It’s amazing, the things this novel gets hung up on. The other day, it stalled because I didn’t know how a working labourer in the 1820s might travel to a city from more rural parts. I couldn’t put the question aside, writing around it as I suggested I wanted to the other day when research stops progress, because the character in question was doing that very thing, travelling to Edinburgh. There are some things you can leave vague and come back to at the second draft, and there are others that materially affect and change the action. I’m not able to write an activity, with all the observations a character makes while doing it, unless I know what the activity is. Sounds obvious, I know.
Anyway, Google, normally my friend on these issues, threw back a bewildering array of information, none of which actually answered the question. Mostly, it allowed me to confirm how our labourer wouldn’t have been travelling, and while that was better than nothing, it didn’t help me push on with the writing (“Bill wasn’t taking the train to Edinburgh, because there was no such thing” – not quite the way to go…). I prepared for a long morning of web trawling, and mentioned my research quest on Twitter.
Seeing the update on Twitter, Facebook grabbed it, and posted it as my FB status.
Where it was seen by Frannie, back in Glasgow, who thought the answer might be in a history textbook she had close by. She flicked through, and found various sections she thought might be relevant.
Then she sat down, typed up seventeen or eighteen paragraphs, quoting the relevant page numbers, and sent it to me on the off chance it might help.
As you can guess, I was surprised and delighted. It was a splendid and generous gift, from a splendid and generous lady. Thanks Frannie.
Time to hang up the December Book for a week or so, as tomorrow we’re packing to go to Thailand, and the day after we’re jumping on the plane. While there’s a chance I’ll take the laptop, as we’ll be wi-fi enabled, I doubt I’ll be much inclined to do any serious work. When we get back though, I’ll be diving back into the draft. Key players are meeting for the first time, and they’re turning out to be more entertaining conversationalists than I originally thought they would be. It’s the latest of several discoveries I’ve made about this book since starting it, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.