Over Many a Quaint and Curious Volume: A Fiction Writer on the Pleasures of Research

Shields Library, UC Davis, egghead
Shields Library, UC Davis

When I was working on Landfalls, my novel about the Lapérouse expedition, I used to joke that the whole endeavor was just an excuse to go to the library—but I wasn’t always sure I was joking.

One of the reasons the project took so long—besides my painfully slow writing and the demands of grad school and work and, you know, family—was the time I spent researching. There was always one more book to read, one more lead to chase down, one more link to click, one more intriguing footnote I had to follow up on.

It could be a problem. Continue reading

On Writing Slowly

Frowning over every word.

I’m an incredibly slow writer. How slow? Well, there was five minutes of keyboard silence between the completion of that first sentence (“I’m an incredibly slow writer.”) and the arrival of the second one (“How slow?”). And that’s fast for me.

Now you know why I blog so seldom. (Another break while I check my dictionary to see if one blogs seldom or seldomly. Turns out “seldom” is both adverb and adjective. How nice to have that question settled. Another minute while I meditate on that and on the always reliable pleasures of the dictionary.)

This slow thinking coupled with obsessiveness is also why, after seven years of not-exactly-unrelenting-but-pretty-sustained work, my book manuscript is only now crawling toward completion.

Then there’s the research. Continue reading