As I wind up with my work at Pegasus, I reflect on what I have accomplished in this trip. It was fantastic, memorable, useful, yes, all that, but was it absolutely necessary?
To be frank, No. It was not. It was definitely not a fantastic financial decision. Sure my flights and accommodation were sponsored by the client, but if you have ever looked at London prices, you’d realize how much it would cost just to take the tube every day. Not to mention food, gifts and sightseeing.
Honestly, I don’t have to be here. I don’t have to spend my time doing data collection for a project (the norm is to hire local freelancers, isn’t it?). I did not need to spend my own money, going on guided walking tours and visiting the college Gandhi studied in London ten times in a week, just in the name of research. Surely, there are thousands of writers out there who are able to write without doing all that live research.
But I am glad, fiercely glad, that I had the opportunity to do so. Now I know what view Gandhi had every time he got off the bus and walked up the road to enter the Inner Temple. In all probability, this may be my debut YA novel, and I want to give it my best shot, and I want to give it now, rather than during the editorial process. My research will translate into a better voice, better prose and a better grasp of my craft. Yes, I know Jack London wrote all those NYC stories without ever setting foot in the Big Apple, but for the rest of us lesser mortals living in the digital era, a specific research methodology is a very good blue print to follow.
To the budding writer who asked me at the SCBWI Editors’ meet a few months back – how does one proceed to the next level? – please accept my apology for offering you a lukewarm answer like “write everyday”. Of course, writing everyday is crucial, but the answer to your question is more complicated than that.
You go to the next level by investing as much time, dedication and yes, money on your craft. The first two are imperative, the last not so much but still quite important… workshops, courses, research trips, even networking – all cost money but can be a great investment and infinitely useful in making you better than before. How fast you cross the river also hinges on how sturdy your boat is – you choose.
And let’s not forget the book – your book. Your story. Whether you write for kids or gargoyles, you have to give your story the homework it needs and if it needs you to learn to somersault or eat snails or take a trip, you do it. You do it, if you want to be remembered as an authentic storyteller. Being unique and original has always been the ballpark, but more so in the age of Kindle, high concept hunters and Instant karma 🙂