Literary Delusions of Grandeur

Curiosity alone would have led me to read about the Affair of the Diamond Necklace, but nothing could have gotten me hooked on it quite like the idea of writing about it–creatively–myself.

The basic idea came to me a few years ago, when I was a sophomore in college and walking from my dorm room to the bathroom down the hall (ugh–don’t remind me about the bathroom-down-the-hall setup!). I won’t say what the idea was because that would give away a good portion of my novel, in fact it would give away pretty much the entire portion not dictated by history.

I actually didn’t have a situation to go along with the idea yet, but it didn’t take me long to put together the affair of the diamond necklace with the idea I’d had. Sadly, I can’t recall exactly how this all went down, but I soon came across The Queen’s Necklace by Frances Mossiker, which is an absolutely fantastic book and gave me the nudge that I needed to get writing on this subject.

So I got to work on it and wrote and wrote. I’ve been writing on it for something like four years with a lot of disparate pieces to show for it. It is an extremely difficult story to get your hands on. It’s very slippery. Every actor in the affair gave a different version of the story in their own voices; they contradicted each other and, often, they even contradicted themselves. And the shear volume of information is daunting. Everyone had a memoir, and between them they documented an amazing amount of detail. I’m fairly committed to getting as close to the historical record as I possibly can, so it was overwhelming to have to cut and paste together a quilt of a dozen different first-hand versions of the story. Who to believe? What details to keep?

Then there was the VERY sticky problem of who to enlist as my point of view character. Should I tell it from Madame de La Motte’s perspective? This is where I began, writing tens of thousands of words in the third person from her perspective. Then I expanded the third-person to include Monsieur (future Comte) Beugnot. So, instead of spending the entire book looking in on Mme de La Motte, we look in on her and on Monsieur Beugnot for a few scenes. Then I began to rely more and more on Beugnot. A few times throughout this, I took a stab at making Nicole d’Oliva the main character, sometimes told from the first person, sometimes from the third person. I went back to Beugnot, tried switching it to first-person and decided it would need to be rewritten if I did that. Sigh. I probably had at least a hundred thousand words at this point.

About a year ago, I finally made a legitimate stab at writing from Nicole d’Oliva’s first-person perspective. I had always found her one of the most accessible characters (oddly), and the character who could be used to greatest effect. She can see and hear a lot without quite realizing what’s going on. Nicole is brought into the situation but kept in the dark. It’s a bit like a detective in a murder mystery who picks up clues along the way and solves the mystery at the end. Except this detective doesn’t know there’s a mystery to be solved and this detective is an 18th-century Parisian prostitute. I will give away the fact that (in my novel) Nicole finds out what’s going on–about the necklace theft–before the plot is brought out in the public.

So, here I am several months after starting in on this project and I’ve gotten much further with a much better result than I have on any of my other various attempts. It was a very, very tough nut to crack, but after seveal years of failed attempsts, I think it finally cracked.

Currently, I’m about 55 thousand words in. The typical novel is around 70 to 80 thousand words; historical novels run longer. At this point, the plot to steal the necklace hasn’t been brought to light. I’m guessing I have another 20 or 30 thousand words left to go. This will make it a reasonable length–my last work in progress (out on query/partial request) is 120 thousand words. There have been a few spots in this work that caught me up and a few things at the beginning that need to be reworked, but the writing has gone remarkably smoothly.

I will keep this blog updated with any major developments on the literary front, but for the most part this blog is devoted to the historical events. But if this story, God willing, ends up published, this blog will certainly be  the first place to have the news.

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