Research or not to research

Normally I research as I write. When a tricky subject comes up I hit the books and Google and find out what I can. Except that this slows up my writing.

A lot.

So this time I have started an experiment. I took two weeks out before I began the book, and I researched the hell out of it. I have plans of yachts and maps… I have house plans and I have visited places that I’m going to write about (the Welsh bit not the Caribbean, unfortunately) and I made a file. Then I started writing.

And I made a pact:

No more research

I don’t care what tangent my writing takes I am not to work it out. If I hit something that I don’t know then I highlight it so I can go back, but I don’t research.

What has this meant?

Well, I’m just over 20k words in and writing about 1000 words a day or more. That is faster than I normally write. So it does appear to be working. My editor looked at the first 10k words and said it was good. She even went as far as to say it was the best I’d written.

I’m not sure about that but I think it is okay. I’m enjoying writing it and I’m going to continue writing without any more researching.

The experiment continues…

Writing – is it a job?

Most of the time I think that writing is a great thing to do. I love it, but I do fight the constant worry that it isn’t a ‘real’ job. I mean, I don’t get a regular wage and I don’t have to work 9-5 every week.

I should mention that my week can actually work out with longer hours and pulling a full 7-day week.

But I still can’t think of it as a ‘real’ job.

Why?

I was chatting to a random lady yesterday (I do that) and it turns out that she is a costume designer and creator. She says to me that she has to do all the family bits and bobs, like taking the cat to the vet and picking up kids, because she doesn’t have a ‘real’ job.

This sounded like writing.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, you know,” she said, “It’s because I work from home.” Then she grimaced. “But when I have a tight deadline on it can feel like I have too much to do. I’ve even had to say no to my family before now…”

She’d looked guilty then and I realised that I have felt the same. It isn’t often when I say no to having to do some kind of outing for friends or family. I just do it, no questions. No matter where I am with a book or how much work I have on.

Why?

Well, because in my own mind, I don’t have a real job. I work from home…

I thought that this feeling was because I write but it turns out that it is due to the fact that my office is in the back garden. There are loads of other cottage industries that feel the same.

Well, I have decided. Writing is a real job and I love what I do… Now if I can just stick to my guns and show everyone that it is…

That’s the tricky part.

Unconscious characters and Vegetable Patches

Today my male character (I haven’t decided whether he is a protagonist or an antagonist) slipped into unconsciousness. I ought to mention that he has been stabbed in the stomach and left floating in the sea for about five hours before being picked up by the heroine. So, whilst getting himself a drink of water, he hit the deck. Probably cracked a tooth as well.

What did I do?

Well, I stared at my screen… This wasn’t in the plan. I checked my brain storm and at no point did it say that the character, Clay, was going to take a nose dive in the kitchen (or galley as he is in a yacht). I had no idea where to go…

So I stepped away.

And checked what was happening with the weather. It was sunny. I must have stood there a while, in shock, and then I grabbed my coat, slid into my wellies and I was gone.

We have a massive market garden and this year everything is behind. It looks like this:

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That is just the end bed – there are three more like it. This bed is made up of the runner bean bed (where I’m standing as I took the photo), another bed that contains a massive stone (you can see the top there), and two raised beds. They should all be clear and filled with manure… they aren’t. So instead, today I removed the bean poles and started to prepare the ground for digging.

I didn’t dig though – I had a character unconscious. I rushed back and managed to type out how Clay had come around and even find him some strong painkillers. And I gave my heroine a panic attack.

All in a good days work.

Worrying developements

I try to notice what goes on the world. My life revolves around the computer but I must admit that I tend to be offline and writing. I only log on when I have finished my word count. Which is why I tend to blog late at night after working all day on the latest book. But I see my Facebook feed and I watch the news.

Really I only noticed this bit of news because of Will Smith.

I love Graham Norton, if you are in the UK then you will know he has a chat show. If you aren’t then look him up – he is hilarious. Anyway, Graham had Will Smith (and others) on his sofa. At one point Graham asks him his opinion on the problem of there being no black actors nominated for the Oscars. Will Looks at Graham and said that it was a tend… That segregation appeared to be making a comeback (I have paraphrased here).

At the time those words where bracketed by jokes and the usual laughs so I didn’t really register them. Not until a couple of days later. Then they stuck with me. Then I saw Trump was trending… And I got a feeling that I was missing something.

