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Tag Archives: Writing

Tolstoy: How history differs, for historians and for artists

From “A Few Words Apropos of the Book War and Peace” (1868) (5) The divergence between my description of historical events and the accounts of historians. It is not accidental, but inevitable. A historian and an artist, describing a historical epoch, have two completely different objects. As a historian would be wrong if he should […]

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Getting the details right: Peterloo

One of the reasons I chose to write about the Manchester protest later called Peterloo in An Untitled Lady was that there were quite a few good sources on the event. Descriptions by reporters and private correspondents were published in national and local papers; the events led to court trials, which left documents and decisions; […]

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Winning

To distract myself while my Big Historical is out being reamed at the developmental editor’s shop, I took on a Camp NaNoWriMo challenge in July: 50,000 new words in one month. And won! This word count grows less intimidating each time I do a NaNo. And as usual, I discovered that even after plotting and planning, I didn’t know my […]

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On Writing: Killing the Biggest Darling

“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings”— Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch I’m a newspaper refugee; for two decades and more my writing goal was readability (and truth and fairness and justice and all). Fancy […]

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Why I Put a Melee in a Romantic Novel

Why would a romance-loving writer like me set a story in the middle of a melee? My latest novel, An Untitled Lady, includes events around 16 August 1819 in Manchester, England, including a workers’ protest rally that ended with at least 15 people dead. It might seem odd to set a story about two people […]

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New plan in motion

So, I spent the long holiday weekend in the editing cave — 34 hours of butt-in-the-chair since Friday evening. And now I have sharper story, characters, conflicts, and a timeline that actually works. And a title: The Spanish Patriot. Each card represents a scene; the card colors are shorthand for how much revision is needed […]

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Back to the Behemoth

An Untitled Lady, 3.0. This version is 575 printed pages; around 120,000 words. Let the editing begin!

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Casting Characters

One of the characters in my novel A NOTE OF SCANDAL is a dwarf. You might be forgiven for thinking I was inspired by Tyrion Lannister in George RR Martin’s series that starts with GAME OF THRONES, but the influence was actually far earlier: Miss Mowcher, in DAVID COPPERFIELD by Charles Dickens. She’s in two […]

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How I wrote the story

OK, so my very scientific method of writing is to gather lots of unrelated material and tumble it about in my head for years or decades. Eventually, a semi-coherent storyline emerges, and I re-read selected references and make a semi-coherent outline. Then as fast as I can (often during NaNoWriMo), I gush out a crappy […]

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Thanks, Jean Craighead George

I discovered yesterday that the author of one of my favorite books in childhood had been a reporter for the very paper I read every day, The Washington Post. Sadly, the way I discovered this was in her obituary, “Jean Craighead George, author of ‘My Side of the Mountain’ and ‘Julie of the Wolves,’ dies […]

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