I’ve just sent the 14th draft of the plot of The Next Novel to my L.A. editor. Such a deep “sigh!” when I pressed send! I’m getting closer … I think.

I answered emails from readers on the week-end. One I got was a first for me: a serious response to my struggles with research (as posted on my research blog) and what that meant with respect to the plot of The Next Novel. He (or she: I don’t know) was concerned that I was headed in the wrong direction:

As a fan of your writing, I should probably have some faith that the Next Novel is going to be great, regardless of how you decide to organize the plot. However, I must admit that I’m a little dispirited by the direction in which your research seems to be leading you.

With permission, I’ve posted the letter in full on my research blog because it very much deals with the interpretations of historical account with respect to the Affair of the Poisons.

Novelists, even ones who are rigorous about the facts, have an obligation, first and foremost, to telling a good story.

I agree with this reader that story is the most important thing. As a writer, I do “massage” the historical record for the sake of story, but it’s hard to write passionately about something for years and years if I suspect it’s not true: and right now, I have some doubt about the extent of Athénaïs‘s guilt.

Part of my personal motivation for writing about history is to explore that reality—but what is the reality? I may not really know what I think about this until I’m into the bowels of the very last draft, years from now.

[Note: my research blog URL is /research/baroque-explorations/]