Author Post: Eva Seyler on her Research Process!

Imogen checking in here to say I’m so excited to introduce you all to Eva Seyler and how she researches her historical fiction books. I’m currently working on a historical fiction project so this post has been truly invaluble to me, and hopefully will be for you too! Anyway, enough of me…

I’ve been asked to write a guest post about my research process! I’ve written three books since late 2017 (two not being out yet), and all three of them have had their own individual research approach, so this will be fun.
I begin all my historical projects the same way: by reading all the relevant nonfiction I can get my hands on. I see what my library has, and once I’ve exhausted their supply, I’ll start trolling AbeBooks for used copies of books that look useful. One book invariably leads to another. 
I’ve had to rein myself in a lot. I went absolutely nuts buying WWI books during the writing of The War in Our Hearts, and I justify it to myself by saying that I’ll be writing more about it in the future (I do have at least two other WWI-era stories in mind). So I’ve stopped buying books unless I literally cannot get them any other way, but even so, I do not necessarily read them all cover to cover. That would just be impossible! I’m a bit of an obsessive hurricane when I write, so unless the entire research book is relevant (and it’s often not), I come to a point during my projects where I’ll just go to the index and browse all the pages mentioning a certain topic and take notes that way. 
Here are some example photos from the notebook in which I compiled all my trench warfare notes. For what it’s worth, doodling on my notes for TWIOH got me into the zone a bit, because Aveline (one of my main characters, a 13 year old orphan girl) draws on everything. It seemed to be what she’d have done. Also, have an exclusive peek at a SuperTechnicallyAccurate(™) map that I drew of the setting of my book!

For my post-WWII-escaped-Nazis-in-Argentina WIP, I’ve had a number of topics I needed to research fairly intensively, and I decided to try the Colour-Coded Index Card Approach. Here’s my master list of topics and what colour I designated for each one:
And some examples of how I took notes on the cards:
At the bottom of each card I put the title of the source material and the author’s name (or initials), because otherwise there is no way I’ll remember where I got specific facts by the time the book comes out! And I like to have lists of related/recommended reading I can put on my website for people who want to learn more.  
Finally, for my middle-grade novel set in 1925 Turner, Oregon, I was able to do most of my research on-site. In fact, I had really no other option! Turner is a tiny town, and there’s very little written material available to turn to for such niche research. So I went to the library in Salem (our state capital, about eight miles from Turner and about an hour north of where I live) and I spent several Thursdays combing through microfilm of 1925 newspapers. I went to the Willamette Heritage Centre, and they helped me dig up a telephone directory for Turner. 
I contacted the principal of the elementary school (which was opened in 1922), who gave me a tour, allowed me to dig through nearly-century-old records, and hooked me up with the Turner mayor. The mayor, in turn, connected me with a gentleman in his 90s who has spent his entire life in Turner. Thanks to the school records and the telephone directory, I had a fairly comprehensive list of every resident of Turner in 1925, and this man was able to go down that list and tell me about a lot of them in an epic 3-hour visit. There was no way I could take notes and listen too, so I used my recorder: 
Listening to and transcribing three hours of chat afterwards was a bit exhausting. But it was worth it. 
Of all these methods, I think the most practically useful has been the colour-coded index cards. It’s been a quick way to access a specific bit of research when I’m editing or writing a specific part of my WIP. 
The on-site research is the most fun, but not so practical, because it’s one thing to drive one hour north for an afternoon, and completely another thing to hop on a plane and fly to Argentina for six months. Fortunately, there are sites like that have SO many photos you can flip through of almost any place on earth and, if you’re lucky, information about the weather at a given time of year or such like, to help add authenticity to your setting, if it’s not somewhere you can easily go. 
I should also mention that I have one of those accordion-style expanding folders that I store all my notes and general materials in (early drafts, either handwritten or printed out and marked up; timelines; any of the abovementioned notecards or other notes). 
So, that’s how I conduct and organise my research when I’m writing. 
Thanks for having me, Imogen! ❤ ❤
–Eva Seyler

My Camp NaNoWriMo Goals!

My name is Imogen, and I’ve never written a novel. But today is the 1st of July and that means it’s the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo. Scrivner is downloading as I type and I thought it would be interesting to track this a little, after all, one day I would like for some of you to read it! So here are my workable goals for Camp NaNoWriMo 2019, helped by the 5 things I learned from an unsuccessful NaNoWriMo.

My Camp NaNoWriMo Goals!

