I almost missed the first anniversary of this blog as I dream the end of this book (The Hero’s Wife). First draft is due at the beginning of July!
But I’ve grown rather fond of this blog, and my readers, so I want to mark this occasion. Happy Anniversary, A Writer’s Retreat!
I called it that because I wanted to talk shop, all the things I love to talk about with fellow writers (hence the delight of attending the Historical Novel Society conference later this month) and readers. For me it’s rather like the meditation retreats I also love, the silence, the pause for reflection.
This year I’ve been reflecting on just what it is I’m after in my writing, what holds my interest. I’ve read a few writing books, something I rarely do. Two books I highly recommend: The Art of Time in Fiction: As Long as It Takes by Joan Silber, and Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want To Write Them by Francine Prose. I’ve enjoyed pondering the issues in each–while reading Silber’s book I was exploring how to write a historical novel about a particular person without hitting on every significant moment in the person’s life, how I might play with time. With crime novels it’s easier to decide what’s significant, but when the topic is a person’s life, well, I’m challenged by the shorter books publishers want these days! I found her book very helpful.
Prose’s book covers all facets of writing fiction, and I’ve used it to inspire self-reflection–what do I love to read, what do I love to write. More about that in months to come.
Just to say that I’m freshly inspired and invigorated–or, we are, Candace is plotting the 11th Owen Archer and pondering a way to write a standalone about Maggie Kerr, and Emma is pretty sure who her next subject is and what she wants to explore through her.
I’ll leave you with this wonderful passage Prose quotes, by Isaac Babel. Pertinent to one who’s about to start revising.(pages 263-64 in the book)
“I go over each sentence, time and again. I start by cutting all the words it can do without. You have to keep your eye on the job because words are very sly, the rubbishy ones go into hiding and you have to dig them out–repetitions, synonyms, things that simply don’t mean anything….I go over every image, metaphor, comparison, to see if they are fresh and accurate. If you can’t find the right adjective for a noun, leave it alone. Let the noun stand by itself. A comparison must be as accurate as a slide rule, and as natural as the smell of fennel….I take out all the participles and adverbs I can….Adverbs are lighter. They can even lend you wings in a way. But too many of them make the language spineless….A noun needs only one adjective, the choicest. Only a genius can afford two adjectives to one noun….Line is as important in prose as in an engraving. It has to be clear and hard….But the most important thing of all…is not to kill the story by working on it. Or else all your labor has been in vain. It’s like walking a tight-rope. Well, there it is….We ought all to take an oath not to mess up our job.”
A tall order!
This post will no doubt surprise you coming as it does, more than six months after the event. However, although I really wanted to respond in June, these six months have passed in a blur of ‘family stuff’ that needed all my energy to deal with.
Firstly, I want to congratulate you on successfully writing as a different persona to the one with whom I first became acquainted.
I have all the Owen Archer books and have read them multiple times, thoroughly enjoying the hard work and skilful writing of Candace Robb. I have been so bereft that everything suddenly came to a stop when it did – but as a fellow historian I realised that it was difficult to follow on from the death of so great a character as John Thoresby. How will you facilitate further development of Owen’s talents and resposibilities, both family and work? And both Lucie and Magda both have so much further to go as they are such rich characters.
Perhaps Lucie could return to the strong and independent person that she was when we first met her, instead of suffering so much ill health? She has always stood astride the dual paths of both Apothecary and leading citizen, blending these with her duties as a parent, and carer (of Aunt Philippa), and of course as a part time investigator for Owen.
Magda has been a wonderful and enduring person – a Healer extraordinaire and very resistant to both assuming power – and to the machinations of those who tried to use their power against her.
You have such a true talent for weaving these characters into their historical tapestry and I can’t wait for another wander through their lives and ‘feel’ again the hustle and bustle of the interaction of their lives, friendships, and emnities.
I have always loved history (hence my B.A. degree) – it is the thrill of touching hands with the past, the people and their lives, good or bad – and you have the amazing gift of bringing them to life. I hope you will write about them again, I have missed them!
Thank you, Candace/Emma.