Here I am researching my latest novel for 8 – 12s, ‘Walking on Gold’, due to be published next spring. I’m an amateur archaeologist – and when I wasn’t mining for words this autumn, I was on my knees in mud at what used to be a roman villa, digging up secrets from the soil.
In lots of ways, archaeology is like writing. It’s addictive (I’m already planning my excavations for next year), it’s careful, painstaking work and you get a real sense of achievement if you uncover something unexpected. I didn’t find any gold – but I did pull out the fragment of a roman coin, quite a few roman nails and some pottery and glass. I enjoyed working in a team, too: digging together, sharing all-important coffee breaks and showing each other our finds.
When you’re writing a story, one of the most exciting things is that your characters start thinking for themselves, which happens when you’re really ‘digging deep’ and working hard on developing a character. You’re tapping away at the keyboard or scribbling by hand when it’s as if the person jumps into your head and tells you what he or she is going to do next. Moments like this are very special and rewarding – a bit like discovering something unexpected hidden in the earth, which might mean you have to re-think all your ideas and develop some new ones.
Despite all the characters in a story, writing can be a lonely process – with just a cat for company (although she’s a very beautiful, sensitive and sympathetic cat, who is extremely well-read). That’s just one of the reasons I’m enjoying working with our exciting author collective Electrik Inc. We share our ‘finds’ (our new ideas) and do plenty of painstaking editorial work on each other’s stories, making them the best they can be. And we sometimes manage a coffee together, too. As the writer David Almond says in his teachingbooks.net interview, “We are nothing as individuals. The common unit of people working together seems to me to be the best way forward.”
Effie, the girl in ‘Walking on Gold’, goes on a dig and the crumbly texture of the soil, the smell of the newly uncovered earth and her excitement as her fingers touch something old and precious are all written from experience. Thank you Archeoscan for my digging this autumn – I’m looking forward to the next time.