Research Revisited || Writing Advice
Hello and welcome back to Life of Heritage! A friend suggested this topic to me and I haven’t been able to let it go! I’ve written about books I love to use for research, but today, I’m going to dig into my research process and give you some practical tips on how to research not just a historical novel, but a contemporary one as well!
First thing I like to do is look at my timeline. If I am writing a historical, this will help me know what would have been going on in the world my characters live in, if it directly effects them or if they would have been talking about it. I like to print calendar pages and fill in all the important information, battles/historical dates, character birthdays, things I know will happen the day after or before a historical event, when a baby is due/when it’s born, etc.
For a non-historical novel, I still like having a timeline and calendar, especially since I know To Save a Life would have gone so much better if I had made one ahead of time. I list important events in the character’s lives, holidays and any time the story lines intersect.
(Pro Tip: Use different color pencil lead or pens to help you keep track of who’s POV the event belongs to.)
For Historical eras, this is a no brainer. You find documentaries on the battles, politics, everyday life, etc., that apply to your story. But these can still be helpful for contemporary novels too. 9/11, military life, what it’s like being a chef, a dog breeder, makes instruments, etc., there’s a documentary for that! I once looked up a video about MWDs in the military because a character was a dog handler. I learned so much and by the end I was in tears over the dog that died and another that was reunited with the handler he saved. So, yeah, depending on your topic, get tissues.
(Pro Tip: If you can listen to things while you write, keep a playlist of the documentaries handy so you can immerse yourself in the topic.)
Again, this seems a no-brainer for historicals. But take it a step further and get the books full of random facts and fun stories so you can get a good look at all aspects of life in the times, plus turn up some fun little known nuggets of information!
For contemporary, I usually draw from real life, because, shocker, I’m living it XD But seriously though, I find reading other contemporary novels helpful for this bit of research. Lingos that are used by different ages, ethnic groups or even depending on where you live are invaluable! So keep that in mind as you read, take notes, tab your books, use it all for research!
(Pro-Tip: find out what books were popular in your era of choice! This tells a lot about society as a whole!)
Visit Your Setting
I know we can’t all just pack up and go where our story takes place. Too expensive in some cases, just not possible in others. But you can do so through videos and pictures. Pinterest is one of my favorite ways to collect photos of my settings! I just type in what I’m looking for or stalk my friends’ boards! Give it a try! I’m sure you’ll find exactly what you need!
But hey, if you can visit your setting location, like me, living near Gettysburg, go do it! It’s amazing just how helpful this is to your creative process! Bonus points if you are well enough versed that you can go to the exact place in your story! For me, it was the Wheatfield and Little Round Top! Also I walked Pickett’s Charge, so yeah, I was an emotional wreck…
(Pro-Tip: If you can visit your location and it’s a national park, get souvenirs to remind you of your visit as you write and/or to give away when your book releases!)
Research the music of your era, historical or modern. It’s so helpful! Make a playlist for your book, for your characters even! Music tells a lot about the time, place and people. What influenced them? What was their turn of phrase? How do they express themselves? What of their music speaks to you?
(Pro-Tip: When your readers comment on loving a character, give them your playlist for that character so they can get to know them better!)
What are ways you research your novels? What did I miss? Share your best research tips (or ones you want to try!) below in the comments!
"I'm so glad I live in a World where there are Octobers..." Anne Shirley
Ryana Lynn + Dixie Cross
Hello and welcome back to Life of Heritage! I am so excited to share today’s collaboration with you! Katja and I have been book buddies for a few years now and I have often enjoyed buddy reading and brainstorming with her on projects. Today, we are going to be answering questions about writing here on my blog, then I will share her link so you can jump over there for a Q and A on reading! Without further ado, let’s roll!
1| What is your current WIP?
Katja: My current WIP is a Christian Contemporary Fantasy novel called The Colour Red. I don’t have a great synopsis for it yet, but here’s a stab at it:
“Maybe red can be a beautiful colour, after all.”
My name was Jay Walker. I was twelve. And if there was anything I hated, it was the colour red. It represented too much evil. The murder of my father and mother. The danger that surrounded me in the cutthroat criminal-controlled Euratia. And Hugo.
But if there was anything I loved, it was my brother Leeam. Life was one eternal round of fear and anxiety in that awful place, but Leeam made life worthwhile. Until my worst fear came true, and the colour red became still more sinister.
