Saturday, 28 February 2009

Finding Your Way: Penny Dolan

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.


adele said...

Not being a driver, I can't really appreciate the glories of Satnav, though I do like being in a car which magically starts to SPEAK in some way. And the comparison with writing is good.
I'm so glad you're reading Dissolution and I hope you like it. You have all his others to go to as well, when you've finished that one. he's one of my favourites. Hope you stay UNLOST this coming week!

Penny said...

Thanks, Adele. Have had the Dissolution book on my shelf for a while, waiting for its right reading moment, and am looking forward to reading the others. I'm also thinking about re-reading the three Kate Atkinson crime novels, musing on the "how she does it" while I go. Must say, these reading enthusiasms do makes one see the sense of creating linked titles, even if not a definite series. After a good read, one wants more!

Mary Hoffman said...

I thought Dissolution was OK but it hasn't made me want to read more.I love Kate Atkinson though the crime ones aren't my favourites. I haven't read When will there be good news? yet.

And the ending of One Good Turn just doesn't work.

But I've just read the Guernsey Literary and Potao Peel Pie Society and loved it.

Penny said...

Mary, thanks for your recommendation. Will order it online from the library. It's the technique of switching between seemingly unrelated characters that intrigued me in the KA crime novels. Interesting how all these titles relate to the importance of creating a strongly believable world for the reader.

I will now try and believe in "Potato Peel Pie", a potential recipe suggestion that had put me off the book.

Mary Hoffman said...

I think the pie would have been disgusting! It involved mashed potato and beetroot as well. But this was during the German occupation when food was scarce and someone (a man actually) invented this concoction.)

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

All through today that Satnav woman was saying... turn left, turn left... Recalculating. Turn right. Turn right. Recalculating. Am totally lost now and a fog has come down. Need rescueing!!!