News & Views

Binge Watch or Work

“Writers stuck at home during the pandemic can either binge more Netflix or get down to work.”

That headline from Carman Amato’s lead article in the November issue of “Booklife” ( the Indy Author version of Publishers’s Weelkly) struck a nerve.

 I can’t claim the pandemic has robbed me of time––I’m retired. I have time-use issues for other reasons. Sure, Amato suggests the overall depressed feeling caused by unsolved pandemic and national leadership doldrums, can be a problem. I get that. Whatever reason, I’ve lost momentum in my effort to get my historic fiction piece onto paper.

The Booklife goes on to quote life coach, Tim Mahr’s, suggestion that “motivation stalls out when tasks become overwhelming.” It’s easier to binge watch than create something new.  So when my crazy sleep pattern gets me up at 2:00 AM, I may think about working, but end up watching another episode of a Netflix program. (I have seen some pretty good stuff, though which makes it easier to justify the value of time spent)

I’ve got to do a better job of breaking down my creative effort into doable chunks, Then sit down and ––Just do it!

Scheduled Event

I’m looking forward to meeting with the American Association of University Women (AAUW) next Saturday, 14 November, to discuss my women’s fiction novel It’s My Turn, and my personal writing methods. This is a great group I had the pleasure of meeting with a few years ago to discuss the production process to mount a play for community theater. They are always interested, involved, and ask good questions. Nice to have a good day to look forward to after concerns of last couple of weeks (Covid 19, staying safe, and hoping for sane reactions to our country’s election process.)

The Rabbit Hole of Research Pays Off

I should have expected it. If you keep digging, eventually you’ll find a different slant to whatever you are working on. I did not expect to find the governance of the Panama Canal Zone a research project for the world’s proponents of Progressive Socialism.

Question: “Where might one travel in the early twentieth century to find a society in which profit was not the goal? …Where the government owned the railroads, the hotels, the stores, the restaurants, and even provided free housing to every resident? Where the government owned all the land?”

 Julie Greene begins a chapter in her book, “The Canal Builders” with those questions.  She continues. “In 1911 the prominent American socialist Arthur Bullard published a book arguing that such a place already existed––in the Panama Canal Zone. He declared, “The more one stays here, the more one realizes that the Isthmian Canal Commission has gone further towards Socialism that any other branch of our government—further probably than any government has gone.”

That mind-bending piece of information dictates a definite slant on what and how I write a historical fiction piece on the Panama Canal project!  It does not mean a new start, but it is a thematic slant that I can’t ignore.

In case you were wondering, I’m still learning and still having fun!

The challenge of historical fiction

I’m sliding down the rabbit hole of research!

I ‘m making progress on my historic fiction short story, “The Goldlisters of Panama.” With a broad story outline and character arc, I have a good draft of the first quarter of the story, but––

Going in I knew this was a difficult genre. You need a lot of research, but how much is enough? With my target length of 20K words, I need to select scenes that convey the facts of the historical event, building of the Panama Canal, and I don’t want to slow down the journey of my fictional characters while playing out their lifechanging role in that effort. But I can’t let the piece grow to novel or even novella length. The challenge is finding the right balance of authorial narrative, and “showing scenes” for background, story arc, and character development.

Anybody faced that challenge? I’d love to hear from you.