I am not a NaNo writer. My brain just doesn’t work that way. My normal output is about a thousand words a day, but it still means I can draft a novel in three months if I apply myself, and that’s what I’ve been doing since the end of August.
I get up in the morning and I write the scene that has been brewing in my mind for the previous twenty-four hours. I am working to a rough outline agreed by my publisher, but that only gives me a very basic roadmap. I just have to rely on my characters to get where they’re going.
That can sound a little crazy, but it’s true. Most writers understand you need to give your characters free reign. I think it’s because so much of them is buried in our own subconscious as they develop, even though we don’t realise it. So when they react in a certain way, although sometimes it’s a surprise, it’s actually very credible.
But characters are only one element of a novel – the setting is important too. And I am lucky enough to be able to escape lockdown to the beautiful Croatian island of Korcula, with its sparkling seas, blue skies and shaded olive groves. And because I am setting the story in 2019 there isn’t a mask in sight.
The real challenge is that I have only been to Korcula once, and then for a very short time. But pictures, videos and travel blogs have been a source of information – and, to be honest, great pleasure – as my characters have visited parts of the island I never even made it to.
In an ideal world I would have returned to Korcula before writing this book, but that is not to be. Indeed, with a hand in date of 31st March next year I won’t be able to get there at any stage of the process. How typical of me to be writing my first book set outside the UK at a time when I can’t travel. But thankfully I have a good Croatian friend who is helping me. Sadly, as he works in the tourist industry, he has very little else to do.