A room of her own

This is a reworked repost from my travel blog.

As Virginia Woolfe famously wrote, a writer, especially a woman, needs money and a room of her own to get any writing done. As a budding writer, I can’t but agree. The idea for my first book, a murder mystery, was given to me on a silver platter by a fellow passenger onboard my second container ship (thanks Mary!) on my 15 month travel around the world. During the year ago that followed, I did little actual writing for three main reasons, and lack of a room of my own was only the last of them.

Photo by The British Library

First, I realized soon enough that what I wanted was to write a series of cozy murder mysteries with the same amateur sleuth, and that required planning. If it was going to be a series, I needed a compelling main character, interesting supporting characters, and an overall narrative drive that would maintain the interest of the readers over several books. It has been fun planning that all out, although you may find it odd that I have rough plans for about nine books before I have written even the first one. But for me, it made sense to have an idea where the overall story would go before setting off, even though it’s not like I’m writing something as complex as the Harry Potter series. The narrative arc is not that meticulous, but I felt it needed thinking about before getting my first book too far off the ground.

Also, I didn’t know my genre well enough to feel I was ready to write a book of my own. Even though I had read many murder mysteries in the past, I had stopped reading them years ago because the modern murder mystery, or detective story, is quite often so gory and the impetus is too often the dead body of a traumatized woman. I simply didn’t want to read books like that. So I had taken refuge with Agatha Christie and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, both firmly in the cozy mystery genre, with of course very different results. But I had not read many, if all, modern cozy mysteries set in modern times, so in the past year I’ve caught up with the genre by reading well over a hundred such stories so far. I needed a better idea of what is already out there, and there seems to be a bit of a dearth of books like mine. I’m going to leave that a bit mysterious for now.

Photo by cdrummbks

Thirdly, when you are traveling, your days are filled with the actual time-consuming effort of getting from place to place, planning where to go next and making all of the bookings, as well as doing all the hiking, temple hopping and diving you want to do. The evenings are taken with sorting out the photos, writing blog posts, and just the normal human things like eating, doing laundry, and sleeping. And of course staying in dormitories provides little time or privacy.

As the time went on I was getting increasingly exhausted of the whole effort. While I loved my Grand Adventure, the cumulative weariness started to weigh on me towards the end of the journey. That was one of the reasons why I ended up making an unplanned container ship journey all the way from China back to the UK. After that it was another two months of traveling, mostly in Scotland, before I found my new home and before it was available to me. I had a lovely time, and Scotland is simply amazing, but it was rather hard having that extra wait and more travel at a time when I really wanted to go home.

Even after I settled down, it took me a while to get properly started.  My writing style tends to require a longer thinking and researching phase followed by an intense few weeks to write the first draft with few breaks. I will have to see if that changes, as my earlier bigger writing tasks were one-off theses, rather than a continuing series of books, but for the first one especially it still feels the right method.

Crime scene reconstruction at the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries exhibition in Melbourne

And it seems it has worked well so far. Ideas had been percolating in the writing corner of my mind, with new thoughts, characters and scenes popping up and bumping against each other. When I did sit down to pick up my writing from that 30 page start I had made during my travels, I wrote the first draft in three weeks. Since then I’ve started to plan and draft my second book, as I believe firmly in letting drafts marinate for some weeks before the first proper edit.

I have also started to think about publishing. It is a whole another topic, but one that requires thorough planning. So while I am making fantastic progress, the publishing date is still months away. I will try and keep the wait interesting by blogging about my progress.