Happy birthday, Seekerville! I’m delighted to be part of your seventh birthday celebration, and in honor of that, I thought I’d pose seven questions I think everyone who wants to write a contemporary novel should ask. Let’s get started.
1. Are you planning to use a real or a fictional location? There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Real locations engage readers immediately, but if you choose one, be certain you’ve got all the details right. The last thing you need is a reader telling you there’s no bakery at the corner of Fifth and Main. Fictional locations, of course, give you more flexibility. You decide what building is on which corner. The downside is that you have to do more work to create a fictional location. If you a choose a fictional location, I strongly recommend creating a map of it.
2. Will your story be set in a specific year or in what is sometimes called the ‘timeless present’? This is a key question and one that will play an important role in your answers to the next couple questions. The advantage to using a specific timeframe is similar to that or choosing a real location – reader identification. The disadvantage is that, depending on how many details you include that are date-specific, your book may feel outdated within a couple years.
3. How much technology will you include? If you’ve chosen a specific date for your story, there is no reason not to include references to all the current technology. Readers who pick up the book twenty years from now may be amused by what seems antiquated to them but was state-of-the-art in 2014, but they’ll know that they’re reading a period piece. On the other hand, if your goal is to create an evergreen story, you’d be better served by minimizing references to things that will likely be dated. The same advice applies to pop culture references.
4. How much slang are you planning to use? Although our goal as authors should always be to create realistic dialogue, I’d recommend minimizing the use of currently trendy words. Not only will they date a book quickly, but five or ten – not to mention twenty or thirty – years from now, they may create confusion for readers. Unlike references to outdated technology, antiquated phrases could actually make dialogue difficult to understand. Consider the word ‘rad,’ which the online slang dictionary says dates from the eighties. How often do you hear it now? How would you react if you read, “Those are rad shoes.”? Would you think it was a typo and should have been ‘red’?
5. Are you sure you’re not violating any intellectual property rights? While I’m sure no one who’s reading this would willingly plagiarize another work, there are other opportunities to unwittingly be in violation of the law, one of which is trademarks. Before you name your heroine’s dress shop, you should be certain that the name you’ve chosen isn’t trademarked. Although a trademark is often a logo, it can also be a name set in a specific type font. While it’s unlikely you’d be sued for unknowing use of a trademark, we live in a litigious society. My advice is to do a trademark search for each establishment you name. If there’s a match or a close match, change your name. I feel so strongly about this that I’ve included a link to the trademark electronic search system (TESS). http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=tess&state=4805:dy7z5k.1.1 Use it.
6. Do you think there’s less research required for a contemporary than an historical? When aspiring authors tell me they’re writing contemporaries because it’s easier with no research needed, I do my best not to laugh. The reality is, all writing requires research. It’s true that research for contemporaries is different from historicals, but it’s still essential that your details are correct. If anything, readers are more critical of contemporary authors who get their facts wrong because it’s so easy to get them right. Do you have a scene involving a fire investigation? Interview a fire chief to make sure you’ve used the correct terminology and have properly described the procedures the investigators use. Is your story set in a real location you’ve never visited? Besides studying the related web sites, you might call the Chamber of Commerce to learn little known facts that will give your story added authenticity. Research, research, research. Yes, it takes time, but your readers will thank you.
7. Why do you want to write a contemporary? If your sole reason is that you’ve been told contemporaries are selling better than historicals, I’d suggest reconsidering. I know some authors are very successful in writing to the trends, but they’re in the minority. The single most important reason for writing any story should be that you love the story, that it haunts your thoughts and wakes you in the middle of the night. If that story just happens to be set in modern times, congratulations – you’re meant to write a contemporary. But if you dream of times gone by, if the characters that demand to have their stories told wear high-button shoes or subdue unruly hair with Macassar oil, think again. Contemporary stories may not be right for you.
Since I promised Audra seven questions, I’m not going to number this last one, but there’s one more I want to ask. If you were considering switching from writing historicals to contemporaries, has this post changed your mind?
Hi Everyone, Audra here. I'm always excited to have Amanda Cabot as my guest in Seekerville. Amanda has been an historical author for many books. At Bluebonnet Lake is her first contemporary romance for the inspirational market. Leave a comment and check the Weekend Edition on Saturday to discover the winner of a signed copy of At Bluebonnet Lake.
Her life is set to warp speed. His is slowing to a crawl. But love has its own timing.
Marketing maven Kate Sherwood’s world is fast-paced, challenging, and always changing. The last thing she wants to do is grind to a halt at Rainbow’s End, a dilapidated resort in the Texas Hill Country. Still, she cannot deny her ailing grandmother’s request to visit the place where she and her deceased husband spent one glorious week fifty years ago. There, Kate meets Greg, who appears to be the resort’s unassuming handyman. But there’s more to Greg than meets the eye—billions more, in fact.
Kate isn’t looking for romance, but she can’t deny the sparks of attraction that fly every time she and Greg are together. Could there be a future there? Or will Kate’s long-sought promotion take her back to the big city?
Amanda Cabot invites you to step into a place away from the pressures of the day. You might be surprised by what you find at Rainbow’s End.
Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of more than thirty novels including the Texas Dreams trilogy, the Westward Winds series, and Christmas Roses. A former director of Information Technology, she has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages. Amanda is delighted to now be a fulltime writer of Christian romances, living happily ever after with her husband in Wyoming.