WENDY’S WEEK Books and computers!
Well for me Easter came and went on a floating mist without me even noticing, and although I promised to tell you more about Rye this week, I hope I will be for deferring it until next week, and tell you instead a little about my week. You may have gathered that I have been working on my next book, and they say that every book has its own tale to tell, well The A to Z of Curious Sussex, certainly has a tale a woe all of its own. I was commissioned to write this book and given a deadline of June 2014, back in 2013, but then I became ill, and between a fluctuating low blood count, a series of investigations, painkillers and morphine I spent a while on ‘planet 9’ An operation followed in October 2015 that didn’t go well, and I needed more time to recover.
Suffering from a genetic condition like Stickler syndrome https://stickler.org.uk/ I am used to dealing with ill health, but this episode took a great deal out me and due on all my reserves, but knowing how privileged it is to have a commission these days, I know I had to explain things to my editor and ask for more time. She turned out to be very understanding and said ‘she would see the book when it was finished and hoped it would be ready around 2017.’ Three years later still unwell the book sat somewhere in my computer, note the word somewhere!
I had written about half of it and done most of the research, which sat in scribbled chucks in notebooks, with additional notes of where to go for further research. After a series of emails around the beginning of February this year I was asked if I could complete the book by 30 April 2017 and it would be launched early November in time for the Christmas trade. Of course I said, excitingly, knowing that half was written and much of the research done. The next morning I woke early and opened up my computer, and then came the shock, I could not find the book anywhere on the computer. I frantically searched though disks, memory sticks and an external drive which all reveal nothing. I spent the day going through every folder and document and my blood pressure rising by the second, I knew it was there somewhere, and I must have simply used a name I had forgotten about. I spent the three days panicking and looking at a blank screen in disbelief. Could I really lose half a book? The stark truth hit me, yes I could and I had! Then good old common sense prevailed, and the only explanation I could come up with was that on one of my ‘planet 9’ days I had accidently deleted it. I had no intension of letting my publisher down, so what could I do, but start from scratch!
Over last weekend I completed the
first draft – well 49,850 words of a 50,000 word book and, with aching shoulders and
wrists, breathed a long sigh of relief, but I also aware that I had to fit in two hospital
appointments, as well as the waiting that goes hand in hand with these visits, plus
the anxiety of knowing I should have been at home editing. At least I now had
something to craft, so in a happier frame of mind on Monday I started the first edit,
making a note of the 70 images needed to enhance the book and completed that first
edit today, so with only two weeks to go I can see some light at the end of a very
long dark tunnel, but it left me wondering how others would cope in the same
circumstance, although I hope you’ll never encounter the same problem!
As a non- fiction writer research is an essential tool, although everyone who writes
need to do research, much will depend on the piece of writing, the complexity of the
work, and where you set it. So with this in mind, I thought I would offer a few tips.
Never rely on your memory even if it’s a piece of memoir writing. We can all get
things muddled. I usually start by making a note of what I know, and then jot down
what I don’t know that I will need to know. Most areas have excellent local resources
and some have access to old newspaper and periodicals which are great. But
always be mindful that research should be additional to the writing and should never
take over your project. It is so easy to get more interested in the research than doing
the actual writing. I usually spend a week doing my initial outline of the book, and
making notes for further research then do the rest as I go along. When I started
writing there was no internet, so it meant wading through reference books, visiting
tourist information centres, and talking to lots of people and, although this is still
important, the internet has made things easier for the initial trawl and saves a lot of
time and equips you with the basic facts. However remember that the internet isn’t
always reliable – always check out the facts and always work on the premise ‘If in
doubt leave it out.’ Try to find the quirky, the unusual, or the little known facts. If it
interests you, then there is a good chance it will interest your readers too. Good luck
and, enjoy your research, but remember this is only part of writing a book.