol is coauthor. In truth, the book would look nothing like it does now without her constant input, edits, criticism, and brainstorming. It is a much better book than I could have done on my own. However, for simplicity’s sake, I am going to use “I” here. If she wants to talk about her experience working on the book, she can write her own post.)

I had been working on it off and on for about a year, and last November, NaNoWriMo 2014 rolled around and inspired me to work during all of November, so by the end of the month, I had completed the novel, a book set in 12th century Japan that covers the misadventures of a down-on-his-luck bushi who is unfortunate enough to agree to help an old flame with a “small” favor. That small favor gets both of them involved in court politics and a plot to seize the imperial throne. That will teach him to do someone a favor.

Unfortunately, the “finished” novel was a steaming pile of crap. I don’t mean that the idea was bad, I believe in the basic story. It is a good read. What I mean is, once I went back to the beginning and started reading what I had, I was profoundly dissatisfied with what I had written. (I also decided to make some changes to the story to tighten things up, but that didn’t change the issues I had with my prose.) It was time to rewrite it.

I didn’t actually get started on the rewrite until after the holidays. I spent most of December in bed, sick with a cold, then sick with the flu, then a cold again, then another cold, then the flu, and so on. I spent about 22 out of 31 days of the month sick in bed. So, it was the first week of January before I started working on the rewrite.

Guess what? Rewriting is hard. Some people say that rewriting is as hard as doing the book in the first place. That is not the case for me. Once I have something down on the page, it is easier for me to tune it than it is to get it down in the first place.

After about three weeks of worth, I am happy with the first part of the book (about the first sixth). Now, I am moving on to the rest, but I also have to think about the other aspects of publishing a book, such as ISBN numbers, covers, titles, and all that stuff.

So, this blog is going to be a chronicle of my efforts to get this book out, hopefully without actually losing my mind.

1 Comment

  1. Carol

    Writing isn’t set dressing. The words are not themselves the end of their function — they have to dance for their dinner, and so must be enlightning, engaging, entertaining. I take some umbrage with the idea of being only entertaining or pleasurable (seriously, has he actually read Gravity’s Rainbow?), and would instead correct to say:

    You write to tell a story.

    You don’t tell a story in order to write.

    The language is there as a tool. Words are not preening peacocks


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