Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for November 4th, 2018

Barriers to entry

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Only certain ideas lend themselves to the kind of historical writing I like to do. For me a winning idea has to meet four criteria: First, of course, the subject at hand has to be interesting to me—interesting enough to occupy me for about four years of my life. Second, it has to have a built-in narrative arc or engine, meaning there has to be something about the subject that will drive the story along and compel readers to keep reading. Third, it has to be supported by a deep, rich base of archival materials, such as telegrams, letters, testimony, and the like, because in writing this kind of history you have to have as rich a palette of real, true material as possible. You can’t fake it. Fourth, the idea should be complex enough to allow me to proceed with a reasonable assurance that no one else is doing the same book. It needs what business folk refer to as “barriers to entry.” This may sound un-American, but I hate competition.

Erik Larson, on Lithub

Written by nevalalee

November 4, 2018 at 7:30 am

Posted in Quote of the Day, Writing

Tagged with ,

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