The new book is forcing me to write in ways I never have before, not just because of the research required

I had this weird epiphany the other day. It was Thursday afternoon, and I was deeply engrossed in my writing. I was approaching the 40K threshold, which – for what it’s worth – is as critical in my writing as the 30K one is. The new book I’m writing has me do things I haven’t done before, or maybe I just didn’t realize it. I was so deeply engrossed in the story that I had completely forgot where I was. I was totally absorbed by the plot and I was just about do submerge in the Indian Ocean when… “Boooh!”

This is Ammarnäs, where Nilas comes from. Photo: Wikipedia / Håkan Svensson

This is Ammarnäs, where Nilas comes from, in the new book, tentatively called The Pillow. I can’t wait to see this place for myself. Photo: Wikipedia / Håkan Svensson

My husband and son had come home, and because I was wearing my noise-cancelling headphones for a change, I hadn’t heard them. Sascha, still in his Halloween mode, came into the office to scare me. I f.l.e.w. from my office chair, and my heart stopped beating, that’s how bad it was. Not even Scotty could’ve transported me from a lagoon in the Maldives to Sweden as quickly as Sascha did. It took me minutes to find my bearings and calm my racing heart down.

Afterwards, I realized just how rare this instance had been in my writing of the new book. I was almost in a trance, writing like a dervish, feverish almost, thousands of words a day, I was literally in situ, on the scene, watching as my characters work themselves through the story. I’ve said this many times before, that I often feel like I’m the first person to read my own writing. Which means I was to first to cry when Jonathan died (the first time), or when Michel passed away in that infamous Paris scene. But I was also the first to see Haakon take a swim on his private island in the British Virgin Islands, and find out how he got there, and I was in the room when Jonathan got that massage from Marc… Or when Willem saw the stars, for the first time in his life. You get the drift.

But the new book is different. And I’m not blaming Nilas. He can’t help himself being Sami. As little as I can help myself not knowing much about that culture. And while spending time on Google Earth and Google Street View always has been a part of the journey, just watch this video when I had the chance to find out if my online research actually matched reality, in the new book, things are different. I often find myself having to do research for a single sentence. There was this one Holiday scene where I had to check what kind of electronic games were available to kids in the mid-nineties. I knew I had played with a handheld device when I was a child, but by 1994 I was all grown up, so what would they have played with? For ONE sentence.

This house is where Nilas lives in Gothenburg. If it is your house, take it as a compliment, but I've spent hours researching it, and no, I have not broken in... :) Screenshot from Google Street View.

This house is where Nilas lives in Gothenburg in the new book. If it is your house, take it as a compliment, but I’ve spent hours researching it, and no, I have not broken in… 🙂 Screenshot from Google Street View.

Now imagine an entire book like that. I had this idea that the polar lights would “sound”. I have no idea where I got that idea from, but I couldn’t very well put it in a book without making sure it was actually true. More research. However, there are a lot of things I don’t have the answers to yet, and there are many things I will need to research on site, which means traveling to Swedish Lapland. I’ve pretty much made up my mind that I’ll need to undertake that trip, and it’ll be one of the first things I do when we return from our Christmas vacation. Lapland in winter is very much different from things here, but I feel I have no choice. I HAVE to know, I have to find the answers. I owe that to Nilas, and to Casper, but also to my readers, and last not least, to myself. I’d hate to publish a book which isn’t factually accurate. If you want to learn more about my research, have a look at last week’s video from the Author Cave.

I’ve always done research for my writing, but the new book is pushing the envelope. The writing has been much more conscious, and the instances where I found myself in “the zone”, that amazing subconscious space where the writing just flows, and where I’m not aware of the writing aspect, have been much less frequent. At least initially. Maybe writing is like riding a bike, and after my long bout of writer’s block, I’ve finally mounted that bike again, only to find out that I can still do it?

If you’re a writer: have you had similar experiences? Has your writing process changed over time? Or is it dependent from the book, the storyline? Tell me, I’d love to hear more. For a pantser, this is a completely new experience… The new book is an education all by itself.

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Have a good week.

Hans

PS: Yesterday saw the end of the first ever Big Gay Fiction Giveaway, and I’m impressed. What a huge success. I more than doubled the size of my mailing list! I’m now in the enviable position of having to pay for my newsletter… Oh well. I rather enjoy being in that position, tbh. Very few people unsubscribed after my initial welcome mail.

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