3.04.2006

Miss Snark steps up to the plate armour

I grovel in homage, O Most Exalted Queen of Snarks!

Please can you answer a market question, or at least point me in the right direction to research the answer myself?

I'm considering attempting a Medieval military adventure series in the vein of Cornwell's "Sharpe", but with more plate armour. Would I be wasting my time?


The thing is, this sub genre seems to be dominated by established writers of earlier generations: e.g. Cornwell and Macdonald Fraser.


Is this because the sub genre is dead, and these chaps persist through a kind of grandfather clause? Or is it simply that not many people can write historical adventure?


My sword is ever at your service (so beware sentences beginning "Who will rid me of this turbulent...")


There's something rather charming about a swordsman at one's beck and call. Makes the question of how to move those ne'er do wells out of the subway doors a bit more fun (for you non NYers, there is a sub group of sub humans who ride in the space in front of the doors on the subway and then forget to move their sorry asses out of the way when the doors open. It's the subject of many a rant on CraigsList).

But, I digress.

I didn't even know there was such a thing as medieval military adventure. Perhaps because my idea of military adventure involves a handsome man in a naval uniform rescuing Miss Snark and her poodle from a desert island...

but, I digress.

Here's the thing. You have to write the thing that fills you with passion. You have to write something you love the way you love your children: all the time, even when you want to murder them. You have to write something you love so much it doesn't even cross your mind to ask "am I wasting my time" because to NOT write it would be wasting your heart.

If medieval military history is what makes you lose track of time and space out during conversations with your spouse, then that is what you will write.

There isn't a genre in the entire world that is so glutted that there isn't room for a great addition. The key is "great". Which is why you have to love it, cause you may hear a lot of "no" but if you love it, you will persevere.

And there is no such thing as "a grandfather clause" about why books stay in print. I assure you that the beady eyed accountants in the basement at Random House do not leave books in print if they do not generate sales. Ergo, if they are still on the shelves, they are selling. And if the authors are dead chances are they won't be producing more books (you'd think this would be an ironclad rule, but it's not). And if there aren't more books coming and this genre is selling, well...sounds like a time for a good man with a sword to ride out of the hills...

But, I digress.

This is your creative life and your passion. Do what you love. Make it great.

16 comments:

Simon Haynes said...

You just summed up the reason I write SF humour instead of fantasy trilogies. That's the only thing I WANT to write.

SherryD said...

"Here's the thing. You have to write the thing that fills you with passion. You have to write something you love the way you love your children: all the time, even when you want to murder them. You have to write something you love so much it doesn't even cross your mind to ask "am I wasting my time" because to NOT write it would be wasting your heart."

Miss Snark, you are a writer too.
That was perfect.

Anonymous said...

Ditto regarding writing about your passion. How you feel about the subject does show on the page and can tip the balance between a mediocre book and a fantastic one.

Also, I'm assuming that since you chose a medieval period to write about, that you're versed on that period's history and have some specific historical characters in mind that your MC will at least touch upon.

This is a great opportunity to learn more while at the same time dispelling some of the lingering myths about medieval life that persist to this century--the dark ages weren't.

So, if you love the subject, go for it and don't worry about the market.

Alex Bordessa said...

The enquirer could also try joining the Historical Novel Society http://www.historicalnovelsociety.org/which might help him become more aware of market trends. There are plenty of newer authors in the historical adventure genre around, and I'm sure there's room for more.

Anonymous said...

Other than to echo what Miss Snark has said, I want to give you the address of a site, which you might find useful if you don't already know about it. It's De Re Militari at http://www.deremilitari.org/

C.E. Petit said...

The charming Miss Snark obviously needs more gin, as she said:

Perhaps because my idea of military adventure involves a handsome man in a naval uniform rescuing Miss Snark and her poodle from a desert island...

when she means:

Perhaps because my idea of military adventure involves Mr. Clooney in a naval uniform rescuing Miss Snark and her poodle from a desert island...

Anonymous said...

There will always be a way to make an old idea fresh.

For instance, David Weber writes, and is very successful at selling, a series of science fiction books about Honor Harrington, who is a female Horatio Hornblower in space. (HH, get it?)

Of course, that's not the whole thing. I skim through all the battle detail, but the characters are wonderful and the future he imagines keeps my interest.

Cindy

LJCohen said...

Miss Snark, you rock! This post is just what I needed to jumpstart my day. My response is here:

http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2006/03/inspiration-from-my-favorite.html

Well said, Miss Snark and Tigger (my mutley-mutt) sends her doggy-greetings to KY.

Angelle Trieste said...

I also wrote a short blog post about what Miss Snark said.

BTW - Miss Snark - It was the first time I used the heart icon. I hope KY isn't too jealous. ;)

dink said...

And anonymous "Cindy" rocks too:

"There will always be a way to make an old idea fresh."

Whenever I hear some genre is "dead" (westerns) I think it just means no one has written a really fabulous story to resurrect it yet --and that sounds like an opportunity to me.

It may all be in the way you look at things. ;-)

BuffySquirrel said...

Thank you, Miss Snark. I feel better now. My answer to why on earth am I writing all these alternate history novels has always been "they insist".

Gabriele C. said...

Military adventure series in historical settings still sell. There's Simon Scarrow, fe. with his Roman Empire books - book 7 will come out soon.

People are buying them, or the publisher won't continue the series.

zornhau said...

A very useful response, Miss Snark.
And to the other posters: Thanks. I will follow the links and consider your comments.

As everybody divined, I do have a passion for the Middle Ages. (The screen name should be dead give away).

It's really a chocie of writing something in the Medieval world (Historical), or in the Medieval world view (Fantasy). Both would satisfy, and both would have their limitations: hence my question.

Anonymous said...

zornhau,

Having recently 'discovered' the middle ages, one thing that just tickles me to no end is doing a little myth busting of my own:
• flat earth--no, they didn't think that;
• baths and plumbing--yes they took them, the nobility even traveled with their tubs, and many castles and the upper middle class had a sort of indoor outhouse called a garderobe.

Nova (a PBS series) had a miniseries called 'Secrets of Lost Empires' and one of the shows was on the trebuchet. You can find it here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/lostempires/trebuchet/

(If the link gets truncated, here's what follows after nova/ --
lostempires/trebuchet/ )

Here's some more links which you may or may not have:
• Medieval Source Book -- http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook2.html (the last bit is sbook2.html)
• The Medieval Times -- http://www.medtimes.org/
• The English Historical Review -- http://ehr.oxfordjournals.org/ (you can subscribe to the Table of Contents for free, and purchase articles if you see something of interest).

I hope some of these will be useful.

Gabriele C. said...

Zornhau, so that was you. *grin*

Well, I for one, would read Mediaeval adventure series books. And I could be sure to be in for some really good sword fighting in yours. Those pesky NY underground pests better start thinking about their mortality. :-)

Make it history, though, please. I'd read a Mediaevalish Fantasy setting as well, but I prefer the real stuff.

Anonymous said...

Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog at http://houseoffame.blogs.friendster.com/my_blog/ *grins*