This book covers quite a bit of ground, really, and it's a good place to start your research. The bibliography at the back is very helpfulA Fair Start
This book covers quite a bit of ground, really, and it's a good place to start your research. The bibliography at the back is very helpful.
She seems to go more in-depth when it comes to the French and particularly the Revolution. Which is understandable since it seems to be her forte.
The only problem I had with it has been mentioned before. The tone. She seems to be constantly chiding her readers for daring to assume to write HF without complete sources, bibliographies and making sure you have every last detail correct. Well, I'm not a huge HF fan, I mostly read it because I enjoy history, especially in-depth looks at the smaller details of life in different ages. But, when I do, it doesn't dramatically alter my trading experience just because strawberries and grapes appear together in a fruit bowl (which could theoretically be possible because by a certain time people were experimenting with greenhouses, heated walls, etc.)
I don't expect writers to have a totally accurate grasp on history. It just isn't possible. There are a lot more resources available which should make the more glaring errors easy to miss but she herself asked that even though she knew a certain building wasn't in existence at the time she wrote about she added it for local colour. And I honestly see nothing wrong with that. When I read HF I read it as such, fiction. I'm not expecting a treatise on accurate to the last detail Roman life. In short, I take it with a grain of salt and if it's interesting enough to me, I look up actual facts on my own.
If you are interested in Regency and Victorian history some great books I can recommend are What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool. The Annotated Jane Austen books by David M. Shapard. I'm not affiliated with these authors in any way but they are great resource books.
She also does recommend Wikipedia as a resource bit with the provision that you get the facts backed up by other sources. Basically her book boils down to "Do your damn homework people!"
I did think it was a tad I'll-natured to poke fun at some of the authors who were writing well before the internet was available to all and who may have had not very good access to research materials. Yes, there are libraries but some are better stocked than others. And yes, primary sources are best but should I be required to read French for the sake of getting my facts completely straight on a particular facet of everyday life in France?
All in all, it I'd a good place to start but don't finish there. As I said, the bibliography at the back is a great resource all on its own.
So, four-ish stars for content (although it seems a few reviewers have caught some mistakes as well) 'facepalm' to use an expression she uses throughout. Also. Writing. Like. This. Does. Not. Get. A. Point. Across. It's a little annoying....more
When I think of 'professional' level writing I think of major level writers, Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell,I really hate to give this one star but...
When I think of 'professional' level writing I think of major level writers, Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, for example. Those writers would not find anything useful in this book.
It would probably be good for beginners but even if you're just starting out and have read extensively you should know most of these concepts and many of her examples are cliches by now. She might be counting on her readers to use them creatively but readers/writers who are creative would most likely think of them on her own.
I also disagree with her use of 'Wimp Points'. According to her scoring system grieving for more than one sentence makes your character a 'Wimp'. Hesitating, even with good reason, gives a Wimp point. Although I agree with her advice on not using the words 'involuntarily' with regards to body functions or at least using them very sparingly.
There's a chapter where she gives examples, then strangely avoids giving examples because of 'copyright issues'. Except that one of the authors she mentions is from the Victorian period and no longer under copyright law. She could also use examples of her own work. Which brings me to the next part..
At the end she gives three of her own short stories and asks the reader to try to identify which techniques she uses. Which is fine but then she leaves it at that. I think a better way of showing it in action would be to try to let the reader see for themselves and then point out the different techniques she uses.
As for the stories themselves I honestly couldn't stand any of the three protagonists. In fact, in one, she actually says that leaving her abusive ex got her into a situation where she doesn't have the protection of a man. I think the ending is supposed to be frightening and or empowering but it's so unrealistic that I couldn't help but roll my eyes. Maybe they were written quickly for the book so I won't be too hard on them but I didn't enjoy any of them much.
If you're a beginning writer this may help you out. But if you've read at all in the genre of your choice then you should be able to recognize familiar tropes and cliches. ...more