Read one of my research books
I have a couple of books I’ve bought for research when it comes to my planned projects, but I struggle with non-fiction sometimes. I actually think reading more academically and making notes will help me get through them- my old teachers might be shocked to hear that!

Write a good chunk of notes
I’m not a great planner when it comes to writing but if I’ve learnt anything from my past couple years at the Open University, it’s that I do better when I have at least a little bit of an idea of where I’m going. So I took one of my immaculate notebooks off the shelf and wrote in it! I even made a spelling mistake which is truly the sign that a notebook is used. I want to get an outline, a couple of mind maps and use a couple of Rhianne’s incredible resources from her website to really get a grip on my project.

Write the ending 
Here’s the thing, I know my characters quite well already and I know where I want them to end up. I know ho I want this story to end, I just don’t know how I’m going to get them there. My hope is that once I’ve got it out of my head and actually in words, my brain will be free to figure out a little bit more.

6,200 words
Slow and steady wins the race, as they always say. There are 31 days in July and I’d like to write around 200 words a day. That feels manageable since I know that there’ll be busy days when I won’t be able to write anything, and hopefully some productive days when I write quite a lot. Heck, this blog post is more than 200 words. Wish me luck!

Are you participating in Camp NaNo? Have you written a novel before?

5 Things I Learnt from an Unsuccessful NaNoWriMo!

I lost NaNoWriMo. I think it was pretty clear that was going to happen after Update 1, and definitely after Update 2. I’m still excited about the story, and I’m still going to write it even now that November is over. And I learnt a lot from the experience and that’s good enough for me. So here are the 5 Things my unsuccessful NaNo taught me..

5 Things I Learnt from an Unsuccessful NaNoWriMo!

1. Not editing is the key
Editing is built into the way I write and turning that off was a tough lesson. Heck, I edited that last sentence before I finished it. But sometimes it’s good to turn that off and just see what happens. It can be good, it can be bad, it can be literal garbage but it’s worth it for the few times that something really magical gets written.
2. It might not be for me…
I was a mess trying to balance NaNo with my degree work, classes, and blogging. My health problems, physical and mental, reared their ugly heads. I don’t think I’m in a place right now where I can do without the small flexibility that I allow myself of not writing.

3. Co-Writing is hard

Do you know what’s harder than organising one persons life to add everyday writing? Doing it with two people. Then add different timezones, personal lives and a busy month. But- it’s worth it. I love writing with Ashley and I think we’ve started something great. It just might take longer, we’re shuffling zombie writers rather than 28 Days Later zombie writers.

4. Failure isn’t the worst
I have to keep drilling this into my brain because it’s hard for me to believe. The way my education worked, failure was the worst possible thing on the planet and if you didn’t do well then your entire life would be miserable. But there are worse things. And everyone learns from failure. I just have to keep reminding myself of that.
5. People who complete NaNo are warriors
Seriously. 50,000 words is a lot! And people were writing that much and surpassing it. Everyone who took part in NaNo is brilliant, even if you don’t win. But 50,000 words… Warriors! And I can’t wait to read the books I heard about while they were being written last month.

Did you try NaNo? How did you do?

NaNoWriMo Check-In #2

I wanted to write these check-ins to keep myself accountable for NaNo and I’m totally regretting it. I haven’t been writing! There’s not much difference from my first check in because the past fortnight has been horrible; both my co-writer and I have been sick, the election happened which was just awful, and I haven’t hit my sweet spot yet.

Laptop with a notebook and pen

The Plan
We took some time out and planned up to Chapter 8 which took some time but helped with understanding where our characters would be at what time, and the pace. Pace is always important when it comes to zombies, and not just the question of running zombies or shuffling zombies. We want to get the spread of the infection right. Too fast and there’s just chaos, too slow and what’s the point. So *spoiler alert* Chapter 8 is when shit goes down.

“I think we’re determined and doing our best considering our schedules. We have a lot of heart.” 
She’s right, as always. We’re going to get this done. We’ve written things in the past that have spanned over three years, different laptops, jobs, huge life events- and we still finished it. No abandoned projects when we’re working on them.

The Word Count
Just over 3500

How are you doing with NaNo?

