Monday, March 30, 2009

Legislation that wasn't

"Wrong dates, false attributions, and a lot of plain malarky get passed on from generation to generation as scholars plunder one another's footnotes." (From Robert Hume's Reconstructing Contexts: The Aims and Principles of Archaeo-Historicism.)

Post on C18-L by Joel Berson:
2) Writer A quotes from the 1675 diary of a young girl in New England who comments on luxurious, fashionable dress that she had seen displayed in Boston -- 40 to 65 years earlier than other writers put the arrival of fancy clothing. A cites B, who did not document his source and who told me his notes were inaccessible. Fortunately the quoted passage turned up via Google, leading to "A Puritan Maiden's Diary", discovered by Adeline E. H. Slicer and published in _The New England Magazine_ in 1894. (I also found a third writer, C, citing the same passage.) Reading the diary, my ears began to tingle -- it did not sound 17th century even to my untrained ones. Should I accept and use the Puritan maiden's quotation as evidence of the beginnings of a consumer society in Boston in 1675? Fortunately, I also found Mary Beth Norton's "Getting to the Source: Hetty Shepard, Dorothy Dudley, and Other Fictional Colonial Women I Have Come to Know Altogether Too Well", in which she "demonstrates conclusively that it was in fact composed in the late nineteenth century by its nominal editor, Adeline E. Herbert Slicer" (from the abstract). Thus Norton saved me the considerable time and effort I might have spent in "vetting" the diary myself, and at least *I* have not picked it up and repeated it.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


National Novel Writing Month - apparently there is this yearly novel writing competition - looks interesting and all, but I don't think I should get involved in writing a novel in a month in November. I should have other things to do. What is interesting is the page with tips on how to EDIT your work once you have a draft. Several people talk about their approach:

The best three comments are from Chris Baty. He says:

1) It will take longer than you expect - and he gives a timeline. Very helpful.

2) Get someone to help you with the plot - get a 30 page or so storyboard and then get help with nailing that down. - I think the getting help is good, but I think the 30 page storyboard is even more helpful, since it gives an OUTLINE of the whole thing without all the pesky details. It gives you a frame to work from.

3) Do not polish the details of style until you have the plot down. What you polish may end up getting cut, and you end up futsing with details that will never matter. Once you know the plot and the characters - THEN you can make it pretty.

I want to add a fourth from my own experience. Use that 30 page storyboard as a base and start filling things in as you go. I made an outline that I kept expanding and expanding until first one and then a second and a third chapter emerged. At first I tried to write linearly, from page 1 to page 200, but that is really not how I process information. When I started seeing it as a puzzle where you have bits and pieces connected and they grow bigger and then one bit suddenly connects to another and you keep an eye out for all the edge pieces because when you have those in you have a frame for the whole thing. It has also been the case several times that I have a few paragraphs that stick together but really don't belong where I first stick them, so I move three paragraphs over to another part of a chapter (or in some cases to a different chapter) just like you do with the puzzle when you realize that those particular red pieces are not part of the nose but of the scarf in the other corner of the picture.