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Time and Storytelling: Motivation, Time Management and Historical Setting, by Fiona McDonald

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,  “To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”

This sounds awfully like procrastination if you ask me. I should be talking about the progress of my novel but I can only think about what the Walrus had to say.

Time is my enemy. Lack of time is my enemy. Lack of time and energy are my enemies.

What it really comes down to is a strange kind of mental lethargy. In other words, I’m stuck.

I don’t really believe in writer’s block. I think it is a fear of not knowing where to go next or the beginnings of that inner critic questioning what has already been written. ‘It’s not good enough,’ the little voice whispers. ‘It’s all been done before.’ Or ‘Why bother? No-one is ever going to read it.’

Niggles of self doubt work on an innate laziness and add up to absolutely nothing. Over the last week that seems to be what I have achieved and I cannot believe that Thursday, the day for novel assessments and chats, is nearly here again. What I am going to do, with enormous effort, is delete that annoyingly addictive game on Facebook on which I have wasted so much time, ignore the housework, turn down offers of lunch and coffee and start writing.

What I was supposed to be doing this last week was to be thinking about whether I would set my YA novel, about a girl who inherits a toyshop but is being menaced by baddies who want to rip out her heart, in our real world, an altered version of our world or in a fictional world.

The time that the story is being played out in is the late 19th century, in a bustling city like London. I feel it sits naturally in England although I suppose it could be America instead. I do not think I can fit it into an Australian setting at that time as I want there to be ancient catacombs and man-made waterways, Cathedrals and other very old European things.

It has been suggested that I think about a real, historical setting and add lots of detail that has been properly researched. I must say I find this idea very attractive. I do love research. However, I have been imagining a particular fictional world as the setting for this story with its own religion based on a female deity. I think I need to put this version aside for a while and explore the possibilities of a real world setting. I think it is too easy to fall in love with one particular idea and ignore the other options.

What would it have been like for a young, unmarried woman from a well off middle class family to be running a business at the end of the 19th century? What would have been some of the difficulties socially and economically? What would Agatha have worn? How would she have conducted herself with strangers, business acquaintances, friends, her workers?

Perhaps there could be a background of some political or social unrest. More work, more time needed but I think I need to pause in the writing here to take a look into the past and to see if I’m not missing an opportunity to make this book a whole lot richer.

Some of the books that have been lingering at the back of my mind are Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart series, Chris Wooding’s The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray and several Dickensian novels. As it is raining today and I’m on holidays I think I should retire to a cosy corner and settle down for a day of reading novels. Or does this sound like more procrastination?


Fiona McDonald bio page

His Dark Materials: The Haunting of Alaizabel CrayThe Haunting of Charles DickensKnitted Fairies: To Cherish and CharmBabes in the Wool: How to Knit Beautiful Fashion Dolls, Clothes and AccessoriesGothic KnitsTime Management: 24 Techniques to Make Each Minute Count at Work (McGraw-Hill Professional Education Series)

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