A Day in the Life of a Feature Writer? Erm, No Thanks!

Chapter Five

imagesToday I typed into Google: A day in the life of a feature writer, because I wanted to imagine myself in that role to see how it felt. Apparently, one of the first tasks a feature writer (for a daily newspaper) does in the morning is to go through the newspapers for feature ideas. This may mean sod all to you, but let me give you some context of what it means to me.

[Context:] I avoid watching the news. I avoid looking at all newspapers (apart from the occasional Sunday paper, because I like the magazines and interviews) and I’ve even deactivated my facebook account because I’m sick of being bombarded with negative, gut wrenching and disturbing information. I’m of a sensitive temperament-or at least that’s what I’ve always told people when they ask why I avoid the news. But on pondering this statement, maybe it’s not that…

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Facts for fantasy writers: weapons and armor

North of Andover

Everyone probably knows at this point that any writer of contemporary fiction who gets facts about guns wrong in their stories will receive a lot of email and comments and reviews letting them know exactly where they made mistakes (even if it’s the person making the comments who has it wrong). On the other hand, I’ve seen a lot of comments about non-contemporary fiction — or at least fiction containing ‘old-fashioned’ weapons — to the effect that ‘readers don’t know and don’t care’ if the author botches a description of sword combat, or calls a bracer a gauntlet, or has a character wearing mail without anything underneath.

Trust me, some readers will know and will care if you get that stuff wrong.  As with all things, it is better to leave it out, be a bit vague, than to get it blatantly incorrect.  Here are a few of the more common…

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Are You Being Specific Enough?

Fiction All Day

Redwoods

Do you hate research?  Are you okay with being ‘close enough’?  Does it really matter if you tell us what kind of trees we’re looking at?

Before you answer any of those questions, be sure to remember that small distinctions make a huge difference.

Being specific can separate bad from good from great writing.  Am I looking at a bunch of tall and large trees?  Or am I looking at a forest of towering redwoods?

Yeah, research sucks.  It’s homework, and who in the history of the world has ever liked homework?  Nobody.  But having the right information is important. If you’ve convinced yourself that getting a book 90% right is enough, that you can make up the rest and people won’t notice, you need to get that thought out of your head immediately.  Because it’s the details that often make the book.

Details are what lend authenticity to your story and make it…

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You never know…

RØN ∆LI∆S (UK author)

In a rather random Google moment I decided to enter the search term for my next planned book. I have made references to it within this blog before and is also mentioned in the blurb on my Amazon Author Central page.

What I was pleasantly surprised to find was that a UK site called hundredzeros had put up a blog entry about Do You Know Who I Am? (my mini book which is both a companion to AOA and gives some self-publishing tips).

I had no idea but just goes to show that positive actions can bring positive results. So do be as active as you can – you never know what might pay off in terms of promotion. Check out DYKWIA for lots of ideas in terms of marketing your work – the book is as cheap as I can make it on Amazon most of the time. Every…

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A Toxic Environment: living in the Victorian era – A Steampunk Perspective

research

Cogpunk Steamscribe

Painting by Georg Friedrich Kersting Painting by Georg Friedrich Kersting – displaying the popularity of Scheele’s Green

This post was inspired by a comment made by mjtierney1 of Airship Flamel.

I had a professor in grad school who analyzed snippets of hair from 19th century hair wreaths. The amount of heavy metals present was amazing. Probably not surprising considering plumbing was made of lead, mercury compounds were used as drugs, and arsenic was a common insecticide.

I am fairly certain Paris Green is the insecticide that he is thinking of. This is an arsenic compound that was also used in artist’s paints, and is highly toxic. It was widely available, and used to spray crops like apples in Europe and America. Another arsenic-based insecticide was London Purple – don’t you love these innocent names?

Then there was Scheele’s Green, one of the most popular and fashionable colours of the Victorian era. It was used in wallpapers…

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Hunting Skills for Writers

Steam Punk City

Start by walking, repeat until you know the place, then look for something different. It might be very small, like the crab spider below.

P1520661

You can start now, but don’t reference your writing back to books, not yet. Stay with the spider. Notice difference. See that? The yarrow flower is dead. There is nothing to hunt. Camouflage doesn’t work anymore. It’s late in the year. Still the spider hunts. There’s your story, a moment of linked, contradictory presences, but, please, do yourself a favour; don’t link it to stories of life, death, transience and mortality. Those are romantic tales. They’re things people tell each other in the dark.. Stay with the spider. That’s the story. It takes a lifetime of writing to get there, to write about one spider, this one, right here, on this yarrow, right here, in this light, but you might as well start working towards it now. When else?

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