Then The Brothers chased me out of the Euratia, and I was caught by the Narruyan police. I was given two options, and I had a choice to make. I chose to trust Officer Randall and his family, letting them foster me.
But I never was good at trusting people or letting go of my fear. And my triggers abounded.
Is everyone and everything the same? Could I learn to love and trust these people, in spite of everything? Could the colour red mean more than death and danger?
This is my story… my journey from fear and depression to freedom and happiness.
I’ve been working on it since 2020 and I’m hoping to publish it this year 😉
Ryana Lynn: My current WIP is To Save a Life! It’s my pro-life novel, book one in the Natty’s Warriors Series!
2| In what ways do you think you grew as a writer last year?
Katja: Oh, in so, so many ways. First off, I learned it’s okay to not have a perfect draft. That rewriting is good and helpful. That criticism was not something to take personally. And that taking my time is way better and helps so much. I think I could wrap it all up in saying I learned I’m not sorry that I didn’t publish before, because I wasn’t ready.
Ryana Lynn: It’s hard to say, to be honest. I think I’ve learned a lot about setting realistic deadlines… and not scheduling a pre-order until the book is completely ready to publish, lol! And I learned that it’s okay to take a break when life happens.
3| What area of writing do you want to grow in this year?
Katja: I want to get better at handling criticism. I want to pray more over the process. And I want to learn how to write tighter, clearer prose.
Ryana Lynn: I want to work on developing my author voice. I’ve noticed in some reviews/critiques that readers have considered my style nothing particularly unique. I’m grateful for their feedback and I look forward to developing my style more in the coming months! I also want to grow in the area of writing setting, another part that doesn’t come naturally.
4| What is your favorite part of the writing process?
Katja: Just writing?? I love writing. There are few things so awesome as just having dialogue, story, and characters pouring out of your fingertips and becoming tangible. I also LOVE figuring out my characters and why they’d do something and not the other. Characters are the most important thing to me and I love working with them!
Ryana Lynn: Is it bad that it’s writing the first draft? I just love getting the initial story out on paper! Even if the writing is garbage at first, it’s still a favorite part <3 I also enjoy revisions!
5| What would you tell a writer who is struggling?
Katja: It would depend on how they’re struggling 😊 but in general, no matter what it is, there’s three key things you can do that will help:
Never underestimate the power of prayer (as I sadly have). It’s amazing how much one simple prayer can smooth things out.
2. Seek helpful counsel from people you trust & who are knowledgeable/helpful in what you’re struggling with.
Don’t just take anybody’s advice. Seeking good advice is always better! There’s a famous quote that goes, “Don’t accept criticism from people you wouldn’t go to for advice.” Have discretion, because wrong advice can be very hurtful. ;P
3. Step back and take a break.
I want to really emphasize that. I hate stepping away before I figured stuff out, but it really helps so very much, and I always wish I’d done it. It can be a break of 10 minutes, 10 hours, 10 days, or even 10 weeks… sometimes you just need to let go for a while.
4. Don’t beat yourself up over it.
Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re worthless. On the contrary, it means you’re genuinely wanting to do your best—and that is very important. Everyone struggles. The difference is, real ones hang on; fakes give up.
Ryana Lynn: Give yourself grace. You’re gonna make mistakes. You’re gonna get bogged down. You’re gonna feel like a failure or an imposter or both. But remember Who has called you to write! Remember your purpose and the Passion God has given you. Take a break if you need. Refresh. But don’t give up.
Don’t forget to head over to Katja’s blog for our chat on reading!
How would you answer these questions? What indie authors would you like to see interviewed in the future? Share your answers below!
Have a blessed day and God Bless America!
Hello, 2022 || Goodbye 2021
Hello everyone! It’s hard to believe another year has come and gone already! I’ve been married for a whole year! I’m six month pregnant! I’M HAVING A BABY THIS YEAR!!! *insert happy squeals* I am beyond excited to meet my baby girl and start my relationship outside the womb with her! If her current disposition is any indication, I’m gonna have my hands full! She loves to kick and punch me at the same time, trying to trick me into thinking she has turned into twins! Little stinker 😊
But y’all didn’t click on this post to hear me gush about my little Southern Belle. Not yet anyway 😉 Don’t worry, I’m sure its coming *wink* (Pst! Subscribe, I’ll share more in my newsletters in weeks to come!) Y’all clicked on this post to see what’s gonna happen with the blog, or if I will even keep it going now that I’m fast approaching motherhood outside the womb. (Yes, I will keep referring to it that way, because I’m already experiencing motherhood inside the womb and its wonderful even if she has been causing me to be sick pretty much the whole time, lol!)
