There is nothing like the behavioural reinforcement of posting your daily word count to maintain writing momentum. Thirty days after setting myself the NaNoWriMo challenge, I’ve hit 50,894 words and have a completely new way into my embryonic novel (NB: very long gestation period…but I won’t go there…just enjoying the moment).
Click on this link for a taster of where it’s all going:
“. . the Destiny of my life was cast on seeing for the first time an ‘Apollo’ in the handsome Captain Cowin of the 73rd Regiment. Even at this long period I blush to make this romantic confession, nevertheless the age of 12 may offer an excuse. ”
I was reading the memoir of Lady Dowling*, a very distant forebear of my husband. I was already intrigued, but this was the passage that captured me. Three years later, I have finished putting together a short biography of this flighty, restless woman (for details, see under Publications on this site). What I’ve learned in the process includes:
Never believe a memoirist (they leave out all the interesting parts),
Never trust a man who keeps a journal (they put in all the interesting parts), and
Never think your research won’t be contradicted by your next search of Trove.
I’ve also learned that I’m not alone in grappling with a million writing dilemmas. With this knowledge, I’m continuing to explore the border zones of creativity in the portrayal of historical people and events.
*Dowling, H. “Memoir of the Early Life of Harriott Mary Dowling Nee Blaxland: Or Sketches of India and Australia in Old Times.” In Dowling family papers 1767-1905: Manuscripts, Oral History & Pictures, State Library of New South Wales, Catalogue DLMSQ 305, Item 5, 1875.
Harriet Blaxland was the eldest child of John Blaxland, who arrived as one of the first free settlers of substance in the colony of Sydney in 1806. On a whim, she accepted the invitation to live with her aunt in Calcutta. By sixteen, she was married to Alexander Macdonald Ritchie, partner in one of the richest mercantile agencies in India, and living in Agra with views of the ruins of the Taj Mahal from her veranda. Bankruptcy and the death of her husband brought Harriet back to Sydney in 1827. Eight years later, she married Sir James Dowling, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. His death prompted her to return to England at the age of forty-seven. Prompted by reading her unpublished memoir, I’ve been exploring her life further with a view to writing both a fictional account and a short biography.
Dowling, H. Memoir of the Early Life of Harriott Mary Dowling Nee Blaxland: Or Sketches of India and Australia in Old Times. Typescript copy, held with Dowling family papers 1767-1905, held at State Library of New South Wales (Mitchell Library), Sydney, DLMSQ 305, Item 5, 1875.