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Footnotes and Bibliography for Historical Fiction

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I've done extensive research for my current WIP which is a MG/YA historical novel. While I've saved all my notes and source references, I'm wondering what will be necessary come submission time. Is footnoting or citing works ever required or appropriate in historical fiction? Do publishers do any fact checking, and will I be required to submit a research package.
Thanks for your help on this.
Jean
#1 - March 03, 2008, 10:52 AM
Jean Reidy
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I think that it couldn't possibly HURT for you to have done some historical research and to have references for your work. Not because it's going to help you sell your story (it either works or it doesn't for the editor who reads it), but definitely, it would help their proofreaders catch horrible inaccuarcies. You don't want your character to be wearing a watch when they hadn't been invented until... ummm.. I don't know.

I wrote a story a couple years ago for a children's magazine in which my MC (during the late 1800's) used a particular gun to shoot a prairie dog for his supper. It took a writer friend of mine, who used to live in the prairie, to tell me that using a gun to kill a prairie dog wouldn't leave much meat (as the poor critter would be blown to bits).  I learned my lesson.

Make sure you keep track of your references, and IF an editor asks to see them, you can always produce them. And if they don't - well, it makes for great material on your webpage *right folks?*

Maude  :broccoli
#2 - March 03, 2008, 10:58 AM

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They very well may fact-check; mine did, to some degree, at least. Keep your notes and organize them or cross-reference them in some way so that you can access them again quickly in a year or two, once it's no longer fresh in your mind, and figure out your source for any given fact.

I expected my publisher might check the facts on the more "historical" or fact-based aspects of my historical fantasy, and they did indeed, with several questions from the copyeditor that I had to verify/justify. (I didn't have to send the actual references, just convince them I knew what I was talking about and how I knew it.) And several queries for me to verify things that it hadn't even occurred to me they might question b/c I thought they were fairly well known. I didn't do as good a job when I was originally doing the research as I should have in making/organizing my notes in the first place -- lesson learned for the next book -- but realizing that midway, I'd gone back through them and catagorized info and double-checked a number of facts with different sources, so when I got those copyeditor queries, I was really glad that I had and could find what I needed quickly.

I was prepared to provide a bibliography; they didn't ask for it. But I've certainly seen historical MG/YAs that included one, so I'm sure that's a publisher decision.
#3 - March 03, 2008, 11:06 AM
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Joni, did you ever have a footnoted version of your manuscript or simply organized notes? My notes are handwritten notebook pages that are categorized by topic. Each page is numerically referenced to its source. What else would you recommend?
Jean
#4 - March 03, 2008, 11:16 AM
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I didn't have any queries when my historical was out for copy-editing--not sure if that's good or bad!  But no one ever asked me for a bibliography or footnotes.  Don't include footnotes or a bibliography when submitting a novel--you're being judged on story-telling, not historical accuracy.

Yay!  More historical fiction!  Good luck, JR.
#5 - March 03, 2008, 11:23 AM
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It may depend on the publisher.  Some, like Calkins Creek, is sure to want information verified and an extensive bibliography.  Certain editors and copyeditors might, also; while others will not ask for anything.   As for footnotes, those wouldn't work in a novel at all.  You could include an afterword with some of the historical information and where you got it. 
#6 - March 03, 2008, 11:40 AM

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Sorry for the confusion. I didn't mean a footnoted submitted manuscript. I meant a footnoted manuscript for my files for those copy editor queries.
Jean
#7 - March 03, 2008, 12:15 PM
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ecb

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I'm with Marissa--nobody at AALB *ever* asked me to prove my references.  The copyeditors were concerned with punctuation, continuity, and sentence structure... NOT fact-checking.  I think they thought that was my job, and I agree.

I did, however, absolutely include my bibliography with my submission.  I was proud of that work, and I believe it helped with my credibility (the same way the author bio in your query letter does).

The only house I've ever heard of wanting a footnoted ms is Calkins Creek.
I personally think footnoting a novel is ridiculously cumbersome and would tear the writer out of "the fictive dream," making it really challenging to stay connected to the story.  But, then, you wouldn't want to have to go back through 300 ms pages and do it *after,* either!
#8 - March 03, 2008, 12:31 PM
« Last Edit: March 03, 2008, 12:33 PM by ecb »

It may depend on the publisher.  Some, like Calkins Creek, is sure to want information verified and an extensive bibliography. 

CC would want the footnoted ms AND the non-footnoted. CY required as much research for fiction as non-fiction.

I agree. It depends on the publisher. I would definitely keep the footnoted version for your own reference for copy-editing or just editorial questions. A year or so down the line it's tough to remember where you found something.

ETA: CC would want the footnoted version for fact verifying, not to publish that way.

