September 28, 2013 @ 1:51 AM

Recording etiquette...

What's the etiquette of recording interviews when researching a book – or indeed any other work of journalism, report writing or family history?

How do you get your subject to relax in front of a microphone? To wander freely through the fields of memory and to harvest the information you want?

And how do you, as the interlocutor, go about preparing for the interview, so that you ask the right questions and properly understand the answers?

Asking the right questions...


Such issues were raised in a thoughtful  response by Margaret Penfold to my post Matters of Life and Death, where she commented on the usefulness of recordings for accuracy and interpretation ... but also pointed to the .........

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September 21, 2013 @ 12:48 AM

Not just a literary art...

We writers constantly need reminding of the fact that authorship is not just the practice of a literary art, but that it's also a business ... one involving contracts, rights, responsibilities and the payment of monies: all of which have to be managed sensibly to ensure both a present income and a secure basis for one's future writing.

Most of us acknowledge it in theory. But how often in practice do we meet fellow writers who 'can't be bothered' with the tedium of office work. Receipts are flung into drawers or even discarded. Contracts are left unread.

Correspondence from accountants and other economic bores remains unanswered. All this in the pursuit of a higher art. But neglect these .........

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September 14, 2013 @ 11:15 PM

Getting into trouble...

How often do we writers get into trouble with a story because we haven't read our sources properly? And how often can we solve the problem by going back over the material and reading it again with open eyes and an open mind?

A few weeks ago I posted an article Matters of Life and Death about a research dilemma I was facing.

The document trail – the transcript of a recorded interview, birth and death certificates – had run dry. And the only living witness couldn't remember the events because she was a baby at the time.

The story concerned two mothers, each expecting their fifth child, living in the same house in the early 1920s. One gave birth but died ten days later from the Spanish .........

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September 6, 2013 @ 11:36 PM

Two-part strategy

The technique I adopt of writing a minimum two hundred words a day to maintain my literary output, even when the Muses are hiding, is only one element of a two-part strategy. The other part is this:

I always stop – always – when I know what the next words will be. I never write until I fall into that black hole, dreaded by every author, of not knowing what is to come next.

To be sure I will write to the end of a section or a train of thought. That's part of the minimum 200 words. But when I come to a natural pause in the narrative, and knowing how it is to continue, I will stop.

I may make a note of those words, or even jot down a quick outline of the next sequence. But the actual process of composition.........

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