Tag Archives: Caro Clarke

INKSPILL – Are You A Writer? Quiz

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SUNDAY 27th October – DAY 3

Every good retreat has an element of fun – here is ours.

Whilst researching historical fiction and research for the INKWELL session yesterday, INKWELL

I discovered Caro Clarke. On the website there are many writing resources, including this quiz.


Thank you Caro for permission to use this quiz as part of the INKSPILL retreat.




Are you a writer? Take the quiz

Most famous writers claim that they always knew they would be a writer when they grew up. Despite set-backs and struggle, they had confidence in their own innate talent and creative instincts.

But not all writers have that rock-solid confidence (or, as it’s known in the writing business, ‘arrogance’). How do you know if you’re truly cut out for the life of a novelist or if you’re actually some sad wannabe who’s pitied by friends and family?

Just take the Clarke Patented “Am I Really a Writer?” multiple-choice test below and find out once and for all if you’ve got what it takes!


(Asking your writing group, tutor, or best friend to help you fill out this test is cheating. So is asking a writer to do it for you, such as Margaret Atwood.)

A. I think I’m a writer because:

1. I enjoy writing

2. I enjoy reading

3. I enjoy typing

4. I enjoy knowing that I am a creative being


B. I tend to get my ideas from:

1. the world around me

2. the fantasies within me

3. the TV in front of me

4. the concept of “idea” is so, you know, anal retentive


C. I try to write:

1. one sustained period a day

2. one sustained period whenever inspiration strikes me

3. you mean I actually have to write something all the time?

4. only when it won’t violate my imaginative flow


D. I believe that adjectives and adverbs:

1. should be used sparingly

2. should be used vigorously, fulsomely, and without stint

3. are what, exactly?

4. are pathetic attempts to limit my creative energy


E. I structure my novel-in-progress by:

1. writing to a prepared plot outline or a driving story arc

2. writing whatever comes into my head from moment to moment

3. writing that cool idea I came across somewhere else today

4. how mundane actually to have a “novel-in-progress”; I have a concept


F. I achieve the self-discipline to write by:

1. forcing myself to work whether I’m in the mood or not

2. letting guilt finally force me to do something, anything

3. jotting down half a page now and again and rewarding myself with ice cream

4. self-discipline is the enemy of creativity


G. I deal with difficult, blocked or ‘dry’ periods by:

1. working on something else to retain good writing habits

2. panicking and bingeing

3. wondering if I shouldn’t take up decoy carving instead

4. only real writers are really blocked


H. I strive to make my work:

1. as good as it can be by rewriting and polishing

2. as good as that first true inspiration will allow it to be

3. as unembarrassing as I can before going to my writing group – they’re  really mean

4. as unintrusive in my creative life as possible


I. I approach the task of finding an agent or publisher by:

1. researching the market thoroughly and learning how to make a professional submission

2. sending my manuscript and a very nice letter to my writing tutor’s publisher

3. sending my manuscript to the publishers of the latest best-seller

4. they’ll be knocking on my door begging me for my manuscript


J. I accept rejection slips:

1. with a pang, then move to the next submission

2. with a little sigh: I secretly knew it was no good

3. with a howl of unbelieving rage: ignorant jackasses, don’t they know true talent when they see it…

4. I’m too sensitive to put myself through such a negative experience


K. I see myself in the future:

1. finding satisfaction in writing novels my readers enjoy

2. becoming a rich and famous best-seller and appearing on TV

3. winning the Pulitzer, the Booker, and the Nobel Prize for Literature

4. being the most famous person on the planet. Hey, in the universe!


L. I want to write because:

1. I have characters and stories bursting to come to life

2. I like the idea of having a book published

3. I like the idea of being a writer

4. I didn’t say I wanted to write, just that I know I’m a writer,  and this is a dumb test, anyway


inkspill questions

How to score this test:

Count up the numbers of the answers you have selected.

If you have a total of:

12-16: You seem to have what it takes. I’ll see you in print one day.

17-25: Time to get serious. Take one giant step towards a professional attitude.

26-35: What a dweeb. Quit dreaming and get a life.

36-48: Jerk extraordinaire! Out of my sight, thou posturing ninny!


Having taken the Clarke’s Patented “Am I Really a Writer?” Test, you now know if you are a real writer or not. If you are, congratulations! If you aren’t, contact me for some useful websites on needlework, photography or windsurfing.

But seriously, folks: the basic test of whether someone is a real writer or not is if they really write. There’s no magic to it. Either you write or you don’t. It’s that simple.

Copyright Caro Clarke – http://www.caroclarke.com

It pains me to have to say this, but this article is meant to be funny (although it’s a real test and will tell you the truth). I have had indignant responses from those who took it deadly seriously. I fear for those people in this harsh world. I mean, geez.


