The Novelist’s War Chest
March 10, 2011 § 25 Comments
Writing novels is a dangerous business. Most rational people know not to spend too much time visiting with the imagination; it’s easy to get lost, and who knows when you’ll ever find your way out? Novelists, however, are widely agreed to be a little bit less than rational. If we’re going to spend so many hours per week on safari with the wild beasts of our innermost thoughts, it’s important to be well-equipped. And that requires a well-stocked War Chest.
Item of Primary Importance: Tea
You might have thought I was going to say ‘writing materials’ or something absurd like that, but I am thoroughly English (in nationality as well as name – yes, I know it’s hilarious). I can’t do anything without at least one cup of tea to get me started. Fairly strong, with milk and sugar. Better keep the kettle close by, too.
Item of Secondary Importance: Chocolate
Again, consumables are much more important than writing materials. After all, you could, just about conceivably, write the next chapter of your novel on your own arm, in your own blood, if absolutely necessary. It’s indisputable, however, that nobody’s getting any words down without a dose of chocolate-fuel first.
Item of Tertiary Importance: Suitable Writing Materials
See, I got there in the end. Part of me wishes I could moonlight back a century or two and write here ‘good quality writing-paper and a set of well-mended quill pens’; I have an attractive vision of myself in a flowing gown, seated at a quaintly old-fashioned writing desk, covering my dainty fingers in ink as I pen the masterpiece that people will still be admiring long after my death. Since this is reality, though, I have settled for a notebook with a cute cover and a biro. And when that got boring, I went back to my laptop.
Which brings me to the real point of this post (reaching the point after only 300 words of absurdity is a bad habit, I know, but forgive me: it’s March, and everybody knows that March is Mad March, when people are given to sudden fits of uncharacteristic behaviour). Yes, anyway, the point is: the accepted superiority of the laptop over the notebook and pen is only phase one. Many people would agree that Microsoft Word isn’t exactly ideal for writing your 100k+ words. In my War Chest, currently, is a programme called Page Four (link).
This programme is set up to behave like a sort of virtual notebook. I can have any number of ‘pages’ open and accessible at once, so I can divide my work into a chapter per page (for example), or I can have umpteen notes pages as open tabs while I’m writing. Given my propensity to forget half of the made-up words I made up for my fantasy world (including character names), this is very handy.
Item of Secret Importance: Favourite Stuffed Toy
I get anxious sometimes, particularly when I am staring at the rubbishness of my own work and I realise: I really am crap, aren’t I? The only thing to do at that point is to regress to the age of six and collect my best-friend-in-fake-fur. This lady has already been featured on this blog recently, but here she is again, with her current beau:
She’s almost as old as I am, so do be kind to her if she’s looking a little worn.
Anyway, now that I’ve exposed the depths of my absurdity when I’m writing, I’m going to start asking questions, and all those other shameless bids for conversation that bloggers resort to. What’s in your War Chest? What programme, application or delicious piece of software do you use to write? And what’s your recourse when you’re overcome with despair? (Come on – it happens to all of us. At least, I’m pretty sure it does…).