Historical Novels Before the Internet Existed. How?

This last hour or so I’ve been working on my WIP, which is a historical novel. It’s a little slow going, but I’ve written every day since the New Year, which is my goal.

However, my internet went out about forty-five minutes ago. It has only just recently come back on. During this internet blackout, I hit a snag on my WIP. I needed to know someone’s name. It wasn’t in my notes because I didn’t think this person was very important (and story-wise, he isn’t), so I didn’t note his name.

But here’s the interesting thing about novels…even a lot of side characters/bit parts have names. I just needed to know this guy’s name because using his title would be obnoxious. This small dilemma led to a small twinge of panic.  

My initial reaction was: Go to the Internetz! The Internetz! knowz all! You can Google that shit in two seconds, fill in that blank, and call it good. About the time that I was clicking over to Google, Pandora stopped playing my magical writing music.

Uh-oh. The Internetz! had heard my need and said, “Fuck you, Jenny.”

Now I had an issue.

Do I need to whip out all of my research books (and there are definitely more than one of those!) and try to find this dude’s name?!

I’m not sure which book he’ll be in. WTF?

How the hell did James Michener write all of those freakin’ historical tomes without the internet or the awesome power of Google? His notes must be astronomically good and take up about three rooms worth of filing cabinet space. He must have somehow crossed referenced and indexed that shit. How could he possibly have found time to actually write the damn books? The thousand pagers he cranked out — how do theyz existz?

I’d like to say that I’m an organized person, but I now realize that would be a lie. An outright, flagrant lie. So, now that the Internetz! is back…I’m going to take this opportunity to Google the crap out of a couple things before I lose it again.

google historical novels history internet James Michener wip Writing Problems

jenny maloney View All →

Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.

4 Comments Leave a comment

  1. LOL! I have absolutely no idea how writers wrote historical fiction before the internet! I have the exact same freak-out whenever I lose a connection. Can you imagine having to actually travel all over the place and look through letters in the basements of historical societies and old newspapers on microfilm in libraries?!

  2. AND THEN, make notes on absolutely everything you might need — even if you don't think you need it, because you might later on?

    (Don't mind me .. I just hit “publish” before I was finished commenting. Happens a lot when I hit the blogs before my coffee.)

  3. I'd love being able to go do research in person. I'm old enough to remember having to comb through the library to find reference materials, making 3×5 cards, rubber-banding them together, etc. Then putting the cards in order. Fun.

    Remember, I was supposed to have been a professional researcher in a past life.

    For the Prohibition book, I want to go to Detroit, Windsor and Quebec to scope out the setting. Of course, then you're talking money and time. So, probably not.

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