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Suffice it to say that the essay has caused me to reimagine (if not actually rewrite) my always-in-progress first novel as a romance.It has also inspired me to revisit Austen’s work with my mind awake and my pencils sharpened.
In the essay “Nothing but Himself: Embracing Jane Austen’s Second Chances,” Livesey walks readers through the particular difficulties of rendering heterosexual romance: “From the reader’s point of view, it is a truth universally acknowledged that if a single man and a single woman are in the same story, they are going to end up together.” Livesey recognizes how Austen controls readers’ expectations, and she looks toward Austen for insight in writing her own romance novel.
She observes, “I knew that, almost irrespective of the difficulties with which I burdened my characters, readers would be expecting this unlikely couple to end up together.
Dozens of swans, all facing in the same direction, drift on the dark waters. A narrow path zigzags up the hill through the long grass….
I climb slowly, taking in the ever-expanding view, occasionally startling, and being startled by, a sheep.
Simplicity, clarity and directness are some of the most important considerations when producing nonfiction.
Audience is important in any artistic or descriptive endeavor, but it is perhaps most important in nonfiction.
Margot Livesey’s essay collection The Hidden Machinery is a journey through one novelist’s efforts to be influenced by great fiction.
It’s also the best craft book of 2017 not written by John Mc Phee.
In the essay “Shakespeare for Writers,” a title that prepares me for a waking nap, she offers the only wholly intelligible and convincing argument that I’ve encountered for why today’s fledgling writers should study the Bard.
After revisiting and analyzing four Shakespeare plays (A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Henry IV, Part II; The Merchant of Venice; and King Lear), she distills them into a list of “sixteen golden sovereigns,” or writerly takeaways (directly quoted): I’m breaking the second rule by withholding the twelve steps that follow.