Friday, November 22, 2019

Writing/Not Writing from London--Deborah Crombie

DEBORAH CROMBIE: We are batting for naught this week on the writing front--except for Hank, who we hope is turning out those last ten elusive pages! And I am so not adding to the page count on my front. Between the pre-pub promotion for A BITTER FEAST, book tour, Bouchercon, then leaving for three weeks in London, I've barely had time to catch my breath, much less think, for the last couple of months.

I AM researching now, however, tromping around London! Background, setting, atmosphere, characters, for Kincaid/James#19. My process is much like Rhys's. I start with an idea for a setting and a basic story. Then I need to spend time in that place, taking loads of notes and photos, and just see where things take me. Where does an incident happen? Where do the characters live? Who do they live with? Where do they work? How do you get from point A to point B? And of course I want to know what people are eating! Just drool over these pastries from Paul's, the French bakery! There is one right across the road from my tube station, so I am in big trouble!


I know that a good part of the book takes place in central London, in Bloomsbury, Holborn, and Soho, so I have spent hours and hours walking "creatively" i.e. "not lost," just soaking things up.

I spent a good few hours in the British Museum, although I have no idea where or how or even if it might work into the story. But it is so amazing. You could spend weeks there, all day every day, and not see it all. 


I discovered the London Le Cordon Bleu! I think I was admiring the knives here. Hmm.



And next to it, the London Review of Books Shop, which is total book store heaven, and it has a wonderful cafe.

I walked through Russell Square at dusk, potentially the scene of a crime.


I have flashes of the book now. Scenes, locations, scraps of dialogue. The characters are taking on form, like holograms filling in. 

The challenge will be going home next week, right at the beginning of the holidays, and diving in without losing my focus. I promise next time on What We're Writing I will have some actual words to share.

REDs and readers, do you have a process for starting books or big projects?  Please share!





40 comments:

  1. I’m drooling! Your pictures and details about London make me want to hop on a plane and visit the city myself.

    I’m not at all good at the pre-planning part of projects; I’m the one who just jumps right in to the middle and hopes that it all comes out okay . . . .

    ReplyDelete
  2. Replies
    1. Mark, I always see many of my sister Reds doing research that involves fabulous food in London, Paris, Tuscany, etc. etc., and I think I am REALLY not doing this writing thing correctly.

      Delete
    2. Sounds to me like your next book needs to be set in Europe somewhere. Vacation for your sleuths? Stand alone? Better idea - new series so you have to go back and do more research!

      Delete
  3. Kincaid/James #19!!!! Aren't we readers lucky to have had so many great books to read from you, Debs. Each and every one has been spectacular, and I can't wait for #19. I am enjoying your trip through your pictures so much. I love to think of you just soaking in the world of Gemma and Duncan, not following their footsteps, but creating them. I know you always have such an amazing time when you do your research there. I'm glad you will be returning home for a holiday so you'll be having great family time and won't miss your other "home" as much.

    I guess I like to plan things out. Today I fixed two baked spaghetti (or spaghetti casserole, as some call it) for next Wednesday night to feed family before the turkey meal on Thursday. They are now in the freezer, so that part of my food plan is done. I do like to have dishes and pots and utensils out that I'm going to use in cooking, so I don't have to scramble and look for something after I start. When I'm traveling, I like to plan out restaurant choices and what I want to see. I have a list going for, where else, London right now. Of course, I am a big list maker for what I need for whatever I'm doing or wherever I'm going, too.

    Enjoy the rest of your time in London!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Kathy, I am your go London planning person!

    And i love what you said about me "creating their footsteps." Gave me goosebumps. I'm going to think of it that way!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a fantastic concept, Kathy.

      Delete
    2. Every once in a while I have a moment. Hahaha! But, seriously, it speaks to how special I think Gemma and Duncan are.

      Delete
  5. I will be out and about in Liverpool today but will check in when I can!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope you make it to Penny Lane! I’ll be the pretty nurse with poppies in a tray

      Delete
  6. Love Kova Patisserie & Paul A Young Chocolates in Soho & Camellia's Tea House across from the British Museum. Also, the Museum Surgery b/c it makes me think that that's where the British Museum goes when sick.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Debs, I am jealous of your research.

    Whenever I start a book - or any project, really - I have to spend some time thinking of the end goal and then where I want to start. Where are the characters at the end of the last book? Where do they want to go? What has to happen to get them there and what can intervene? Then for a book, I open Scapple and start jotting down ideas, making connections. Some of these ideas may not make it to The End, but no idea is a bad idea at this point of the game.

    Speaking of which, I need to do that for the next book in my Homefront Mysteries series, which I MUST start next week!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never heard of Scrapple--must go check this out!

      Delete
    2. Lucy -- scrapple and scapple are two very different things. Those of us from Pennsylvania are very familiar with scrapple although most of us don't want to see how it's made. And Scapple is also a new one for me. Some how it's supposed to help us with projects.

      Delete
    3. I adore scrapple and I'm not even from Pennsylvania! Maybe scapple is scrapple without the pork?

      Delete
    4. There's Scapple, scrapple, and if you're here in Zinzinnati, it's goetta, which is similar to scrapple: pin oats and pork, fried in patties.

      Delete
    5. Yeah, I read Liz's comment as "scrapple," too, and thought, well, there's a different sort of food research.

      Delete
  8. Maps--I love maps to open up a project--then photographs to bring the maps to life. Notes for the senses the photos can't capture--smells, noises, snippets of conversation, the feel of the weather conditions--too hot, too cold, a small breeze. Emotions that are conjured up by all of the above.

    Thanks for the trip to London this morning!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You describe the process so perfectly! which reminds me I do have a map for where my characters are going in Scotland, must find!

