Cover Image: Painting the Past

Painting the Past

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Member Reviews

Allard's wise, engaging book is an excellent companion for those hoping to write historical fiction, especially but not exclusively for the first time. Her warm, lively prose makes the book fun and readable, more like conversation than advice. Varied and well-chosen examples from her own work and that of others give her discussions solid grounding in real-world choices and strategies, while prompts and a link to a downloadable workbook give readers hands-on tools to use as they develop their work. In addition to covering basics like research, PAINTING THE PAST tackles some of the challenges that most bedevil writers of historical fiction: how to make diction and dialogue feel authentic without reading as stiff or stilted, for example, and how to write about marginalized groups and people without appropriating their stories. PAINTING THE PAST is a valuable addition to a writer's bookshelf and the perfect gift for anyone starting out in historical fiction writing.
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“How-to” books often aroused suspicions for me, as they often underplay key issues into simple ideas that could be summarised in bullet points. However, this book is not a typical “how-to” books that often stay in best-seller displays in most bookstores. Meredith Allard shares many important points in this short book about how to write historical fiction based on her experiences in doing so. I have never read any of her works before, but to me, it seems that she has enough credentials to publish these “how-to” books with the number of works she has written before and also her current position as the executive editor at The Copperfield Review which is a periodical about historical fiction.

The ideas are easy to digest with relevant examples from the author’s own experiences in writing historical fiction. She emphasises the need to maintain our motivations and personal connections with our work since those factors will be the things that drive our creative process and the research that needs to be done in between writing the stories. Besides that, she also reminds us that research is particularly the most important factor in writing historical fiction to depict the stories as close as possible to particular historical periods, which many beginners in historical fiction often omitted.

Overall, many of the ideas could be applied generally while writing any fiction, but the examples that the author provides in this book could be really helpful for many authors of historical fiction who face writer blocks. I particularly like the way Meredith Allard describes writing historical fiction as an intersection between creative activity and scholarly research. In some ways, historical fiction is the way we bring emotional depths into characters who are forgotten in history books, as most history books only highlight several persons of importance who were essentials to the main narrative.
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Accessible and light read, full of great info on the topic of writing historical fiction. 
The first couple of chapters inspired me the most and they will surely ignite/rekindle a zest for writing in readers of this book.

The remaining chapters will be mostly of use to aspiring writers of historical fiction looking for sensible advice on how to start with their project, which steps to follow and how, some exercises, etc. It covers the basics and does what it says on the tin. 
It's well-written and the author likes to keep it light and entertaining, which makes this a pleasant and fast read.

A minor annoyance was the countless times I encountered "As the Executive Editor of the Copperfield Review..." 
*rolls eyes*
I'm not into that. The author promised no self-promotion in the Introduction. If this is not meant as self-promotion then why not mention your 'title' and e-zine one or two times and then continue with "As an editor..."
Probably it's just me. Others might not have even noticed it and/or were not annoyed by it.

I received this book as an ARC from Netgalley.
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I liked the author's honesty about the screenwriter often being the least important person in the process of bringing a story to life in film. That's a good argument for writing historical fiction. One of Allard's most significant points is finding the spark of creativity in the past. Usually, it is a bit of information about something a writer is researching that motivates that writer to persevere with a story, telling it fully, and telling it well. Another good reminder that is even taught in research paper writing is to narrowing the focus so that the story is easy to work with. As she says, there is a lot of historical material out there.  My only negative comment about this book is that it is a bit too wordy in the beginning although it does pick up. I ended up skimming from one relevant point to the next.
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Painting the Past is a good resource for aspiring writers with general advice on craft in general and a few more specific recommendations on writing historical fiction specifically (which you don't really get to until chapter 7 - What Kind of Information Do I Need?).  At the end of each of those first seven (7) chapters, the author provides a good writing exercise called "Quick Write" that seem useful for figuring out exactly what you want to write about; however, most of the book appears to be anecdotal vignettes to illustrate the concepts or motivate the writer until chapter 17 - Moving Past the Blank Page, where you will find several tips on doing just that.  I found the next seven (7) chapters to be the best part of the book and marked it up for future reference.  Over all it was a simple and accessible reference for a beginning writer that echoed a lot of the advice I have found in other such material with a few tips and tricks to make this slightly unique on is own and worth a look.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
#PaintingThePast #NetGalley
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This was a decent guide for someone who has never written a book and is interested in writing historical fiction.  While Allard doesn't write in depth about the actual craft of writing, she does provide some good advice for getting started, choosing a time period and researching details.
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Painting the Past is a resource and tutorial guide for writers interested in writing historial fiction developed and presented by Meredith Allard. Due out 16th Feb 2021 from Copperfield Press, it's 175 pages (print edition) and will be available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats.

This reminds me in all the best ways of a *good* writing workshop with concrete, logically prepared, and well presented useful advice for the craft of writing, aimed at writers who wish to concentrate on historical fiction. The author/instructor/facilitator makes a case for the appeals and benefits of writing historical fiction, defining (and refining) period and scope, research (yes, you have to do it, obviously), writing, sources, self-editing, traveling for research, finding inspiration, utilizing resources (why everyone loves librarians), and much muuuuch more. There are good writing prompts throughout the book which I strongly recommend actually doing during the reading of this guide. 

Five stars. This was really information dense, fun to read, and very useful. It reminds me a lot of a well run writing workshop with a particularly effective teacher.  I would recommend it to beginning writers (there are good takeaways here for all genres, not just historical fiction). It would also be useful for more structured group workshops or classroom education. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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An excellent guide to writing historical fiction, thank you to netgalley and the publishers for giving me an advance copy of this book to read, I enjoyed it.
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As a trained historian and someone working on writing historical novels, I was drawn to Meredith Allard's Painting the Past and though I ended up finding that this is mostly geared towards those just beginning their writing journeys, I found her voice down to earth, the tips useful for anyone, and was pleased to know that I'm on the right track with what I'm already doing. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone interested in writing historical fiction.

Allard provides helpful tips on finding your creative spark, researching and finding good sources, and provides useful writing prompts.

Thank you to NetGalley and Copperfield Press for providing this copy in exchange for a review.
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