Brick Wall

OK, so this week I slowed down a little. OK, I slowed down a lot. A brick wall rose on my novel’s highway and I have stopped in front of it, hands on my hips.

I wrote….3300 words. Which, as I was going for 2000 words a day, is, um, a wee bit short.

Granted it is half term and I have only two and half hours of kid-free time. But actually something else is going on.

I’m realizing I don’t know enough. Perhaps this was naive but I wanted to power through this draft just getting the story down. But I’ve taken on a new genre: a historical novel.

My idea is to write a love story set in Singapore in 1937. Groovy no? And I thought I knew a thing or two about Singapore, having lived there for a year and having done a certain amount of research.

And being a rather impatient person–(Cue husband’s and kids’ heads bobbing up and down in agreement…)–I jumped right in.

But as I write and the story unfolds, I realize I do not have the specific information I need. For example my character arrives by ship in 1937. OK. But what did the ship look like? Where did it stop on the way? What would her berth look like?

Each place my character goes I have to think, Did in fact this place exist and what did it look like? What kind of dress would she have worn? How would she have spoken?

The quantity of words I’m trying to write is limited by my lack of knowledge.

So Wednesday I used my two free hours to take myself off to the library–I know, how quaint– to scrounge around trying to find books about the times of my character.

Now I am reading and writing as fast as I can.

This morning I tried to write some words but it was hard going. Nothing was coming. And now as the clock tick tocks towards the time my children will come back from the little tennis camp I have banished them to (where they seem to be eating too many biscuits and hitting too few balls) I’m trying not to panic.

But the good news is…I’m intrigued. I’d like to know what happens.

And that is a good sign.

Tell me, what is going on with you.

photo by JPott (flickr)


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4 responses to “Brick Wall

  1. I completed one more chapter last night, though I think it should count as three, what with all the rewrites . . .

    (hey, libraries aren’t quaint, they’re essential!)

  2. ninakillham

    Well done, Sarah. And yes, I know what you mean about rewrites.
    I just read an article about how in the UK one in three children don’t have books at home. And they want to cut so many libraries. Crazy!

  3. Oh Nina, I understand this only too well! You’re itching to tell the story, you want to get to know your characters better, see what happens between them…you want to be transported. But the details keep getting in the way. My advice? Don’t let them! At least, OK, get your history right more or less first time around, because obviously that impacts on the story. But the interiors, the clothes? Pah! You can colour all that in later. Don’t get bogged down with it, it’s not worth it for the first draft: for now, only the drama counts.

    As for libraries: am impressed that you managed to find relevant material just sitting there on the shelves at Hornsey Library! But for the more closely targeted material, take yourself off to the British Library after the kids go back to school. You will have a BALL. We are very lucky to live so near to it.

  4. ninakillham

    Thanks, Fiona, I think that is excellent advice. Sometimes you do just have to power through and think of the drama. And yes, I’ve been quite surprised by our little Hornsey Library and its selection. I’ve run into a couple of gems. x

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