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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > July 2017 > Past tense

Past tense

A reader worried about setting her novel in the past gets research advice from Jane Wenham-Jones


I have an idea for a novel which I am very keen to progress. However the plot will only work if there is no modern day technology so I am thinking of setting it at the very end of the 19th century. My problem is that the last time I studied history was as one of my O levels over forty years ago and my knowledge of this period is limited. I love costume dramas and obviously I can research things online but do you think this will be enough? How can I ensure I get the language right and the clothes? If it’s a good enough story, will it matter if I get the odd detail wrong? Or am I being over-ambitious in even attempting to set a book in a past I know nothing about?

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About Writing Magazine

How do you follow up one of the biggest books of the decade? The Girl on the Train author Paula Hawkins tells us about changing tracks and writing the book that matters to you in our star interview. What do editors want? There can't be anyone in a better position to tell you than debut novelist Anna Pitoniak, who worked as a Big Five editor before landing her book deal. How is your year's writing plan going? As 2017 hits the halfway mark, we help you stay on target. Look for leads, find the most up-to-date markets for your work and enter the latest writing competitions, with more than £50,000 in writing prizes, in the Writers' News pages, packed with news you can use.

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