Research: All About Underclothing

The things you never worried about knowing while reading Pride and Prejudice: Just what was Lizzie wearing underneath her gown?  I guess it would never signify, since occassion “on stage” never called for her to take off her gown.

Writing a romance novel set in the Regency era changes all those things you never wondered about.  If they are taking their clothes off, you have to know what they’ve got on underneath, right?

Some of my research:

Underclothing in the Regency Era

Regency Undress, Halfdress and Fulldress

Slideshow of Undergarments and Dress Progression


Underthings (C0rsets, Chemises, Petticoats, Drawers and Stockings)

Undergarments in the Ol’ Reliable Wikipedia

Progress of the Toilet

A Modern Perspective

Regency Undergarments

2011 Literary Challenge

For a change, and for some fun and good mental enrichment, I plan to engage in a literary (but non-writing!) challenge in 2011.

I found this out on the Internet.  Thanks, Internets!  Here’s a copy/paste from the originator of the challenge.

Victorian Literature Challenge 2011
What you need to know: This challenge will run from 01 Jan 2011 – 31 Dec 2011.
Participants can sign up at any time throughout the year. 
Read your Victorian literature.
Queen Victoria reigned from 1837-1901. If your book wasn’t published during those particular years, but is by an author considered ‘Victorian’ then go for it. We’re here for reading, not historical facts! Also, this can include works by authors from other countries, so long as they are from this period.

Literature comes in many forms.
There are so many Victorian reads out there, including novels, short stories, and poetry. One poem doesn’t count as a ‘book’: pick up an anthology instead!

 Choose your books.
List your books before you begin, or pick up titles along the way. It’s up to you! You can review them if you choose to, but it’s not necessary. If you don’t have a blog, that’s fine! Link to a Facebook, or a page somewhere where you can list what you’ve been reading. If you can’t link up, no problem – feel free to just comment and enjoy.

Spread the love.

Post the reading challenge on your blog – make your own post(s), or stick the button on the side of your page. The more the merrier, after all. Let’s build a big community of Victorian literature lovers!

Choose from one of the four levels:

Sense and Sensibility: 1-4 books.
Great Expectations: 5-9 books.
Hard Times: 10-14 books.
Desperate Remedies: 15+ books.

Sign up, and enjoy!

For right now, I’m going to aim conservatively, as I do not read particularly fast and I will be finishing and editing one novel and starting (and hopefully completing the first draft) in the same year.

Thus, from the list off my Kindle of books that I’d like to get to, in no particular order (and though I wince to think of Jane Austen as Victorian, because she’s NOT, I may count her in the list, as I see others have done.)  Eventually.  (Yep, I went a little crazy and know I won’t get to all of these next year–nor probably in the next 3, but there you go).

  • North and South  Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Liza: A Nest of Nobles Ivan S. Turgenev
  • The Bertrams Anthony Trollope
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge Thomas Hardy
  • Little Lord Fauntleroy Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Jacob’s Room Virginia Woolf
  • The House of Seven Gables  Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea Jules Verne (will be reading the translation, as I read even slower in French than I do in English, though I am tempted to attempt the original.  We’ll see.)
  • The Time Machine  H.G. Wells
  • Lady Audley’s Secret Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  • Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray
  • The Country of the Pointed Firs Sarah Orne Jewett
  • Middlemarch  George Eliot
  • Elizabeth and her German Garden Elizabeth von Arnim
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel Baroness Emma Orczy
  • Ivanhoe Sir Walter Scott
  • The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas
  • Anna Karenina  Leo Tolstoy
  • The Touchstone Edith Wharton
  • The Wings of the Dove Henry James
  • Where Angels Fear to Tread E.M. Forster
  • The People of the Mist Henry Rider Haggard
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde
  • Shirley Charlotte Bronte
  • The Charterhouse of Parma Stendahl
  • Two Years Before the Mast R.H. Dana Jr.
  • Bleak House Charles Dickens
  • The Heir of Redclyffe Charlotte Mary Yonge
  • The Gypsies  Charles Godfrey Leland
  • Lorna Doone  R.D. Blackmore
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Mark Twain
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court Mark Twain
  • The Man who would be King  Rudyard Kipling
  • The Awakening  Kate Chopin
  • The Well at World’s End  William Morris

Wow, an ambitious list.  I’ll try not to stress out just looking at it.

Remedies: Beating Creativity Block

A writer is a writer because even when there is no hope… she keeps writing anyway.   –Junot Diaz

Writer’s block is creativity block and it can be frustrating.  Many writers claim not to get it at all.  More power to them, I say.  Unfair are those same writers’ claims that it doesn’t exist at all.  I have never broken a bone in my life–but does that mean that the malady of broken bones does not exist?

