As a writer you have to get a balance between writing, reading and research. When I committed last year to #ayearofwriting this meant that I sometimes spent much of my time reading and writing (yes, you can class reading as research) but sometimes this meant that I was often left in the air unable to get back down, like a dirty trick that kids do to each other on a seesaw. You remember those games? You’d be sat at one end and as you went up another person would pile on the end that hit the ground so that you were stuck up in the air, holding on for grim death because that drop as a kid seemed endless. Sometimes writing can feel like that. Speaking recently with Simon Crump, the novelist, I asked about craft books and we discussed how we both wrote. We had similarities in how we approached things, often with a simple idea and often not in chronological order. I talked with him about vignette style, he liked that term, but we both agreed that unlike some writers we don’t know where our stories are going. We have a goal, sometimes we want the characters to do this or that, but mostly they do they things that we are appalled at. This is in stark contract to another writer I discussed this with a few years ago, the novelist Phaedra Patrick, who plans everything up front to some extent. This was largely down to when Phaedra first started writing, she had little time beside her full time job and family so she needed to know what and where she was going when she was writing. These are the polar differences in creative writing, camp A has no map, camp B has everything including the kitchen sink. However, both camps will reach their goal and both camps will have casualties. They will lose things along the way, a plot line, a character, the wrong protagonist, a metaphor, a list, a simile or two. Both camps at some point will lose their sanity. Both camps though agree on one thing, you have to write, you have to have that time to just be. I was in danger until a few weeks ago of not writing again and beginning to moan about not writing. Now, I am firmly back on that seesaw and willing to jump on the bastards at the other end keeping me in the air.
You can follow me here each Wednesday through the #clifimadness project which chronicles my research into climate change and how addressing it in fiction, the novel form, may be the answer to reaching a wider audience. I will chronicle my everyday ramblings on twitter and Facebook, please sign up for info there.