Kelly
#9 - March 03, 2008, 12:31 PM
« Last Edit: March 03, 2008, 12:48 PM by kabarson »
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I don't like footnotes while reading (but I can't ignore them and must read them) but boy have I learned to have a footnoted copy for myself and the editor for fact-checking.

I love having a detailed author's note at the back of any historical fiction, including some resources so that I may go read them as well -- not for fact checking, but for pleasure.

Vijaya

#10 - March 03, 2008, 12:44 PM
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Joni, did you ever have a footnoted version of your manuscript or simply organized notes?

No, I started to do exactly that and it became so onerous -- and I had some trouble deciding how crazy to get. Like did I footnote every word, or every noun and verb? Because I did a fair bit of checking to try to make sure that most words, metaphors, etc. I used had a connotation that (in translation) *could* have existed way back then. So I realized that either my footnotes were going to be kind of selective anyway, or they were going to be five times the length of the manuscript and that didn't seem like a great use of time, so I didn't get very far. Contented myself with making sure I had my stack of research stuff well-enough organized that I could find the reference for a "type" of question instead.

I learned a lot that I will do differently if/when I do another historical fiction/fantasy.
#11 - March 03, 2008, 07:32 PM
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Joni--
As someone said above, CY at Calkins Creek wants as much research for fiction as nonfiction and wants both a foot-noted and not foot-noted ms.  When I interviewed CY a while back, she also told me that before she reads the ms, she looks at the bibliography.  Insufficient bib and she doesn't even look at the ms. 
--SueBE

#12 - March 04, 2008, 06:15 AM

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For my historical MG novel, nobody ever asked for any sources. It was pubbed in '99, and up until that time I don't recall that novels included much documentation except for maybe an author's note and some thank-yous in the acknowlegments. Doesn't mean a biblio wasn't sent to the editor, though, but I didn't send one and was never asked for one.

In the 00's, I began to see more novels with biblios. In my biography of Anne Bradstreet, the complete biblio is published in the book and it runs 4 1/2 pp., there's a 10 1/2 page section of chapter notes that tells exactly where key facts came from, and I talk a bit about my research methods and thank people in the acknowledgments. Boy, did I learn how to document. But I'm proud of the result and probably even more hooked on research than before, if that's possible. :library

For my WIP I'm back to historical fiction . After my experience with the bio, I would never NOT document a novel to the hilt, although I agree with Joni that trying to footnote a ms., even for my own use, would mire me down in those questions of "How crazy do I get with this, and will the footnotes be 10x as long as the ms.?" But I am building my biblio as I go, and it's already almost three pages and I'm not that far into the first draft! I'm fine with a biblio in the published novel or not, but I do hope an author's note can be included. I love to read author notes in historical fiction, and am especially interested in what's factual and what's not, and how the author may have altered facts to fit the story.
#13 - March 04, 2008, 09:42 AM
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Wow, this thread is seriously freaking me out! I started researching my novel a good four years ago and copied down notes, but didn't cite them...I always figured fiction is fiction and I would, upon request, make up an Author's Notes to clarify what was real and what wasn't. I used some real historical characters and some accounts of events from their lives, but altered bits that I needed to for my plot. If I know what's 'fact' and what isn't and include that information in an author's notes, isn't that enough?
#14 - March 04, 2008, 01:20 PM
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I haven't worried about footnotes, but for my paranormal historicals, I'm keeping a separate LibraryThing account of all of my resource books.  When the books are published, I'll link the LT to my blog/ website.
#15 - March 04, 2008, 05:44 PM
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If I know what's 'fact' and what isn't and include that information in an author's notes, isn't that enough?

That will probably depend on the publisher. As stated above, for Carolyn Yoder it wouldn't be half enough. For someone else, it might be. I've decided that from now on I will always go the whole nine yards so that I won't be held back from subbing to someone for lack of documentation.

I haven't worried about footnotes, but for my paranormal historicals, I'm keeping a separate LibraryThing account of all of my resource books.  When the books are published, I'll link the LT to my blog/ website.

I knew I'd learn something on this thread. I didn't know about this, but will check it out.  :thanks
#16 - March 04, 2008, 06:01 PM
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I haven't worried about footnotes, but for my paranormal historicals, I'm keeping a separate LibraryThing account of all of my resource books.  When the books are published, I'll link the LT to my blog/ website.

Cool, I might try this. Does anyone know if Good Reads has a similar system?
Jean
#17 - March 05, 2008, 07:05 AM
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Cool, I might try this. Does anyone know if Good Reads has a similar system?
Jean

You can create a separate "shelf" for your research materials.
#18 - March 07, 2008, 05:48 AM

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