NaNoWriMo Check-In #1

It’s Day 2 of NaNoWriMo and I’m doing a quick check-in before I start writing today. In four weeks today it’ll all be over, and I’d love to have a record of how I did and what worked and didn’t. But I’m getting ahead of myself! NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month where writers around the world get together and write a first draft of 50,000 words in November. Here’s a bit more about my NaNoWriMo…

The Co-Writer
I’ve mentioned Ashley, and linked her blog before, but in short- we met 7 years ago in a The Walking Dead chatroom and a bunch of us just became buddies. As you do with strangers on the internet. We still watch the show, and I love it, even if it has become garbage. Season 6 ended with a cliffhanger that got most fans annoyed and that with the continuity problems led to this conversation and the beginning of it all:

The Story
Late last year, I had an idea for a podcast. It hasn’t yet come into fruition because, in short, 2016 has been awful for my group of friends that I’m doing it with. Without giving too much away, it’s about transatlantic friendships and zombies, because write what you know, right? My character is a 999 Ambulance service operator called Velma. And hopefully in a week, I’ll have something I’ve written that I’ll want to share and a title that isn’t just ‘Ashley and Imogen Write a Novel.’

The Word Count
At the moment- 294. Don’t judge me. I haven’t written yet today.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo, No-Chocolate and No-Netflix November.

I’m generally not very good at talking about life-things on my blog but November is a pretty weird month for me so I thought I’d talk about it! I’m finally getting over being sick, which made October on Imogen’s Typewriter pretty bare as well, yay. So lets talk about November…

I didn’t attempt NaNo last year, but I did the year before and I didn’t do well at all. A couple things are different this year though, which is making me feel a little more positive about it. I’m going to blog about it, which always makes me more accountable. I’ll be posting updates on Wednesdays, starting tomorrow when I’ll go into a little more detail about it. I’m also co-writing for the first time so we’re aiming for 25k each, which will take so much pressure off. And I’m older, and wiser. Lets hope that counts for something!
This is something I’ve been doing for a couple of years now, along with giving up chocolate for Lent. I feel like chocolate is my ‘vice’ and when I get into a routine of eating it all the time, it’s obviously not good. Plus, I like to detox off it before advent calendar chocolate! I sit typing next to a bar of unopened Dairy Milk and it”s going to stay that way.
It’s not even twenty-four hours into November as I write this and I already regret this one. But I’m too dependent on Netflix and TV in general. I just do it too much. I’m not going to be super strict about it. I’ll still watch The Walking Dead and The Apprentice as they come on the TV, and I watch TV when I eat alone but apart from that- I’m going to be doing a lot more reading and podcast listening for entertainment this month!
So those are my November plans! What are yours?

5 Things I Love about Writing!

Lately I’ve been working on my novel, and I’ve been having so much fun with it. But I feel it looming, the dreaded Writer’s Block. So to keep myself pumped up and ready to beat any opponent in my way, I thought I’d write down 5 Things I love about writing to remember in the future and keep this streak up!

1. Getting the world in your head down on the page!
Sometimes I’ll sit there and it feels like an entire universe in my brain and I have so many thoughts on what I want to happen to my characters, there are scenes that run around my head for days. So writing it all down on paper or screen is amazingly freeing.

2. Hitting the Sweet Spot!
While I believe in writing even if you don’t feel like it, even if your mind is blank, even if you have nothing to say, I also believe that there is a sweet spot that every writer hits once in a while. When everything is just right and the words flow from your fingers that by the time you hit the end, you’ve written more in one session than the rest of the week.

3. Finding that perfect writing song!
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve paused a TV show or movie to Google the song playing because you just know it’s perfect. You listen to it and you can see your characters lives that much clearer. Personally, I find myself listening to a lot of original soundtracks; Lost, The Walking Dead, The Social Network, Lord of the Rings, or songs that I know the lyrics so well that it doesn’t get in the way of the words in my head.

4. Reaching a Word Count goal!
Word count is my nemesis. I believe that if you can say something in five words, don’t stretch it out to ten. *side-eyes certain books on my shelf* But this can make any work I write pretty short, and fast- which is something I’m working on because some scenes really need slowing down- so reaching word count goals feels awesome! 5000 words? Amazing. 10000 words? Incredible. 50000 words? Unheard of so far but I’m hopeful.

5. Positive Feedback!
Stephen King, who wrote my favourite book about writing, says; “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” And JK Rowling has been quoted saying; I find that discussing an idea out loud is often the way to kill it stone dead.” But. Sometimes there’s nothing quite like sending a snippet or a plot idea to a friend and getting a nice response. Even if they’re lying. Constructive criticism is for the editing process!

Do you write? What do you love about it?