      Delete
  9. Debs, I am enchanted by this! This look into your writer brain… is somehow moving and endearing. And creative walking—wow. This is so fascinating! cannot wait to hear what happens next.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I was trying to think how I start something, because I never think about that really. Then I remembered my nursing process. It works for everything. Simply put, it is assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation. First I observe, have a look at the situation, anticipate problems both objectively and subjectively, and create a plan for correction/solution/improvement. Next is the action step, getting everything put in place and going. Eventually, if all the above goes well, or even if it doesn't, I have a look at what goals were met and what ones weren't. This is a fluid process that can move back and forth as needs must. It is second nature to me, do it without thinking about it, except for now, when I did think!

    My current project has nothing to do with writing or reading and everything to do with managing my neighbor's nursing issues, broken hip, now home from rehab but still not rehabilitated. It's a bit of a cluster-whatever, but all will be well. I hope. Maybe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ann, that's actually a very useful plan? Matrix? Design for tackling almost any project. I may steal it and present it to my Technical Communications students.

      Delete
    2. It works well Julia. Scientific method in practical application

      Delete
  11. Ann, I might have been a nurse in another life, because that pretty well describes my own process, too.

    Or, what I call the Ducks in a Row approach: get all the research done, organize it in how it will be implemented (chapters, if it's a book), sharpen my pencils, pour a coffee, drown out the ambient noise, and get to work.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I completely love this process! Thanks so much for the insights.
    I usually start with reading/research, books or online or travel. I think a main character in my next book will be a spiritualist so I'm reading up on that. The setting hasn't yet established it self, though I'd like to set it in 1960s Hollywood when the studio system was in its death throes. Or maybe current day Brooklyn. Or maybe...

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am, for a change, about to head out on a research trip. Well, a research weekend. And I'm staying with a friend and seeing relatives, so... all right, I'm visiting a friend in Washington County, NY this weekend and calling it research because Book #10 opens at this time of year. There will be much of the same sort of activities Debs is engaged in - walking about, driving randomly to absorb views and spot locations, and eating - although I suspect not quite as well as she's getting fed in London...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Enjoy. All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray, etc. But it’s in the 40s at least. This time last week it was frigid and snow. If you ever want to do research in Western NY, I’ll put clean sheets on the guest bed.

      Delete
  14. The start of a new project for me is usually the end of a long period of soaking up ideas and images. Then I start the research, so I can begin to identify the meaty chunks in the primordial soup. Once I know where and when and a little about who, I like to take my characters with me to the grocery store, or talk to them as I do my housework, see how they react to mowing the grass. It helps me get to know them better. Not so different from Deb's process, except I somehow always set my stories in places I'm already familiar with, instead of giving myself a tax-deductible excuse to wander around London. (What's wrong with me?) Then, whether it's a novel or a concert or any other complex project, I break it down into little tasks that are easy to grasp, accomplish, and check off my list. Bit by bit the story emerges and the band gets ready to go onstage.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I start with location (small Ohio college town) and a visual (red brick early 20th c. mansion). The regular cast gathers, and I wait for the big shazzam! What's the protagonist stumbled across to start things off?

    In a recently accepted short story, senior citizens are pawing through hardbacks at the library book sale looking for something. What and why?

    ReplyDelete
  16. I can't wait to see the results of your research. And, like Joan, I want to head to London right now. A process for starting a new project? If I have one it's pretty drawn out. I tend to think about things for a long, long time (a few home improvement projects come to mind) and then wake up one day and say, now! And then I have to remind myself that other people's schedules don't always accommodate my wishes.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Debs, I am so glad you can take us along on your research trips! I know it will really pay off with another fabulous book that I really look forward to reading!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Watching the creative process with y'all is like watching a flower unfold from the seed; so beautiful.
    for me a major projects involve a lot of preliminary head work. I am now the Librarian for my Sangha, i.e community. I did a needs assessment, then set out goals and a time line to accomplish each goal. Then an evaluation step/ reassessment / there is a lot of Do Defer/delegate going on as each step is done, then I blue sky think .. do I need to visit the British museum to compare collections? Perhaps a trip to Kyoto... //then back to step by step knowing library work is like a river flowing it is never done.

    I hope that is also true for our Jungle Red Writers. never be done.

    ReplyDelete
  19. When I worked (CPA) I had to be supremely organized. I self-diagnosed ADD sometime back after going through it with my son. So in my working life I relied heavily on lists. I inadvertently trained my boss and the other staff to put it in writing and prioritize. Now I'm retired and organization is a thing of the past. I may mull over home projects for weeks, months, years before I act. Similar to I will drink no wine before its time, I will attempt no project before its time. I will be making a grocery list shortly for Thanksgiving, so some organization has survived.
    We were in London in September with the granddaughter. When we were at the British Museum I wanted to grab other people's selfie sticks and beat them over their heads with them. I was so aggravated. The crowd around the Rosetta Stone was thick and EVERYONE was taking selfies. I thought those sticks were passe'. Evidently not in London. Oh well. Maybe I am just an old grouch!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pat, selfies AND taking photos of the glass case with their flashes on! Argh!

      Delete
  20. Deb, I admire your process. It is so interesting reading about everyone's individual approach to new projects. And maps! I love seeing that so many authors are including maps now. Deb, I constantly refer to the maps in your books while reading the stories.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Deborah, how wonderful it is to be in London! It is among my favorite places in the world. Great idea to travel and do research for a novel. That is what I would like to do.

    Diana

    ReplyDelete
  22. So jealous!!! Enjoy your research, Debs!!!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Great information. I just read through the entire content. I'm also impressed. Waiting for a more new post. Keep Blogging Thanksgiving Day Coupon Code

    ReplyDelete