I have always loved maps, especially the history held within the names. Just the sheer sound of the places gives me joy, cheers me as I travel about, makes me create characters to fit them. I rage away when councils – or souvenir hunters? – seem to have removed too many street name signs. I also really love map-reading, which makes up, fractionally, for my lack of maths skills.
However, lately I've found myself weary at the thought of planning yet another school trip. I have to drive because of all the things I take with me just in case. So, with World Book Day week a-looming, I started thinking.
Now normally I plot out my route carefully, using both road map books (of at least two scales), the local A-Z, and also multimap printouts. I just cannot bear the thought of getting lost on a school morning!!! I use post-it notes with little symbols to mark my route, post-it notes to indicate the next page turn, as well as basic list on a card to help when I drive. (“Wetherby. A1M. M1. M62” etc) And more.
Last night I was struck by the fact that all that work is a bit like planning a story: the way you come at the thing from all angles, keep assessing what fits with what, decide on the best “landscapes” you want to see during the story, and making sure as far as possible you are warned about the tricky bits.
Now it was already clear that next week will be very, very busy. So I decided, somewhat reluctantly, to get a new toy. Yes, I now have a satnav, and yesterday I tried it out. A comfortable voice was saying things like “You will turn left in 90 yards . . . . Now turn left . . . Recalculating. Turn right. Recalculating. Turn right. . .”
So then it struck me that my friendly-sounding satnav is just like the little voice that sings away in your head when writing is going well, when you know what to do, when you know, and are delighted by what’s coming up next, writing wise, when the writing gods are with you.
Though who knows if my helpful friend is as reliable as she seems? Can I trust her sweet tones? I will also need my maps to give me some sense of where and how far I’m going and so on before I pack for the journey or even step out of the house. In fact, I still need both approaches on my writing journeys. And my real life ones.
That’s it. End of today’s idle ABBA thought. Hope all your writing approaches keep working well.
Oh yes, forgot to say. The satnav actually shows and speaks road names even when the signs aren’t there.
I’ve recently been reading historical crime novel “Dissolution” by C.J. Sansom, “The Victorian House” by Judith Flanders for research, and “Sylvia and Bird”, a picture book by Catherine Rayner for loveliness. Just in case you’d like to know.