I have been trying to edit my manuscript and get it in the best shape possible. There are typos and redundancies and places that need a bit more pep. And then there are the more important issues – like historical accuracy and avoiding plagiarism.
I have one chapter that begins with my grandfather listening to the news about the invasion of The Netherlands on the radio. I was very proud of myself when I found the original broadcast and quoted it directly. Here is the section:
“Pappie, why do you have the radio on? It’s breakfast time. We never listen to the radio in the morning,” said Tutti as she padded into the living room.
“Ssshhh, Tutti,” Heinz replied.
“…Since 3AM German troops have crossed the Netherland frontier and German planes have tried to attack airports…,” squawked the radio.
“But Pappie, it’s so loud…” she continued.
“SSSHHH, Tutti,” Heinz insisted.
Margret set two glasses of milk on the table in the kitchen and then went to the living room to fetch the children. “Here Tutti. Robbie, come to the table now please.”
“…German troops were first reported crossing the Netherland frontier near Roermond, eight miles north of the Belgian frontier...”
Robbie started to cry. Margret picked him up and walked to the window.
Tutti tried to get her father’s attention. “Pappie, can we listen to music? Robbie doesn’t like this man’s voice and neither do I.”
“Um Gottes willen! Margret, take the children to the other room. I need to hear the news,” Heinz bellowed as he ground his cigarette butt into an overfull ashtray.
Margret turned around with Robbie in her arms. She took Tutti by the hand and led her to the kitchen. They could still hear the radio.
“… German planes landed troops by parachute at strategic points near Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam and other large cities…”
“Tutti, please help Robbie with his milk. I’ll be right back,” said Margret. Then she went back to the living room, turned the radio down a little, and shut the heavy door. Once back in the kitchen she attended to the children.
The sections in italics are directly quoted from a radio broadcast. Now here is my problem. I can’t find my notes on where I found this or which radio station it was. I don’t know if it was broadcast in English,or if this is a translation of Dutch or German.
This is what happens when you don’t keep track of your own process. I wish I was better organized like my friend Arnoud-Jan. He recently sent me a draft of a chapter from his manuscript. Every piece of information is footnoted. Some pages are so well documented that there are more footnotes than actual writing.
Now I am faced with a choice – continue to try to hunt down my original source (which I already spent two hours doing this morning) or take the information and put it into my own words so I am not plagiarizing.
Writing with historical accuracy is harder than it looks.
*To avoid plagiarism I need to point out that this is paraphrased from an often misquoted line from Laurel and Hardy.