Keen followers of this blog, if such there be, will have noticed that we’ve had a bit of a pause recently. Three weeks or so without a post.
That’s been for a couple of reasons. The first is that we’ve been manically putting the final pieces in place for the launch of our lovely & delightful Festival. The second , even better reason, is that I’ve been putting in place the final pieces of my equally lovely & delightful detective novel – a follow up to Talking To The Dead, which is coming out later this summer in Britain, the US, and plenty of other places too.
I’m going to talk a bit about TTTD in future posts. Not just the construction of the book (which is, I’m sure, my best novel yet) but also its publishing. After all, it’s somewhat dispiriting writing a good book if no one reads it and how a novel is published is every bit as important to sales as the quality of the novel itself. (Or more so, indeed.) But before that, can I just say, this to Sam in response to his post: Wot? No distractions? None? Are you kidding me?
Personally, I can’t write unless I have plenty of fidget-activity too. I always write with full internet access wherever possible. And if there isn’t access for any reason, then I always miss it.
And it’s not just the net. My WW colleagues will be able to testify that no one east of Offa’s Dyke drinks more tea than I do. Since the kettle is on the ground floor and our office is two storeys up, I’m up and down those stairs all day. And when one of the dogs needs to go out into the garden, or when the postman knocks, or when the phone goes, all that’s another excuse for more tea and more yammering up and down those stairs.
Those things aren’t the enemy of my novel. They’re an essential part of my process. I sort of fiddle my way into the zone. Full immersion in the novel tends to take me a couple of hours or more and all the fiddling around is a way of easing that transition.
What’s more, I find the internet unbelievably useful to creative endeavour. Google maps and Street View is a fabulous way to research locations from home. Wikipedia is an awesome place to find a sniper’s rifle for Lev, one of my characters. (He likes this one.) There are stunningly useful websites on forensic science – like this one – run by people who stand ready to answer dippy questions from numpties like me.
And so on. Of course, you could research all these things afterwards, or do your homework beforehand, but I find that the imagination becomes stymied by ignorance. Not having at your fingertips the detail of that sniper’s rifle may inhibit your flow. Yes, you can always come back to the text, but you won’t be in the same place as you were in that first rush of writing it. I’m a huge believer in editing and re-editing text for as long as it takes, but I also get vast benefit from exploiting the creative rush to the max while it’s on.
I’m aware that thoughts like these have become controversial. Proust used to write in a cork-lined room, bless his sensitive Gallic soul. Jonathan Franzen wears ear plugs. He has a white noise device. He has physically incapacitated his computer from playing computer games or connecting to the net. His writing office is famously bare. And Jonathan Franzen is a Great American Novelist. So if we’re not doing the same, we must somehow be philistines. So perhaps we should go one better. Out-Franzen Franzen? We could try wrapping our heads in duct tape, using our laptop only for basic heating & lighting, or why don’t we try stuffing up our nostrils with goose fat to prevent the incursion of dangerously distracting smells.
Or not. You can disable your computers and get out the goose fat if you like. Me, I like to write amidst the hurly-burly, plugged into the net, and never more than a few moments away from my next cup of tea.