Saturday, March 28, 2015

What Will Get You Published? Story!

Excellent advice by the famous Bernard Cornwell to the first-time historical novelist:

"The most important thing, the all important thing, is to get the story right. Write, rewrite, rewrite again, and do not worry about anything except story. It is story, story, story. That is your business. Your job is not to educate readers on the finer points of Elizabethan diplomacy or Napoleonic warfare, your job is to divert and amuse people who have had a hard day at work. What will get you published? Not style, not research, but story."

This is a good reminder for me as an aspiring novelist. I may have this fabulously researched piece of history, but if I do an info-dump without weaving it into the story, it's no good. Better to have a strong story that's light on history, rather than to have a mediocre story bogged down by heavy research. It's not simply good enough to get the historical details right—make no mistake, they have to be right—but it's important to know which details are pertinent to the story and how to minimally employ them. History in service of a good story, that is a historical novel; not the other way around.