April 2015


A-Z Challenge 2015Before you mention any animal in a historical novel, make sure that:

  • the animal existed at that time and in that place
  • the animal was used in the way you have described

You should know which animals were hunted and which animals helped with hunting. Were animals kept as pets?

This article provides useful information about wild animals in Britain during the Early Medieval period.

Dog sledding, Tromso, Norway

Dog sledding, Tromso, Norway

This post concludes my series about writing historical fiction. I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts. I will be back in a few days with a summary of what I’ve learned from it.

A-Z Challenge 2015

How is writing historical fiction for young adults or children different?As with all fiction, the difference lies in the length of the novel, the use of teenage or child characters. What else? Deborah Swift describes the differences in this article.

Mother and child, North Cape, Norway

Mother and child, North Cape, Norway

I have invented a theory, with a little help (OK a lot of help) from Vanessa Couchman when I interviewed her here. Its name possibly has something to do with the fact that I struggled to find any connection between the letter X and writing historical fiction. But the advice is serious and probably useful. So with much fanfare I present the first ever airing of…

Miriam’s Xylophone Theory

A xylophone has no use without a mallet (or beater or stick). Similarly, research has no use without a story. At some point you have to relegate all the research to the background and concentrate on the story. And while you’re writing the story, you might get some of the facts wrong. But that’s all right. You can revise the story later to fit the facts.

Xylophone

Kulintang a Kayo 01“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons. Copyright: Philip Dominguez Mercurio

A-Z Challenge 2015There’s a reason or two why women depicted in nineteenth century novels have only one thing on their minds: marriage. They had nothing else to do and marriage was the most important event in their lives, determining the rest of their future.

As a historical writer, you have to be aware of the restrictions on women during your era and in your place. Could they go out without a chaperone? Were they allowed to study anything?

You can be sure of one thing: restrictions existed. I’m glad I’m alive now and not earlier. I’m glad I live in the country I live in, rather than one in which women are still restricted.

A-Z Challenge 2015If possible, visit the location you’re writing about. Even though it has changed, something remains, if only the wind, the sun, the mountains or lack of them, the sea, the river.

But beware. Even the sea can change. Of the original five south-east England Cinq Ports, members of a confederation formed in the 12th century for military and trade purposes, two are no longer on the sea.

20150419_202118[1] The picture above, which hangs on the wall of my office, is one I bought as a child when we visited the picturesque town of Rye and my mother told me about the Cinq Ports. Rye wasn’t one of the original Cinq Ports, but took over from New Romney which was damaged by storms and silted up. Rye is now two miles from the sea.

A-Z Challenge 2015Writing advice often includes this one:

Write what you know.

Not all writing instructors agree with that. Some even say it can be better to write what you don’t know. “Write what fascinates you,” they say.

Nevertheless, many authors do write what they know. It’s easier to describe places you’ve been to. It’s easier to get inside the head of a character who’s been through experiences that are similar to yours.

History, by its very nature, is unknown. You can’t rely on your experiences or on knowing a place, because they were different then.

A-Z Challenge 2015Even trees and plants need to be researched. Some might not have existed then. Some might not have grown in locations where they are to be found now.

Jerusalem: blossoming tree

Jerusalem: blossoming tree

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