I’ve got a new system. I go to bed thinking about what I want to write next then, just as I’m about to fall asleep, something pops into my head. I keep a notebook by the bed and just scribble down some quick reminders, before the arms of Morpheus grab me. Depending on my degree of sleepiness or sobriety, the notes make lesser or greater sense in the morning – and I take the notebook and sit down and get going.
Today my overnight idea was just a small comment made by an incidental character – but it was enough to get me started and I went on and wrote 1500 more words, thereby breaking into the next plot development. Tonight’s task is already assigned so let’s hope the inspiration comes along.
A few words on research. I do incidental research as I go – dipping out of the manuscript and into my browser. The more fundamental stuff I do separately, as it usually involves a lot of reading and I’m trying to build up a deeper understanding of time and place. Today my magpie research included checking the weather in Yorkshire in 1936, reading about the burning of the Crystal Palace, and checking the key events that make up “the season”.
My more in depth research involves finding out about the workings of tea plantations and, in that context, I’m currently reading a charming illustrated book, given to me by an Italian friend from Rome, Anna, called The Story of Munnar by Sulochana Nalapat. It’s written in a rather florid, but very charming style and is a pot pourri of information about the plantations, life in Munnar and the history of the place.
To keep India in my mind, I’m also reading a lot of fiction set there – even if not in the period I’m writing about. I’ve recently finished the excellent ‘Staying On’ by Paul Scott and am currently immersed in JG Farrell’s ‘The Siege of Krishnapur’. To get a flavour of England in the 1930s I’m planning to raid my sister’s enormous DVD library and borrow some old movies.