I do get blocked from time to time.  When I am being creative on a regular basis, I find my bouts of the Block occur less often.  But they can still crop up.  Most often, they occur when I am feeling under-the-weather, mentally or physically tired.  Tapping into the Muse is all about tapping into your own subconscious.  Therefore you have to be in a healthy mental/physical state in order for this process to occur.

Some of my remedies for beating Creativity Block:

  • Look at the Work in a different format:  If you work in mostly an electronic medium, then printing out your work in a physical manifestation– that you can manipulate and annotate–can have a powerful effect on  your ability to “see” where your work is going.
  • Draw a Map:  Sketch out a place that figures in your work: the character’s general neighborhood, a country or continent on a fantasy map, the floor plan of a house or castle, etc.
  • Change your weapon: If you write in pen, switch to a pencil or start typing.  If you write on the computer, pull out a notebook full of blank, creamy irresistible pages screaming to be filled by your hand.  Let your words run freely off the tip of your pen without fear of self-editing.
  • Set doable, consistent short term goals for yourself: Set a small but consistent daily word count or scene goal for yourself and push yourself to stick to it even when you don’t always feel like it.  It all comes down to putting your butt in the chair and doing.  Some days, you’ll notice yourself going over your goal without you having noticed.  Forming the habit of production goes a long way to stave off creativity block in the future.
  • Graphically organize:  Not sure where your story is heading?  Set up a chart, a bubble map, a diagram, a flowchart, a calendar or some other graphic organizer that depicts characters against a time frame (or by location or some other qualifier)
  • Word Count sprint: Set up a small period of time (1 hour at the most) in which you will write x amount of words.  Check out the hashtag #1k1hr on twitter to see where others have done similarly.
  • Visualize:  Spend fifteen minutes before a writing session by closing your eyes and visualizing a locale in your story.  Without worry of where you will insert it, begin your writing session by typing out a description of this place–include ALL the senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, feel.  If you feel inspired to keep going, give a brief history of the place, listing the three most important events to have taken place there.
  • Mix it up: Pit one element of your story against a qualifier it does not normally compare with.  In other words, describe a place in relation to time, or a character with respects to the five closest relationships that character has ever experienced in his/her life, etc.
  • Lists:  Make a list of 20.  It can be 20 of anything.  Head the list with the question that the list is answering.  “What are the 20 things I know about this character?”  “What are the 20 most interesting things about this settiing?”  “What are the 20 most interesting things that happen during this plot?” etc.
  • Be Flexible: Your creativity block might be your Muse’s way of telling you that you are headed in a wrong direction.  Go with the flow and see where it takes you.  But stay disciplined: Don’t allow it to distract or deter you.
  • Believe in yourself : Believe you can do it.  When you believe, you can achieve.

90% of life is about showing up.    –Linda Lael Miller, best-selling author

Do you have a remedy for helping you with creativity block that I haven’t mentioned?  What is it?

Letters to an Aspiring Author, part 1

“For the creator there is not poverty and no poor, indifferent place”  —Rilke


Rainier Maria Rilke was born in what is now Czech Republic, of humble but not impoverished beginnings.  He, among other things, was a poet and philosopher, rubbing elbows, at the turn of the century, with students of the likes of Sigmund Freud, Nietsche, and Auguste Rodin.  He was employed for some time by Rodin doing writing and poetry relating to the great sculptor’s works of art.

But none of these things are the reason I will be discussing Rilke on this blog for at least ten posts (though not consecutively).  During the early part of the twentieth century, Rilke was sent a batch of poetry by an aspiring poet and asked to comment upon and critique them.  The poet’s replies spurred a short correspondence, ten letters of which exist for us now in the published work “Letters to a Young Poet.”

In the first letter, our young poet has sent his work to Rilke for critique.  The poet admonishes his young protegé, writing:


“Nothing touches a work of art so little as criticism.”


Art, in all its forms, is the product of the inner environment.  I’ve often used this analogy to explain to my students that our schools place so much emphasis on the exterior environment and the measurements of them—mathematics and the sciences—and the interactive disciplines, as in the social sciences, and history.  The concrete, the physical.  Modern education in America places a heavy emphasis on all of the above.  I know because, at least in my state, these are the only subjects measured by standardized tests.  A person could be completely art illiterate—impervious to anything but the shallowest exposure to literature (as English is a tested subject), the visual arts, music, performing arts are virtually ignored.

But that is my aside, back to Rilke and his trenchant discussion of art and the criticism thereof for in this first letter I have found a key to my issues with my own art, my writing.  I have failed thus far in producing a finished product because I have not heeded his above observation.  “Nothing touches a work of art so little as criticism.”

He goes on to explain that true art must come from deep within.


