Researching and Writing
After emerging from a wonderful, but exhausting Christmas it’s time now to get back to the serious stuff, the research and writing. Yes, I love going out to bookshops, writing festivals, libraries and into schools, but there’s something special about being locked away with notes and scribbles, spending long and yes, often lonely hours at the computer and/or devouring books in the name of research.
So much research can now be done on the internet, but, thankfully, not all, so I’ve had several trips into libraries (I’m a member of 5) including the magnificent State Library of Victoria. There’s nothing like spending time in the Heritage Room with precious rare books, The Redmond Barry Reading Room or the Latrobe Reading Room at the State Library to make you feel like a ‘real’ writer.
Hours and days seem to melt into one another and at the end of the week I often ask myself what I’ve done, but then I glance at the mountain of messy notes, folders and books scattered about the floor and I know I’m moving forward.
I seem to work in two ways.
Sometimes a story idea drops into my head (usually in through the top – and often when I’m just falling to sleep), so I always write something down. But sometimes, if I’m lucky, a full story line emerges and it’s delicious when the words fly out in that first initial burst – this is of course ages before even the slightest bit of editing or rewriting occurs.
Other times, I know the story I have to write, but before I even think about jotting down one word, I research my subject to death. It doesn’t need to be a true story, it can be a fictional one, but if it’s set in a real place, at a specific time (as for example Little Dog and the Christmas Wish or Little Dog and the Summer Holiday) I still keep researching until I know it’s time for me to begin writing and that’s the wonderful part.
At some moment, during that research process, the words speak to me, so I either drag myself from slumber, find something acceptable to write on and with (I have done lipstick and a napkin) or I go and hide myself away in a corner somewhere, tell my husband not to talk to me, and I write.
It’s the best feeling of all.
The research and writing and rewriting process of My Friend Tertius took me ten years. I met some wonderful people along the way but I hope no picture book ever takes that long again, but you never know.