Last week our post on new beginnings got me thinking about my new novel and how I’m moving away from what I know.
My first two novels didn’t need extensive researching, I wrote about things I knew about. My last one required research because a publisher asked my to change the location to a country I knew nothing about. My current work in progress is on a whole new level for me.
I have always done chapter breakdowns for my novels but this time I have done it for three stand-alone projects. It is planned down to the minutest detail to ensure I don’t forget some of the threads to the story.
Last Saturday I dragged my husband to an archive centre in London, despite the trains and underground making it as difficult as possible with the Easter engineering works. Thankfully, the DLR helped to bridge the gap. While we were on the train, a couple of young lads were discussing football at length and how they were going to get to the game that day. I won’t tell you who they were going to support but it was a London team, so that should narrow it down a little, if you’re interested. They were so busy talking, they nearly missed their stop but Super Gran (that’s me) came to the rescue and told them they were at their stop. I was rewarded with thanks, some grateful smiles, and a wave when they got off the train. It made my day. I did wonder afterwards whether they would refer to me as “some old girl” when they discussed it later.
Anyway, I digress, back to the archive centre. I did something that day that I’ve always shied away from. I admitted to the assistant that I was researching the Victorian era because I was writing a novel. She was very helpful and knowledgeable. She gave me a quick reminder on how to view microfiche. It needs to be said that the more tired I became, the worse my navigating got. I came home with newspaper print outs, old maps, a couple of books and a husband with a very bad headache.
To be serious for a moment, my research has given me a totally different view on the authors that write historical sagas. We spent nearly four hours in there and that was just the tip of the iceberg.
The old maps have shown me roads and properties that don’t exist now, so that has added a new dimension to my writing. When I got home, the maps were laid out all over the floor and I highlighted different roads on them. I had lists of traders at the time, which adds authenticity to my writing. I spent ages trying to make decisions over which roads to use. Google Earth helped me to look at the properties as they are now, which in turn helped to give an idea of when they were built.
I started off not wanting to do the research and the level of planning that I am subjecting myself to. All I wanted to do was write, but I am shocked to say I have enjoyed it. My writing is easier because of it. The words flow more easily. It’s all part of learning my trade. I am serving my apprenticeship and, hopefully, I’ve just passed the research and planning module.