Historical novel

by Carole
(Ireland)

Question: I have written a historical novel covering a 20 year period, encompassing 3 wars. I used a soldier's diary as a vehicle to provide historical facts about the wars. It is quirky and humorous. I got very positive feedback from an agent but he said he thought the diary format didn't quite work Unfortunately he did not say why! I made the other changes the agent suggested but I like the diary. I gave each diary section a chapter of its own. Any suggestions/opinions about how best to incorporate this into the ms?


Answer: If this agent is reputable and willing to offer you a contract if you make the changes, and if this is your first book, I would suggest you trust his/her advice and make the changes requested. What do you have to lose?

If the agent has rejected your book but took the time to give you feedback, that's a good thing. I would suggest you show the book to some other people you trust and see if they have a similar reaction to the diary device. If they see the agent's point, you may want to revise. If they think the diary works, then maybe that is just one agent's opinion and you could approach another agent. (It's impossible for me to render an opinion since I haven't seen the manuscript nor do I offer a critique service.) I am curious if the diary entries are all about establishing the facts or if they also advance the plot (better).

If you decide to ditch the diary, look for other ways to get the necessary information across to the reader. Possibilities include the narrative voice (either a character narrator or omniscient), or having the main character know or discover the information.

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