Where Historical Fiction Authors and Technology Meet

Note: a rogue version of this post appeared yesterday. WordPress and my fingers got confused resulting in a prematurely published post (now deleted). The Clay Shirky quote in action!

I have a habit of cutting articles out of the newspaper and keeping them for a while. I fantasize that their very proximity might create some sort of alchemy and perhaps a blog post will write itself some day.

Social Networks, Small and Smaller is the title of one written by Randall Stross. Then there’s Thomas Friedman with Do You Want the Good News First and Beverly Ackerman with Self-Publish Your Way to Success and David Frum with Writing Without a Net. Last week I found Jeff Howe talking about a Twitter-based book club with more than 64000 members – definitely wouldn’t fit into my living room where the book club I belong to meets when it’s my turn to host.

Friedman talks about technology eliminating the gatekeepers. Stross discusses new aps that enable small social networks to thrive with intimacy. Frum, who has recently self-published, quotes Clay Shirky saying “Publishing used to be an industry. Now it’s a button.” Ackerman writes a story about “the reading public … no longer letting tastemakers decide what’s worth reading.” Howe suggests that “Twitter is anything but a threat to publishing and reading. It’s an opportunity … the entire reading experience is undergoing a shift.”

Let’s layer another tidbit or two on top. (1) Facebook’s IPO was not a roaring success. Those who track technology usage suggest that this outcome results from Facebook’s poor smartphone (or iPAD or other handheld device) capabilities. People want to connect anytime, anywhere with their friends and social communities. (2) In a recent survey, historical fiction readers told us they enjoy writing about and discussing the books they read and to a huge extent they do this online through blogs, Goodreads and other social media sites.

What do these insights mean for those who write historical fiction? A few possibilities come to mind:

  • Historical fiction authors need to have more than a passing acquaintance with technology
  • Friedman might be wrong about gatekeepers. The real story might be that new gatekeepers will emerge and authors will want to seek out and engage with those relevant to their community of historical fiction readers.
  • HF authors should collect information about their readers and potential readers.
  • HF authors will want to find ways to be more intimate with readers and keep up with their expectations of anywhere, anytime connectivity and content.
  • At the same time, HF authors need to consider ways to leverage the potential to connect with thousands of people around the globe in an instant.

Working with our technology driven world contrasts sharply with the solitary pursuit of writing a novel over a period of 12 to 24 or more months. Successful authors will find a way to do both.

8 thoughts on “Where Historical Fiction Authors and Technology Meet”

    1. Absolutely agree with you, Theresa. Technology supports every aspect of a writer’s business from deciding on a new product (a story), understanding the competition, seeking an agent, researching details that bring authenticity to our work, connecting with customers, delivering product and so on. I love Google maps for the detail it can add to a story – the bend in a river, a faraway ridge, the look of summer landscape, roads connecting one village to another. A fantastic resource. I see that you mentioned other research approached in your blog post – clearly we have a similar toolbox!

  1. Interesting post. And blog. Am putting off a big-scale historical fiction project, but it’s getting to the point when I can ‘t put it off much longer…

  2. Believe me, I know. A few years ago I was lucky enough to win a prize from the Historical Novel Society and Fish, for my historical short story ‘Dancing on Canvey’.

    5000 honed and toned words, but in about the same timeframe I took over writing and editing that little short story, James Runcie wrote a whole novel inspired by the same incident (called ‘Canvey Island, if you’re interested).

    I don’t regret it, I think the research made it fun. But I might try to speed it up a little next time I take on a project like that.

    Also I got to meet Bernard Cornwell as he presented the prize to me at a HNS conference, and he said he never takes more than 5 months to write a book… So annoying of him 😉 but an interesting precedent!

  3. thanks. I hope you enjoy the conference. The year I was there the queue to get books signed by Mr Cornwell was so long it snaked right around the pool. One or two of his fans actually fell in – ask him if he remembers that!

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