How a used bookstore helped decrease the suck of my novel

Yes, I know. I promised a thought provoking blog about Descartes (the hottest philosopher), Rationalism and Impericism, but I’ve actually been doing some productive writing lately.

After a morning of thrift shopping which resulted in the purchase of one pair of black opera gloves and four postcards (I always wonder why those donated postcards were never used. Did the intended sender die in Anonymous Falls, Missouri before she could find the time to send a hideous postcard to Edith from back home?), I finally found the time to spend hours at my local used bookstore. Inevitably, I ended up scouring each aisle with a manic desire equivalent to that of a teenage vicodin addict. The only corner of the store lucky enough to avoid my habit of pulling as many titles off the shelf as possible, was the clearance wall which always consists entirely of poorly written romance novels from the 80’s, and some outdated travel book about Guatemala, marked down to 25 cents because of its ghastly usage of Politically Incorrect terminology. (Including . . . I know it’s hard to believe . . . “third world country” ! )

While I did not purchase any travel books, PC or otherwise, I did finally find two great new resources for Swingnacht. I did a large amount of research while writing of course, but since I was writing entirely for my own enjoyment, I didn’t go out of my way to track down books or special texts. Unfortunately, that fact is entirely too obvious as I embark on the editing and rewriting process. There are literally no books, that focus on the subculture about which I’m writing. A few WWII mega-books briefly mention the swingjugend but usually provide no information not already available to me in Wikipedia. In addition, it’s fairly difficult to find texts about the typical German attitude before, during and after the war. There are a great many novels and informational books about political anti-Hitler movements, the Jewish experience in the Holocaust, and the military strategies of the Nazis, which are informative and worthwhile and necessary, but don’t really help me tell the story I need to tell.

Since my story is about a group of kids who are (in general) more interested in having a good time than seriously defying authority or actively resisting National Socialism and antisemitism, it does not fit any kind of Hollywood or conventional standard for stories about WWII and Nazi Germany. I wanted to experiment with what happens with an “accidental” resistor (the swing kids) collide with politically-charged resistance movements. Wait. Stop. I’m not going to let myself go on and on about this conflict because I’ll give away everything and all three of you who might have been interested in reading it at some point will no longer need to.

Anyway, the point is that today I finally found some really amazing resources: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, and a reference book all about the Hitler Youth. The culture of the swingjugend was deliberately as anti-Hitlerjugend as possible and since my characters are constantly surrounded by HJ, it’s useful to have a reference guide next to me in case I need to look up a detail about uniforms or ranking. There’s even a substantial few paragraphs devoted to the swing kids and other resistance groups! Both of these texts provided me with worthwhile information and ideas to inspire me my rewriting process. I’m now just referring to it as “rewriting” because “editing” implies the rearranging of sentence structure, additon of semi-colons, maybe a new paragraph here or there or the deletion of an unneeded couple of pages, and what I’m doing is taking the core story I developed in the first draft and turning it into something that’s actually historically accurate and doesn’t sound like it was written by an elephant with a Toshiba laptop. I’m still aiming to finish the rewrite by the end of the summer so I can submit it to Mia (my best friend and 17 year old genius) for approval. She’s angry at me for not telling her I was writing a novel and even more angry that I won’t let her read the first draft. Oooops.

So, the point is kids, that if you can’t find obscure history reference books at a corporate chain, check an independent used bookstore and save money while saving your novel.


4 responses to “How a used bookstore helped decrease the suck of my novel

  1. Good stuff. I’ve found some great used bookshops in my time- it’s always worth a look.

    PC really bothers me though, I have to say. It seems like an exercise in finding fault and argument, because it evolves over time and what isn’t insulting now will suddenly become so later.

    No, the most important thing is the motivation behind the person who uses the term. It’s like how Christians don’t like Harry Potter because it has “witchcraft” in it, without considering the actual content of the book.

    If it insults someone, then the person saying it should be sensitive enough not to use it in their presence, but if they mean no ill intent then they should be free to say it in the first instance, because in the end you can never be sure what is PC and what isn’t at any given moment. Just like language, it evolves. Do your best not to insult, but don’t stress about it.

    For example, third world? Not PC? Well, I can see why that might be the case, but honestly this is the first I’ve heard of it, and I believe I’ve seen it used on adverts for aid on this side of the pond even in very recent years. These things are incredibly area dependent, as well as time dependent. My mum still thinks “black” is insulting, because not only was it previously so, but over here it’s only fairly recently filtered through from the US. When people tell others off for not being PC, it generally makes me angry. A friendly and helpful, “Some people find that term insulting,” would be ok, but the way I’ve seen some people react is over the top.


    Sorry lol. Funny how a couple of sentences can send me on a rant (if it’s the right topic).

  2. wordscankeeler

    I hope you know I was joking about being appalled at finding “non-PC” terminologies in a book.

  3. Yeah, but I assumed it was a real PC issue. I can see why it might be. Is it not?

  4. Pingback: Book Store » Blog Archive » Books

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