Digging in at the Archive” is a wonderful Grub Street blog post by Boston writer Cam Terwilliger. On finding in archives writing by the character he’d been researching and writing about:

“Instantly, the period I’d struggled to understand became so much more immediate. The people I was writing about no longer seemed like figments of my imagination. They felt real.”

Scroll down the blog for Terwilliger’s research tips, which I found excellent. In a nutshell:

1) When you begin your research, be open.

2) When you begin to write, be selective: that is, don’t include everything.

Terwilliger ends his post with a worthy quote from the ever-quotable Hemingway:

“If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows.  And the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them.”

Some quote the passage above with the line: “The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.”

{On the image above: I felt that same thrill of “actuality” when I happened upon these Josephine and Napoleon signatures on a wedding contract in a library in Berkeley, California. Not only was it concrete evidence of their existence, but it told me so much about them: the energy and impatience of Napoleon, Josephine’s graceful acceptance.}