So! Without further ado, lets jump into today’s post!
What to Expect ||
Things are changing around here. I am cutting my schedule back to one post a week (I’m batch posting, Lord willing!) instead of two and I will be attempting to send out a newsletter to subscribers once a month.
With the Lord’s help, there will be a devotional as usual, a reading related post, a writing or history related post, and on the fourth Monday of every month with five Mondays (confusing I know, sorry!) I will attempt to bring you an author interview! I also intend to make the final Monday of the month a wrap-up of goals accomplished that month and setting new ones. Book Reviews will be posted at random as I write them.
I am due to give birth on April 6th, but as we all know, babies come on their schedule, not ours. Regardless, I am taking a hiatus the month of April. I can’t promise I’ll bounce right back in May, because I’m gonna be soaking up all those baby snuggles. I appreciate your patience and understanding as I undergo this new stage of my life. I love creating content for y’all and knowing you understand when I’ve had to put on the breaks has been a huge blessing to me! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
What Happened to TSAL ||
I’ll give you the short answer: I got sick again. Then school amped up (I teach electives for a Christian School. No, I’m not telling you where 😉), midterms were approaching and I just didn’t get the book edited in time.
I have not put To Save A Life on the back burner however. I will give more details in an upcoming writing update, but know this is my current WIP and I am enjoying polishing this rough cut story into something I hope God can use to touch lives and save some babies and their families from the destruction of abortion.
Word of the Year ||
I am so excited to share this year’s word of the year. God has been stirring my heart about so many different things related to this topic and my dear friend, Katja, helped me find the word I was looking for.
So, without further ado, the word of the year 2022 is…
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
King James Bible
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
King James Bible
And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?
1 Samuel 17:29
King James Bible
As Christians, there are many things God has called us to do. Yes, the Great Commission is the main one and it is not to be tossed aside lightly. But God has commanded us, as our Supreme Commander, to do many great things for His honor and Glory! This year, I hope to scratch the surface as I attempt to grow in these areas myself. Will you join me?
Goals for January ||
I do have a few goals to share with you today and I encourage you to make a list yourself!
Complete edits on To Save A Life
Batch Posts for February
Read 10 books minimum
Complete one of my devotional books from last year 😉
Stay on top of grading for school (A huge struggle!)
Make our baby registry (Yeah, I’m way behind!)
Eat more veggies (gotta keep me, hubby and baby healthy!)
Journal daily (Something I’ve been wanting to get back to!)
So that’s about all I have for you today! Now it’s your turn! Do you have a word of the year? Do you have any special goals for this month? Please comment below and let us cheer you on!
Have a blessed day and God Bless America!
Ryana Lynn (and Baby Peterson 😉)
3 Things Christian Authors Need to Stop Doing! || Ryana Lynn’s Ramblings (Kinda)
Hello and welcome back to Life of Heritage Corner! I’m sorta nervous about today’s post, not gonna lie. I want to make clear from the beginning that this post is not aimed at anyone. I just noticed some things in Christian fiction in general that bothered me and I decided to write a post about it. This has been weighing on my mind for quite some time and I felt it needed to be shared.
Please don’t take offense if you happen to disagree. That’s totally fine! I just couldn’t get away from this post and felt God wanted me to share it with y’all. Think of this as one of Ryana Lynn’s Ramblings *halo* So! Without further ado, let’s begin, shall we?
1| Calling your book clean Romance, but actually, it’s not.
*Ducks as a million books are thrown at me*
*Drags myself out from under the mountain and dusts myself off as I sit on top*
Please keep an open mind here. I don’t mind a story that includes a couple falling in love and getting married, though I tend to get bored if that is the main plot of the story. I’m just not a huge romance fan. But every once in a while, one stands out to me as amazingly good and I so enjoy it.
I’m tired of recommending the book and having to say, “This book is so good, but there’s a lot of kissing in it,” or “I marked out the bad parts, but the message is so good!”
People. I know everyone has their own beliefs about touching and kissing before marriage, biblical or not. And I’m not here to fight that battle with you right now. I have a Bible reason that I didn’t hold hands, hug, or kiss my husband until my wedding day, but that’s for another time.
