James McPherson on Writing

James McPherson, one of my favorite Civil War historians, was recently interviewed about his writing process. I would love to be able to write like this man.


Looking back at his older writing, he admits he had many faults.

I had yet to learn not to use two or more words when one would do, to use the active voice and action verbs whenever possible, and to keep adjectives and adverbs to a minimum.

Getting better at writing happens by writing and:

In the final analysis, I think that one learns how to write by reading good writing and consciously or subconsciously absorbing the models while retaining one’s own voice. Writers like Allen Nevins, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Richard Hofstadter, David Herbert Donald, George Mowry, and Arthur Link.

Good stuff. Good guy. I wanna write gooder.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s