It’s easy to do. I live in a very small rural town in Wales. We are in the foothills of the Cambrian mountains and, although not isolated, it has its own rhythm that it works to. My town dances to its own beat and I love that.

I ought to mention that I’m not white… I am a mixture of Irish, Northern Indian, Welsh and English with a tiny bit of Brittany thrown it. Basically I’m someone who is a real ‘mixed-race’ person. I love my history and I love the stories I have. I have a Welsh great great grandmother who never took no for an answer and always smoked a pipe.

And I live in a Welsh speaking community. Does that mean I feel isolated?

Um… No. You see this is Wales and I have never had any racial abuse in Wales. None. I moved here in 2001 and since then I have never had to think about the colour of my skin. England was another matter and something I don’t talk about.

Will Smith made me dredge up the past though. I started thinking about what it might be like in places where segregation was common place. The fear and the anger. It scares me. I have lived it.

I just wish people would love and accept and not try to change others. That’s the thing that gets me. It happens all the time… Why change anyone? It doesn’t work. People are who they are. Like them or just move on. But don’t try to force them into your view. What’s the point?

So yes, the news of late has worried me. What will I do about it?

I live in a small rural town in Wales. I will continue to smile and accept everyone I meet, because I expect them to do the same with me. Still I worry… I just hope that the media have blown everything out of proportion and got the wrong idea.

Dialogue and internal musings

The book I’m working on has two characters, one main heroine and the other is a male ‘bit-part’. I’m not sure how long he will be hanging around but while he is around my character is chatting to him.

Understandably she has, up to now, had an internal dialogue with herself. So how do I distinguish between the two?

I’ve thought about italics.

Or just staring another line, the voice inside my head suggests.

But I’m not sure how to play it.

I started using “speech-marks” but that isn’t something I can do if she keeps chatting to people. It is just too confusing.

I think I’ll keep this problem until I finish the book, but any pointers would be gratefully received.

Imogen came calling

Yep, we have been slammed by the latest storm – Imogen. This year the powers that be have decided to name all the storms… I don’t know whether that makes them worse but we are definitely being put through our paces. Imogen is the ninth storm and she has thrown high winds and rain at us. In fact, we have just had hail so large and loud that there was no way we could hear anything. Basically we just sat around and looked at each other for half and hour.

For me it has meant sleepless nights (my bedroom is set into the roof space) and windy days, but more importantly, no gardening.

By this time I ought to have got the first seeds in, it is warm enough, but the wind is so strong that it is difficult to work on the smallholding. Last night the pig house (a wooden one for three pigs) flipped upside down and is currently located half way up a tree.

So in my down time between writing and art I have taken to baking. It helps me as well, I am allergic to nuts and palm oil so there are a huge number of foodstuffs I can’t eat. Basically, anything processed.

I wondered about sharing a few recipes… I mean I know this is a writing blog but I use the baking and making to cut up my days and it gives me good stuff to eat. A plus on both sides.

I have made a decision. I am going to share a few recipes… Especially the food that you get in the baking isle that you pay little for, but you ought to pay nothing for. I mean they are super easy.

My first is a simple one. In fact, it is made up from left over potato. This can be baked, mashed, or boiled. All you need to do is use the white, leave the skins, they can go into the recycling or compost heap.

Potato Cakes

Take about 0.5 lb or 8 oz of potato – mash it. potato cakes

Mix in 0.5 oz of butter that has been melted or softened. I suppose you could use margarine or another fat – I have to stick to butter to stay away from palm oil.

Mix in a quarter of a teaspoon of salt.

Add 2 oz of plain flour.

Knead it together to form a soft dough (there might be potato lumps in – don’t worry this is fine). Pop it in the fridge until cold (about half an hour).

Then roll it out to about 0.5 cm thick. You can then cut it into rounds, squares or triangles. It doesn’t matter.

Warm up a frying pan and add a splash of oil. Fry the cakes for about 2 minutes each side.

And voilà! Potato cakes. Eat them warm with eggs or bacon, or both!

I tend to make them in batches and then reheat them in the rayburn when I want an egg. Love them… So nice and made of very little. The amount above will make about 8-10 cakes.

Give it a go – you won’t be disappointed and it will use up any left over potato.