I’ve got a new book to write. It will be my tenth published novel. Double figures at last.
It’s another historical crime novel, the next in my Silas Quinn series. As always, there’s a bit of research to do before I start writing.
Researching a novel is a bit like lying in a warm bath. You know you’ve been in there too long, but you can’t quite bring yourself to get out.
In some ways, it’s my favourite part of the process. But it’s also the most daunting. There’s just so much material to read. Novels of the period, memoirs, biographies, narrative histories, newspaper archives… Plus whatever is out there on the internet. You want to read everything because you always feel that you’ll find the one detail that will make the difference in the very next thing you read. At the same time, where to begin… or what to read next…
I’m consciously trying to absorb details as I read, looking out for incidents that typify the period and might somehow fit into my story. Trying to get a feel for what it must have been like to be alive in that specific place and time (London at the outbreak of the First World War).
The trick is remembering all those interesting snippets and details that you pick up along the way. You make a note of them, or highlight them on your kindle. But eventually you end up with so many notes and highlighted passages that you can’t keep track. The most recent discoveries block out the gems you dug up earlier.
(And some time in the hazy future, when you’re actually writing the book, something will come back to you. A fuzzy, half-remembered detail that you’re sure is crucial to the scene you’re struggling to imagine. And you’ll drive yourself mad trying to hunt it down.)
The beauty of a book that isn’t written yet is that it is all potential. It could be brilliant. It could even be a bestseller.
But the fear that it will be terrible is there too. And that stops you from beginning the writing.
Better to run a bit more hot water, keep the bath nice and warm, so you don’t have to get out just yet.