INKSPILL – INKWELL Session 1 – Historical Fiction & Research Part 2

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SATURDAY 26th October – DAY 2

AWF circle Inkwell 1 – Historical Fiction & Research – your questions answered. Research, polls and questions posted on the blog in the summer. Alternative links will be available for those not interested in Historical Fiction.

Welcome to the first INKWELL session, this is the 2nd part Skills & knowledge, Pitfalls to Avoid & Historical Research

FIND THE FIRST PART OF THIS INKWELL SESSION HERE https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/3517/

inkspill crit.


Your Questions Answered – Ink Well

Historical research & fictional writing

In this session we will cover

  • Research & Sources
  • Skills & knowledge
  • Pitfalls to avoid
  • Historical Fiction – Research

Skills & knowledgeAWF circle

It is as important as researching that you understand how to apply the knowledge to your writing.

Just because your novel is set in the past doesn’t mean that the manuscript should be full or archaic text that the reader would need a companion book to understand.

You have to find a balance between showing the historical setting and creating a book that appeals to the modern reader. You cant just throw your characters into costumes and alter their speech at the same time you must not overwhelm the reader with hundreds of pages of historically accurate detail and end up with more of a nonfiction history text either.

Find a good balance. Readers of historical fiction are usually well-informed, and while they don’t want to be bogged down with useless information, they also don’t want to see a Celtic maiden wearing pleather, or a World War I soldier using laser sight.

ã 2010 staff writer Writer’s Relief


You’ll need to research their style of dress and your characters’ names.

Sometimes looking at old photographs or paintings can give you a good sense of the clothing and hairstyles of the period.


Find out what streets, buildings, and parks existed at that time. If the location isn’t crucial to your story, or if you’ve created a fictional town or city, keep track of the basic information and stay consistent.

Dialect and Terminology

Make sure you’ve got the correct terminology.

Where to find information

Internet sources are not always reliable (although reference links on Wikipedia can be helpful), and any information gleaned from them should be carefully cross-checked. The Internet is full of great sources, and you might start at a historical fiction writers’ site for some valuable and pre-tested Web site links.

If possible, personally visit the location you’re writing about. Tourism offices and historical societies are often helpful and usually have the most accurate information about their cities and towns. Visit the local museum, attend re-enactments, or interview old-timers. Take a tour, take some time, take pictures, and immerse yourself in the depths of the setting. If this is impossible, check with historians and/or the local library.

An obvious place to start is the library and a good librarian can be invaluable. They may have original documents and maps hidden away from the general public, or they can steer you in the right direction. Books aimed at younger readers can also boil down the basics of a time period—what people ate, how they dressed, what their bedrooms looked like, what their mother might say and more. Also, check out the history section of bookstores, and don’t forget about used bookstores—they often have out-of-print history books that can offer a glimpse of the past.

Ask the experts. Find a local expert on the Civil War, or check out the Web site of a well-known Roman Empire scholar. Many experts are happy to answer your questions as long as you’re professional and have done some of your own research in advance.

Keep in mind that you can’t please everyone. There are bound to be grey areas where you’ve taken some liberties, or you may have overlooked some pretty obvious anachronisms. If your plot and character development are strong, editors and readers will be more forgiving of technical inaccuracies.


Pitfalls to Avoid AWF circle


  • Poor Research


  • Too much History in the Text


  • Dialogue that doesn’t fit the era


  • Setting not specific enough to show where the story takes place.


  • The modern world seeping in.

© 2010 Margo L. Dill


  1. You are writing fiction first and historical fiction second
  2. avoid history lessons
  3. use your research
  4. build a setting
  5. use language, dialect & accents


Historical Fiction – ResearchAWF circle

Things to remember about doing historical research:


  1. Learn to love the learning process that comes with it. Think of yourself as a detective or an archaeologist sifting through clues and analyzing data.
  2. Use a good mix of primary and secondary sources for both perspective and immediacy.
  3. Double-check everything. Mistakes will reflect on your work even if it is the fault of your source.
  4. Hand in hand with double-checking comes evaluating your sources. If something seems a bit improbable or sketchy, it probably is. Look for another source to back it up.
  5. Use archaeological records, art, music and alternative resources to round out your research.

Copyright © 2004 Catherine Lundoff


Links to articles on Historical Fiction writing

We finish this first INKWELL session on Historical Fiction with a list of useful websites.


British Library http://www.bl.uk/

US Public Libraries


http://books.google.com/ search inside many public domain works

http://www.royalhistoricalsociety.org/ Royal Historical Society: wonderful programme of lectures






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We hope you have found this session helpful and that you have gained valuable information from the posts.