As a married woman, I look back over books that I adore and cringe. Couples are hugging, patting a shoulder, touching their hair, kissing (though not necessarily detailed), and getting electrocuted…
Okay, so that last one is me making fun of a cliché romance writing technique. *halo* if you know, you know 😊
I’m gonna keep this as G-rated as possible, but writers, words are powerful. Words paint pictures and evoke emotions. That’s not a bad thing! But when used wrongly, they can lead minds astray. Talking with my husband about things I never even thought were issues in writing has opened my eyes to just how bad a seemingly innocent touch can be.
Can we control our readers’ minds? No. Can we be sure that even something written innocently won’t lead someone down the wrong path? Absolutely not. We have no control over that. But we do have control over what we write. My rule of thumb is as follows when having couples (even married ones!) interact. I ask myself, would I behave this way in front of someone? Would I be embarrassed if my internal thoughts about this moment were played over a loudspeaker? Is this something lovely, holy, honest, pure (Philippians 4:8)? If the answer is no…
I won’t write it.
Keep things pure and holy in your writing; you represent the King.
This is not to say I’m perfect. I may have written something in innocence that in hindsight, I would like to change. And I’m not judging you if this is you. We all make mistakes! We need to show grace to each other and be understanding. Give each other the benefit of the doubt! But ultimately, remember Who you are writing for. God is our ultimate audience.
2| Calling God by a name other than His Own.
*takes a deep breath and screams as another hailstorm of books come reigning from the sky*
*Climbs back out of the pile and pants for air*
Seriously, where are y’all finding all these books?
This some is more of a matter of opinion. I get SUPER annoyed when reading a Christian non-magical fantasy and God doesn’t have His rightful Name. *suppresses a scream*
Okay, I get it, it sounds neat, especially if you are writing a world with less than common names. And I have read and LOVED some books where God was given a different name.
You are probably thinking of some right now.
I am NOT shaming any of the books you might have thought of. NOT IN THE LEAST.
THIS IS MY OWN OPINION *halo*
But here is what comes to my mind when this happens. I’m afraid we are trying to trick people into reading our books.
Again, hear me out.
I’m not saying that is the intent. And again, I’m not judging anyone because I honestly don’t think this is the goal of most. But by not calling God by His Name, I almost feel like it’s a way to trick non-believers into reading a Christian book. Are we ashamed of Who our God is? Are we afraid of offending someone? Are we more worried about getting the lost world to read our books that we will hide our intentions under a pseudo-diety?
There are so many Names for God, there’s no need to invent new ones! Pilgrim’s Progress refers to Him as God and the Lord of That Place and the King of the Celestial City (another name for Heaven, which was common in its time). The Holy War refers to God as King Shaddai (El-Shaddai, a well-known Name for God), and Jesus as Prince Emmanuel. I would love to read a book that used more names of God! There’s El-Roi (the God Who Hears) for example! Or Elohim (Creator), Jehovah-Jireh (God Provides), or I AM??? There are so many others and I’m just scratching the surface with some basic ones!
I’m not against fantasy (as long as it’s a non-magical, totally different subject, please don’t hurt me 😉), and I will still read books that include different names for God as long as the book is Biblically sound. But if I ever write a fantasy, well, let’s just say that I am gonna have fun picking just the right name from God’s long list of Majestic and Awesome Names!
3| Writing “clean” books.
*Lowers my hands when nothing happens*
*Gets hit in the head by a few books*
Well, at least it wasn’t a mountain this time!
I love clean books. Don’t get me wrong. I love my middle-grade Scholastic books about soldiers and marines or animals or whatever the topic was. I love them!
But I just want to give a friendly little warning.
We are Christian writers, right? We don’t just write for pleasure or profit, though those tend to come with the territory. We write with a higher purpose. We write for Someone.
And that Someone is the King of kings and Lord of lords.
The Master Author.
The Creator of the Universe.
The God Who literally is giving you the ability to breathe, read this post, or have it read to you.
Um, the One Who blessed you with the ability and desire to write.
The One Who gave you readers in the first place.
Need I continue?
We don’t write for ourselves. We write for Him. And as such, it’s a shame when we waste our talents writing “good books.” There’s so much more to writing than that! Yes, we need clean, but we need Light! A lantern is useless without the flame! Salt is no good left in the shaker! The Bible tells us that Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12)! And He said to us in Matthew 5:14 &16, “Ye are the light of the world… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
There is so much to unpack here.
Notice first that word light. It’s not saying that we are Jesus or a god. It is referring to us being a reflection of Christ, like the moon is to the sun. He is the Son, we are the moon (yes, that spelling is intentional 😉). We are to reflect Christ so they can see our…
It says it right there.
