Writing in lockdown, or Cassandra redux
Or should that be NOT writing, or at least, not writing a great detail. Last year’s tally included two short stories and a fair amount of work on a novel, including a lot of research and a synopis. However to date I have only written about 5,000 words of that novel. Not a lot to show for a year’s work. For like many other writers, I have found it difficult to write in lockdown. I mentioned that near the beginning of the first lockdown and things have not improved much. I still find it hard to focus – dealing with the situation seems to require the same sort of energy that I use for writing.
Much the same has been true of my reading life. I have been doing a lot of rereading – Ngaio Marsh, Nicholas Blake, Michael Gilbert – and when I have read something new it has tended to be Golden Age crime novelists, such as George Bellairs or E. C. R. Lorac. Either that or the latest novel in a series that I follow, such as the Ruth Galloway novels by Elly Griffiths or Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May. I don’t want any nasty surprises. There are enough of those in real life at the moment. I want things I know I will like. I want comfort reading.
I was thinking of this recently when I put the novel on hold to write a short story and got stuck (won’t dignify it by calling it writer’s block). I have a file of ideas for stories, but nothing gripped me or seemed to offer a launching pad. And then I remembered that a kind blogger friend (Margot, are you reading this?) had remarked that she’d like to read more about Cassandra James, the Cambridge academic who was the first person narrator of my first three crime novels. The last one, Footfall, came out in 2006. That’s a long time ago and I found myself wondering what might have happened to Cassandra in the meantime. Had she solved any more mysteries? Did she have the second child that she and Stephen wanted? Was she still lecturing at St Etheldreda’s College? Perhaps she’d even been promoted? Only one way to find out and I could see how using Cassandra might fit well with one of my story ideas.
It didn’t take me long to slip back into Cassandra’s voice. The world in which she lives and moves is so familar to me and I know just what she’d think and feel about things. I like her and I like spending time in Cambridge, where I first met my husband. In short I’m having a lot of fun. Just as there is comfort reading, maybe too there is comfort writing.