Tuesday, November 25, 2008

following the dust

Current work: Medical, chapter 10/11 (dirty draft)
Listening to: Corelli (soothing stuff needed)
Reading: next on TBR pile

Everything here is chaos. Conservatory: full of cabinets from utility room. Dining room: full of stuff from half of said cabinets, plus stools from kitchen breakfast bar. Kitchen: full of stuff from other half of utility cabinets. Breakfast bar: taken up by beer fridge, and dehumidifiers underneath. Kitchen bin: buried somewhere, so have temporary bin (aka recyclable carrier bag) on worktop next to sink.

And over everything is a fine layer of dust. You can clean it up with a damp cloth and, ten minutes later, it’s back just as thickly. So there’s no point in doing it, and even less point in getting stressed about it. Though I have to say it’s a tad beyond my mess tolerance limit (which is pretty broad to start with). The smell is horrible – it’s back to living in a building site. I’ve had to cancel plans for the weekend (‘early Christmas’ with the godmothers) because I cannot ask people (even if they are my closest friends) to stay in this mess, and I don’t want to cook a proper Christmas dinner (turkey and trimmings) in a kitchen that reeks of wet concrete/screed/plaster and has dust settling everywhere.

Amazingly, I’m still working. It might only be one chapter on from yesterday… but I tinkered with some earlier ones as well. And I hit the wordcount I need to be on track for finishing the book this week.

OK. Distraction time. Very interesting news here at NASA about a discovery through the Hubble telescope: a planet orbiting another star. (They’re 25 light years away, mind. 147,000,000,000,000 miles.) I particularly like the quote about “following the dust” – yeah, that’s what writing a book is like, for me. Something small that leads you to something bigger.

At the moment, I keep coming across references to glass. I’ve used fulgurites before (in One Night, One Baby); and my plan for the current contract’s books involved a storyline around glass. Murano glass, maybe. (This is possibly an excuse to write a Venetian book and therefore buy a glass bead for my Pandora bracelet – but note the original idea came to me about a year before I discovered Pandora.) Or dichroic glass, which was in my original notes for the storyline. And my mate Michelle Styles has recently fascinated me with this Claude glass business (see her recent book, An Impulsive Debutante, for more details). I’m also researching stained glass – this is for a commissioned nonfic book, but I have the distinct feeling that I’m going to be writing a novel involving glass in a couple of months’ time, because this seems to be the pattern right now.

Um. This seems to be turning into a craft post. So let me state here, yes, I know that this is not how a romance writer is supposed to work. A romance is about the hero, the heroine and their journey together. The characters always, but always, have to come first.

But this is my take on how it works for me. It’s the little things (aka following the dust) that lead me to the characters. My imagination clearly works in an oblique fashion, because I don’t always start with the characters. It’s more likely that something else leads me to them – usually something involving science or history. It might be the fact that I’m fascinated by clouds (One Night, One Baby); or the fact that my dream house came up for sale and was way beyond my means (Sold to the Highest Bidder!); or the fact I was organising a firework display and wanted to know how glow-sticks work (Seeing Stars); or it might be something I uncover during my research for my nonfiction books. (We’re back to glass, again…)

The lightbulb (also glass?) goes on. And then the characters come in and say, ‘Hey, that’s my story.’ When I wake up with the first (or last) scene in my head, I know I’m ready to work on the book.

I know this goes against what all the craft books say: I’m supposed to start with the character and the conflict and ignore everything else. I’ve told my head this, but it’s too busy following the dust – so I’ve learned to stop worrying about the way I’m supposed to work, and to work in the way that’s comfortable for me. (If anyone else out there finds craft books paralyse them: you’re really not alone. They give me a bad case of Impostor Syndrome. Should I be reading them to raise my game? Should I be worrying? Um… The lowest grade I’ve ever had in an exam is the one for which I worked hardest. So I think it’s maybe better to stop worrying and trust my instincts.)

Given that my next book is the Norway book (my lovely, lovely ed has OK’d the revised outline) and the one after that is a Med, this means that this glass business is two books away. Which gives it time to bubble nicely in the back of my mind – and also gives me time to persuade the kids that we need to go and see a glass-blowing display in the next school holidays. They won’t need much persuasion, provided the place I have in mind is near a café that sells chocolate cake – the younger members of my research crew are very predictable.

Glass. Tougher than it looks. (I think that’s my heroine.)

Wonder what my head’s going to find in the huge amount of dust in the building site formerly known as my house?


Michelle Styles said...

Glass is also something transformed.

And have you looked at Prince Rupert's glass bubbles? You know the ones where there is a trick to breaking them.

It is because you know the other stuff, your mind is free to concentrate on the little bits.
There is NO right way to write a story.

Jan Jones said...

Kate, hon, no one who has ever read even one of your books would tell you that you wrote it 'the wrong way'. You write the right way for you. And, boy, does it work!

(I'm also scared of craft books. I dip in, grab an idea and shut the book quickly because otherwise I get very, very dispirited.)

Lori x said...

Your books are great so you do 'do it' right! I'm currently trying to decide between two of your Norfolk books for my christmas present list...I think the Alamack is just winning!

Also, you probably already know this but, there is a stained glass museum in Ely Cathedral (at least there used to be so I assume it is still there), I've never actually been - despite doing my work experience in the Cathedral many years ago at school - but it may be of use for your stained glass research.

Biddy said...

I did glass as part of my degree in Material Science. It was always fascinating, especially when we were experimenting with Beaujolais and how the glass changes wine.
I also did my dissertation on 'The Anatomy of a Light Bulb'... gosh I know how to live! I've probably forgotten it all but if you ever want to chat...

Kate Hardy said...

Michelle - I didn't know about Prince Rupert's bubbles, but I do now - how INTERESTING. (Found other stuff on the way. I think I'm going to have a mathematician hero at some point...) And thanks for the vote of confidence.

Kate Hardy said...

Jan - many thanks. And I'm glad I'm not alone on this craft business thing.

Kate Hardy said...

Lori - many thanks :o)

The Almanac is the one I use in my talks to Year Six - it's definitely the one that gets the most reaction! It's a "dip in and dip out" book, so it usually goes down well. (Am doing a couple more for nearby counties. The research is just fascinating.)

Thanks for reminding me about the stained glass museum. I haven't been there, but their website is fab. I think that's going on my list of places I want to visit in the next hols, time and weather permitting. (And it gives me an excuse to go and see a good mate of mine, as I'd go A11/A14 and branch off at Newmarket.) I've been meaning to visit Ely Cathedral for ages - used to change trains at Ely on the way home from Leicester, and I always promised myself I'd explore the town one day. I just remember it as a very cold train station and the train was always late!

Kate Hardy said...

Biddy - that's all fascinating stuff. I will definitely want to chat at some point :o) (Today's little nerdy research session - started off by lovely Michelle - ended up in the use of gases in glass.)

Lori x said...

I meant Almanac obviously, I'm very sleep deprived and off to the doctors for the third time since Friday. The joys of motherhood hey!