If you still have burning questions that neither this session, relevant articles or linked websites can answer, leave your comment here and we will do our best to answer it by the end of the retreat.

Thank you.


INKSPILL – INKWELL Session 1 – Historical Fiction & Research


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SATURDAY 26th October – DAY 2

AWF circle Inkwell 1 – Historical Fiction & Research – your questions answered. Research, polls and questions posted on the blog in the summer. Alternative links will be available for those not interested in Historical Fiction.

Welcome to the first INKWELL session, if Historical Fiction and Research is not of interest to you, here is an alternative link


inkspill crit.


Your Questions Answered – Ink Well

Session 1

During the planning of this programme I asked followers of my blog what they wanted to know. I have always found courses and workshops more fulfilling when they are personalised and able to cater to specific needs, knowledge and support.

The first of these sessions tackles Historical Fiction. I have drawn on my own research and many sources, I write in my own words and link up to articles written by experts, websites and publications along the way, I have sought permission to do so from the original sources/ writers.

For those of you not interested in this session there is an alternative link to continue a creative writing focus.



inkspill crit.

Historical research & fictional writing

In this session we will cover

  • Research & Sources
  • Skills & knowledge
  • Pitfalls to avoid
  • Historical Fiction – Research

Let’s begin with a definition of Historical Fiction;

Research & Sources AWF circle

I would argue that all writing requires a certain element of research, even if it is as simple as researching the chosen market or target readership. Writing Historical Fiction inevitably involves thorough research, so if you’re not up for that you should think twice about writing in this genre. In fact, don’t think. Just don’t do it.

Similarly if you are so gripped by the research and haven’t got ideas for plots or characters, perhaps you should consider writing Historical non-fiction.

How much research is enough? Is a common question and we will address this issue in this session.

Caro Clarke writes about Historical Fiction (amongst other things)

The good historical novel is the wise selection of the right fact for the right effect. It doesn’t surfeit the reader by too much information, it doesn’t starve them with too little. But, in the end, it is the story that must rule. If you’ve swept your readers into Willem’s world by judicious use of historical fact, you must hold them there because of Willem himself, because of Maria Dolores, and their struggle to love each other. If you don’t engage your readers’ emotions, all the research in the world is for nothing.

You must bear this in mind along with your research the need for the story, the characters and the plot, it is this that will keep the readers interested. You need just enough research to be an expert on the times and to avoid uncharacteristic items and events into the setting and plot of your chosen period. You need not be an expert or a historian.

Copyright Caro Clarke


So what about that research?

It’s important to know there are two basic categories;

  • Primary sources, contemporary records of the time period that you are researching.
  • Secondary sources – written after that time period.

And it’s not just books that have the answers. As a historical researcher, think about other possible sources of historical fact.

Many writers join historical re-enactment groups or organizations that focus on aspects of the time period that they are interested in. These organisations usually have some local experts and knowledgeable people, who would probably be only too willing to help with your research. It can be quicker to learn this way. Remember you need to keep your story historically accurate, but it is the STORY that counts. So you need to know enough to represent an authentic feel.


Beyond Books

You can find other ways to research;

  • Try watching films and plays about your chosen time period,
  • go to museums and travel if you can.
  • Check out local restaurants with the cuisine of the area you’re writing about.
  • There may be community education programs on culture, language and travel at local colleges:
  • try taking a class or attending a talk.
  • Learn to ride a horse or shoot a bow and arrow or do silk embroidery.

These experiences will help you use first hand knowledge in your writing – and at the very least may lead to an interesting new hobby!


How much research is too much?

This is the opinion of Catherine Lundoff (from her article ‘Historical Research for Fiction writers’ )

If it becomes a substitute for writing, then it may be time to stop for a while. If you get excited about doing research, it’s fairly easy to get sidetracked to the point you’re doing more research than writing. Don’t lose sight of your goal: a finished story where the settings, plot and characters pull the reader into a vivid picture that he or she may not have read before. Remember you can always check more facts later. There should be a point where you begin to actually write your novel.

© Catherine Lundoff

Catherine Lundoff uses historical settings for a lot of her fiction, including an ongoing series on vampires in colonial Mexico, swashbuckling adventures set in regency England and 16th-century France, and a novel set in an alternate nineteenth century Europe. She even put herself through graduate school on her research skills. Her articles have appeared in The Journal of Women’s History, Speculations, the SpecFicMe Newsletter, American Writer, Queue Press, and Writing-World. Check out her website at




Links include the full article ‘Historical Research for Fiction Writers’ where Catherine Lundoff writes in depth about the process of researching and writing in this genre.

Remember to use a range of Primary and Secondary resources and double check everything.

Skills and Knowledge AWF circleCOMING SOON