Wednesday 23 September 2020

A necessary cut


I’ve just completed my fourth edit of The Round Robin. This is the one that makes sure it is right for the target reader and this includes it being the right length. It was running at 105,000 after the first edit. I realised that there were four subplots that needed including. This brought the work up to about 112,000.

The Round Robin is probably suitable for people who like reading hefty novels set in the 1940s. Even so, 112,000 words is probably a bit long. I have managed to get it down to 105,000. Probably some of my future edits will tighten it even further.

How have I got rid of 7,000 words? Well, I’ve removed one whole chapter so that has taken care of about 2,500.  I haven’t deleted the chapter. I may be able to use it for something else one day. I may even add it to the “deleted scenes” section of this blog.  But not just yet. What was wrong with the chapter? It didn’t really take the plot forward.  There was some character development but taking the chapter out doesn’t detract from that.  I’d written in in an attempt to refer to my primary resources.

I also began to notice some things I’d only normally notice as part of a later edit. There were many, many instances of overwriting. So, I’ve generally tightened the text throughout. It’s slightly worrying that if I hadn’t needed to shorten the text I may not have noticed this quality in my writing. Maybe I would have later but it’s actually good to have done that this early on.

Ah yes. Writing is mainly rewriting.    

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Friday 4 September 2020

Creating a Sense of Time and Place in an Historical Novel

Definition of setting

Setting = time + place with a sprinkling of atmosphere.



This is reasonably easy especially if you have some knowledge of the place.  I know Stuttgart and Berlin a little. I even know the Waldorf School. I don’t know Nuremberg, Jena or Rexingen. I know London but not Minehead. Photos can help, especially old photos.


This can be trickier. We haven’t yet invented the time machine.  Yet there is a plethora of material available. I find amateur photos and film footage valuable. As are diaries, letters and other texts such as bills and receipts. I have some letters for guidance as you may know.

Why amateur? Well, they just show what was rather than making some attempt to rationalise or analyse what has happened. I found the adverts in some facsimile newspapers extremely useful. They gave a lot of detail about domestic life.

There are also the normal time markers: season, weather, light, flowers, plants, news items, meal times.


Seeking experiences helps here. I think about Clara traveling when I feel the wheels under my feet on train journeys. I can feel what it was like sitting in a cattle truck or cooped up in a tiny hiding place when I visit the Holocaust Centre at Laxton, Newark, Nottinghamshire.  

Write what you know?

That’s always the advice given to writers. But how does that work for fantasy, science fiction or historical fiction? Well, you start with what you know and what you can find out. You know human nature and how it will react in certain circumstances.  

Three tools

Primary resources

These are the diaries, letters and other realia mentioned above.

Repeated experience

Get yourself locked away for a few hours. Try the war time diet. Dress up in a 1940s costume.


Just write, driven by what you know of your characters and their settings. How will your players act in these circumstances? How will the setting make them feel?  What else is now in the setting that you didn’t know before?