1. Anliya
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    Anliya Member

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    What if you're not an expert on the subject?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Anliya, Jun 8, 2008.

    So there's a novel I claim to be writing for fun and for the sake of my own education, but I'll admit that I've considered getting it published someday. The problem is that it takes place in Russia during the last years of Soviet history. I am not Russian, my name cannot pass for Russian, and I am not married to someone Russian. I was also less than a year old when my story took place.

    My only authority comes from... well, really nothing, except for the countless books and articles I've read. However, in the next three years, I will have learned to speak Russian (probably not very well, but enough to communicate), taken multiple courses on Russian history, and probably been to Russia. Still, does this give me any authority on the subject I chose? Will publishers even bother to look at my book?

    Should I change my name to make it sound Russian? (Just kidding.)

    I've tried to come up with a story with a similar plot that takes place in the United States or China (where I would have authority), but the plot is already too deeply rooted in certain events. Besides, I've fallen in love with all the characters already and Soviet history is just one of those obsessions that won't go away. (Trust me, it's like reading a really good romance novel.)

    I've tried posting some of the story in various writing communities online, but of all the stories I've ever posted, it is by far the most ignored, and I know this is my best work.

    Any advice or similar situations? Should I give up dreams of having an audience and continue writing purely for my own entertainment? :redface:
     
  2. Smithy
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    Smithy Senior Member

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    So what's the problem? You don't need to live in Russia, speak Russian or marry a Russian to write something set in Russia. Ellis Peters just read about medieval Shrewsbury and she created Brother Cadfael. Bernard Cornwell just read about the Napoleonic Wars and he created Sharpe. Lindsay Davies just read about ancient Rome and then wrote the Marcus Didius Falco stories. As long as you have the facts it doesn't matter where you got them from.
     
  3. Klee
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    Klee Contributing Member

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    Well, there's also the option to just...make it up? I mean, if it's not a historical novel no one's really going to bother to check if you got every little fact right, only the general aspect and some details. If you don't know something but know plenty about everything else, what's so bad with just imagining what could've been or could've happened?
     
  4. Anliya
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    Anliya Member

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    But that's exactly the problem! I can't make anything up. It takes place fairly recently and many people who lived through those times in Russia are still alive today. It would be like writing a novel from the point of view of someone who, say, survived the recent earthquake in China, without actually having been there to experience it, and trying to publish that.

    Thank for the replies!
     
  5. Lucy E.
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    Lucy E. Contributing Member

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    Here's my best advice...
    The story I'm currently working on is set in NYC, so I have a few friends from NYC who're gonna read it and check the details when I'm done.
    If you're going to take courses in Russian, you're bound to meet someone from Russia, so why not ask them to check the details for you?
     
  6. Anliya
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    Anliya Member

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    Good advice! I certainly thought of asking my friends to read it, but now that you mention it, I may even have my Russian professors read it if I'm not too shy. And I never even thought of interviewing people who might have lived through that time in Russia! Thanks!

    By the way, I've lived in NYC all my life, so I'm also willing to answer any questions you have. Just an offer. ;)
     
  7. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is a large (and growing) community of Russian immigrants in this country. I have a Russian doctor's office right next door to my company. The employees eat lunch under a tree outside my office and I have found them very eager to talk about themselves and their experiences in transitioning from their homes in Russia to the USA. Your "research" absolutely should include building some friendships with these newest Americans.

    As far as writing a story in which you have no personal experience, I only have two words to say, Tom Clancy!

    .....NaCl
     
  8. Aurora_Black
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    Aurora_Black Contributing Member

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    Ooo, I love Sharpe, great (and very long) series of novels.

    It doesn't really matter if your not an expert, publish it as fiction lol!
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's a novel, so as long as it's well-written and the story is commercial enough to sell well, no one will give a flying fleep what you are or where you're from...

    being russian would not improve your chances of snagging an agent or a publisher... and it won't sell more copies when/if it's published... the work alone will do that, or not...

    the main thing is to make darn sure you get everything in it right, so those who do know the places and know about the events of the time in which it's set won't catch you making stupid mistakes...
     
  10. Anliya
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    Anliya Member

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    Haha, okay I get it now. It's only the story that counts. Thanks, guys! That's quite a relief to know. And thanks for the advice, NaCl. I'll be sure to take it.
     
  11. Lucy E.
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    Lucy E. Contributing Member

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    No problem.
    And thanks! If I have any questions about NYC, you'll be the first person I'll ask. :)
     
  12. garza33
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    garza33 Active Member

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    Smithy - When you write that 'Ellis Peters just read about medieval Shrewsbury' you do Ellis Peters a great disservice. As I understand it she saturated herself with medieval England and Wales, about the complex politics of the time, and about the Benedictine order. She didn't just pick up a book or two and become well enough acquainted with the time and place and people to turn out the quality of work she did.

    I'm not a fiction writer, but in the few pieces I have tried to write I have stuck with the kinds of people, the kinds of situations, and the kinds of places I know about.
     

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