The Serendipity of Procrasti-research

I love research. I suppose it was all those years at university? Or possibly the endless searching through history books, or peering at low-grade video of television shows to spy that elusive seam on a specific costume? Perhaps it was uprooting the family to attend the Janet Arnold Costume Symposium in Florence (and my chance to see extant clothing up close and quiz the costume restorers)? Not forgetting the painstaking translation from Italian to English of hard to find tomes. (A big shout out to our library system and local pick up service. Huzzah!)

My life has revolved around research for so many years - and for so many passions. I've fallen down the rabbit hole often.

This week I have found it hard to concentrate on my current work-in-progress.  So I worked on a short story for an upcoming steampunk anthology. I had an idea. It was to be set near Adelaide. I just needed to check a few facts...

Bring on the procrasti-research! At least it is something constructive (well that is what I tell myself). But what amazing things I learned! Who'd have thought I would start researching the copper and gold mines of the Adelaide Hills and end up discovering unknown (to me), exciting (again, to me) historical facts  and yet another set of Adelaide firsts?

Let me share my finds with you (and guess which ones you'll find in future stories):
  • Copper mines in South Australia provided a significant percentage of the world copper supply in the nineteenth century.
  • There was a large number of Cornish immigrants to South Australia, leaving the dwindling Welsh mines to work in the burgeoning South Australian mines.
  • South Australia had the world's largest copper smelts (outside Swansea -Wales), in 1849.
  • Mining provided unprecedented economic growth in South Australia (1845-1877) promoting education,  especially the University of Adelaide.
  • Lady Alice Mine opened in May, 1870 at Humbug Scrub. It was a successful copper, quartz and gold mine - so close to home and just up the road from our friend's place where we played D&D regularly for well over a decade.
  • After Lady Alice Mine was depleted, the land was bought by Tom Paine Bellchambers -  a noted conservationist - and became the first wildlife sanctuary established in Australia.
  • In September, 1920 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle visited Adelaide, on a speaking tour. He traveled through (my home suburb) on his way to meet Mr Bellchambers and visit his sanctuary.
  • Doyle wrote articles about his visit to the sanctuary (and Australia in general).
  • He stayed at the Gibson's Grand Central Hotel - now the Strathmore Hotel, in North Terrace, Adelaide. There is a plaque to commemorate the event.
This photo of Yella Umbrella Walking Tours is courtesy of TripAdvisor So my research uncovered, not only titbits to use in future stories, but revealed the author of my beloved Sherlock Holmes visited Adelaide, traveling less than a kilometre from my home. Oh. My. God! I love the ideas inspired by research. I love its unpredictable nature, the twists and turns - like those that took me from copper, to wildlife sanctuary, Doyle. All in one day. Bibliography:

Decisions, Decisions.

I've been mucking around for the past two months. Lots of crocheting to get Octoarm scarves ready for sale for upcoming events. A bit of writing here, a bit of writing there. Most of the writing has been on blog posts - with time spent on research, rewrites, photos.

Today I realised I have been using blog writing to procrastinate on my story writing. I have only managed one short story (and jotted down some ideas for two others) since August. This is significantly down on previous efforts. Frankly, I am out of practice and in a rut. The main victim has been my novel manuscript. Time spent blogging and social networking has taken its toll. This is not a good thing, given I am trying to make a career out of writing. Even my costume making has suffered.

It's time to take stock. Do I want to get my book completed? And what do I need to facilitate this? The answers were: Hell yeah and spend more time working on my manuscripts. If I want to make my deadlines for The Department of Curiosities and the next set of The Adventures of Viola Stewart, decisions had to be made: less time writing personal blogs and only scheduled time on social media.

November NaNoWriMo is looming  - the perfect opportunity to get a big chunk of writing done and the perfect time to start my new regime: From November I will be only blogging once per week. On Sundays (Australian time) I am all yours, blogging here as usual. I hope you stick around and keep reading while I continue to work on my next books, so you read them early next year.

Not Just Soggy Around the Middle

First read through and rough rewrites on The Department of Curiosities is progressing. I have a long list of notes for the next rewrite, more research of facts and scenes to change or exorcise. Rewriting the beginning is, in a weird way, fun. I can revisit the excitement of a new adventure. Help my characters grow and add more va-voom.

soggy middle notes

But the middle? Argh!

Why do I keep stalling? It's not just the trudging through the myre of the soggy middle. It's first draft is done and discussed in Of the Muddle of the Middle and Other Inconveniences. I thought it would be easier attacking rewrites for this section. During my procrastination-research stage, I read many blogs and articles specifically on writing the middle (act 2) of a story. It seems I am not the only writer to say it: Rewriting the middle is drudgery.

I need to kill my darlings. In every sense of the phrase. Let me just talk about rewrites (or spoilers!) I need more action. I need to consolidate the twists and plots. I need to tighten the belt around that soggy middle.

I'm off to another writing class next month: Power up your writing.  Perfect timing. I need to start my next rewrite with a new eye, new skills and gumption.

But that is not my only hurdle.

I can't believe I wrote Of the Muddle of the Middle and Other Inconveniences over a year ago. To be fair, I have written and published three short stories and a novella, Doctor Jack, while I procrastinated my way around a specific scene. One I am now facing once more.

I thought the middle was a muddle for my head. Act three is just as wracking. Remember the darlings I mentioned. I don't want to part from my characters. They have been with me for over a year of writing and floating in my imagination for twice that. When I finish that last scene, they will have changed. That part of their story is ended. Some will return for another. Some may not.

So it's not just a soggy middle I am wallowing in. There is reluctance to give up my darlings and move on. Time to hitch up my belt, set my sights on the end and exercise those writing muscles.

I can do this.