by Anna Wahler
My historical fiction manuscript, So Long as we Live is currently in its second round of beta readers.
For me, historical accuracy is very important. You can check out my thoughts, as well as Amanda Mae’s in this post here. I couldn’t imagine seeing my manuscript as complete unless I had made it as close as possible to something that could have really happened in 1939 and ‘40.
Some Issues With Accuracy
But as I continued to run through my document and fact-check myself, I ran into a bit of a problem. I didn’t know what I still had left to fix. In the first stages of drafting, I had tons of questions. What was the maximum speed of the PZL P11 fighter? What did the town of Ruislip really look like? What rank in the RAF constituted a squadron leader? But after I’d solved all my questions, I still had a feeling that I had more work ahead of me. The manuscript might be accurate to the best of my own knowledge, but there were bound to be many issues that I wouldn’t be able to identify on my own–things that I wouldn’t think of as problems, but would nonetheless stand out to a real expert.
My Experiences Looking for Experts on my Topics
As I saw it, I could divide my ‘factual’ information (that is, everything that wasn’t literary like characters, pacing, word flow) into two main areas: aviation and historical. My manuscript contains many scenes in the air, and unfortunately, I’m not lucky enough to have a pilot’s license. Likewise, I was certain there were a few historical oddities that had slipped under my radar.
To solve this problem, I reached out to a number of people. I figured they might be too busy to reply, but there was no harm in asking. To my luck, I was able to work with a beta reader with pilot experience, which was a wonderful help for my book.
I also received some assistance from the curator of a historical aviation museum in the Seattle area. I knew it was a lot to ask for someone who was not in the field of beta reading to read an entire manuscript, so I briefly summarized the section I was having the most difficulty with. His feedback, (as well as the fact that he took the time to reply in the first place!) was extremely encouraging.
So Long as we Live still has some editing left to go, but the help of my betas and everyone I’ve worked with on his project has been one of the most motivating things about writing this story.