“I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing [in which sending your work out to be criticized by others).  You are looking outside and that is the thing that you should most avoid right now.  No one can advice or help you…”


Many of you might not concur.  And I’d agree that when a person gets stuck—on a particular scene or piece, especially—turning outwards to a sympathetic friend or nonjudgemental critique partner can be useful—even essential.  I owe much of what I’ve learned about writing fiction by the trial and error method.  But in looking back, that process has trod a little on my soul each time, too.  Instead of working to produce a piece of art separate from myself and not trusting myself to judge what is good and real, I have, instead, developed a huge complex and become gun-shy.  My work became myself—or an extension thereof—and therefore any criticism of my work would be a criticism of me.

Rilke says that instead of looking outward for praise—instead of seeking to hear what you want to hear, to dig deep into yourself instead.  Seek not for outward flattery but for the feeling of accomplishment and success that comes from within.  Write, create because you must.  Because it’s what your blood, your veins, your heart tells you that you must do.  As Rilke says:


“Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether I has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.  This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write?  Dig into yourself for a deep answer.”


Must I write?  Would I die if I was forbidden to write?  I’d like to think I could find outlets that would substitute for it.  To say I’d die might be overly dramatic, but I do know that when I’m not writing, when I’m not digging into myself and bringing out those things hidden deep in my heart and in my psyche—my muse, if you will—I grow depressed, grumpy, and find life much more difficult to take.  Who is to say I wouldn’t die, eventually, from the deprivation of it?

Rilke, one would assume, belongs to that school of artists who feels that one must “suffer” for their art.  Suffering comes in many ways.  If, in fact, one is not suffering for the sake of the art, one is taking one’s own suffering, all the humiliation, the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and using them to fuel their art.  He says as much, in the very first letter:


“Write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty.  Describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the things around you, the imgages from your drams and the objects that you remember.  If your every day life seems poor, dome blame it; blame yourself.  Admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creature there is no poverty and no poor, indifferent place.” [Emphasis added]


I’ll take these lessons and commit them to my own heart, my own soul, my own muse.


Much Ado About Noting

“A writer is a writer because even when there is no hope… she keeps writing anyway.”  –Junot Diaz

One thing I’ve noticed as I begin to associate more with other writers is that our processes tend to be wildly different.  What one writer does and works so well for her may not necessarily work very well for another.  It should not be cause for concern or insecurity.  It should not be a superstitious profession–just because Writer A writes chronologically (in a linear fashion from scene to scene) does not mean another writer can or even should work that way.  And by all means, don’t adopt a process just because you heard a published author explain this is what he does.  It’s only what works for him.

The one true answer is that there IS no right way.  There is no write way, either.  It’s an art and everyone has their process.  It would be so much easier if there was one way to write–if it were some way to fill in the blanks on another writer’s process and presto-bravo, you have a successful piece of work to publish.  The process can even change drastically for the same writer from one project to the next.

Writing a novel can be every bit as much a journey as it is a destination.  And exploring your process can be every bit as soul-searching as exploring yourself–your motivations, your dreams and your foibles.

All of this to discuss note-taking.  I prefaced this post with the discussion of process because I have a good friend who does not take notes because she figures that if she forgets some idea that comes up, that it was probably unimportant or a bad idea anyway.  For a while I considered that and purposely did not take notes, hoping it would somehow help my writing or my process.

What I discovered, instead, is that because not taking notes works for her does not necessarily mean it would work for me.

My mind is constantly going and my Muse is constantly dropping bombs on me in the most inconvenient of places.  For this reason, I find keeping a little notebook with me absolutely essential.

What do I write in there?  Kernals of ideas for scenes, fragments of dialogue that I “hear” in my head (yes, I do have voices in there), names that I’ve come up with, sketches of floor plans or maps of small areas, snippets of research.  I’ve pasted visuals and printouts in the notebook.  Ideas on writing or quotes I want to remember later for inspiration.  Anything I consider noteworthy.  Literally noteworthy.  As in worthy of my taking note of it.

I recently learned in some training for my day job that we retain 100% of what we learn/hear for the first 24 hours but without taking notes, that information drops down as far as 10% per day to end up somewhere around 2% of the original thing we want to recall at the end of the week.  Revisiting notes taken during sessions is essential for learning and retention.  Sessions of written reflection are particularly important for adult learners.

Since I do work full time during the day (and even some evenings), I can’t dive for my laptop every time I feel inspired.  I must rely on my active imagination during times of boredom to give me the impetus for when I do have the free time to get to my work.  I can sit down, page through my notes for the week and see what sparks in me the idea for a scene I need to write.

So an important lesson I’ve learned: learn from the professionals but do not attempt to emulate them.  Because my friend, a successful author, does not find note-taking worthwhile for her, does not mean such is the case for me.  Lesson learned.  See.  You can teach an old dog new tricks.

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