What do we call our books?
Our WORKS in progress.
Our good works. God didn’t give you the ability to write so people could read it and pat us on the back. He gave us the ability so we can show people our talent and GIVE. GOD. GLORY! That is the whole point of writing! That is why we suffer through the agony of writing, revising, beta reader comments, and editor feedback. And we can’t forget those reviewers either.
It's all for God’s Glory! Not our own! What a high calling and privilege! What an honor and responsibility!
See why writing clean fiction just doesn’t cut it?
Write with purpose. Write the Light into your story and don’t disguise it with a bushel basket! LET IT SHINE AND BURN THAT BASKET OF SATAN!
*0.0 clears throat again as I step off my soapbox*
That’s all I have for you today. I sincerely hope this has been a blessing or an encouragement to someone. I don’t know why God wanted me to write this. I honestly don’t. But please think over what has been said and see how God can use it in your life!
Did I miss anything? What are your thoughts on the matter? What are some things you think Christian Authors need to improve in? Comment below (keep it Christ-honoring please and no calling anyone out by book or name)!
Have a Blessed Day and God Bless America!
One of my subscribers asked me about writing romance into one’s story. More specifically, what was acceptable in Christian fiction. I originally wrote this post back in February 2020, lol! I’m gonna go ahead and post it as is since I just really liked the opening! Enjoy!
It’s February (😉), and for a lot of people, the one thing at the forefront of their minds, as far as holidays go, is Valentine’s Day. It’s cute and fun, but I have to admit, it’s pretty low on my list of favorites. But today, I want to talk about something associated with the holiday: Romance. Specifically, is it okay to include Romance in your Christian novel? Now, these are my personal preferences, so please don’t get angry with me if you disagree. These are my observations, and I hope these are helpful to you. Let’s dive in.
Full disclosure: I’m not a huge fan of romance in books. Let me clarify exactly what I mean. I don’t mind a couple getting married in a story. I don’t mind a brief kiss between a married couple, as long as it’s not detailed. I don’t mean people saying I love you (if they are engaged or married). I don’t mind seeing a relationship develop through the story. But most “romance” books don’t line up with that. I can’t stand characters holding hands/kissing before marriage, a story solely focused on the relationship (unless it’s a courtship story), you get the idea.
The Bible says, “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (1 Corinthians 7:1, King James Bible) unless they are married. Because of this, I don’t have my characters holding hands, etc. if they are not married. (I mean, sure siblings might but you know what I mean 😉)Most romance books draw attention to physical attributes and set young people to thinking and desiring things that God doesn’t have for them at this time in their life. It’s wrong to let your heart wander into areas that, for the time being, God has put a keep-out sign on.
But is there a way to depict a relationship in a way that is good, proper, and Christ-honoring? After all, Marriage is a part of life. I’m happy to tell you that there is!
Surprise! It’s a Wedding!
I love when I find a book that does this. Isabella Alden often informed her readers that Characters had feelings for each other by merely throwing the wedding right into the middle of things! No hints, or minimal at best.
This is a side storyline. A passing mention that Joe and Missy are courting, but not making it the focus of the story. It’s just a side detail. Not a lot of page time. Just a fact of life, these two are in a relationship. Or mention they are praying about it. The best way is to always draw the focus back to God, seeking His will and the sacred responsibility of marriage. It’s not something flippant and shouldn’t be treated as such.
So How is a Godly Relationship Conducted?
This is referring to a specific series of books that every young person should read. Called The Courtship Series, there are 4 books written by Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Castleberry, and they are soooooo good! It’s not lovey-dovey but God-centered and family-oriented. I highly recommend them. They compass many different situations that may come in the life of a Christian life person. Three are about young ladies, and the second book is from the young man’s perspective. All 4 are five-star reads.
First and foremost, pray about your story and what God wants you to do. Read over your scene. Imagine Jesus reading your book. Are you blushing at the thought? Better do some editing! Secondly, remember who your readers are. I have a lot of young ladies and young gentlemen who read my books. I am not about to be responsible for leading them to think things they shouldn’t be, such as someone else’s appearance. In the confines of marriage, some of these things are acceptable, but if it’s not your spouse, why do you care? I personally don’t want to know everything the couple in the story thinks of each other. It’s none of my business!
So, in short, I don’t have a problem with wholesome relationships being included in a story, but romance…not a fan.
Hope this was helpful to you!
Have a blessed day!
Christian. American. Southern. Author.
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