Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Just going for it

By Rick Blechta

Eric Wright (photo: Valerie Wright)
In my post two weeks ago I spoke about my difficulty remembering the sort of recent past with any kind of accuracy. Researching this has been both enlightening and, well, tedious.

Basically what I’m trying to do is get the overall broad strokes of current events at the time in which I’m writing which I somewhat remember, and knocking that into shape in my head, more or less, okay this — which will or may have something to do with my plot — happened here and people thought this about it.

The other important item to have firmly fixed is what was happening with technology. Now that sort of thing may have gotten by me at the time because I had no interest in it, so it’s not a matter of refreshing my memory, but learning about what was going on.

Take computers. I clearly remember the first computer I fooled around with, the Radio Shack TRS 80  or “Trash 80” as we called them. One of the schools where I was teaching (I always taught in multiple schools) had several and I brought one home during our spring break to mess around with it. So that’s what I remember about computers in the ’70s.

But clearly there were far more sophisticated machines than this basic one. What could they do? How were they connected to the internet — which existed at this time — and who had access to this technology? Both of these are important to my plot.

It’s taken a surprising amount of effort to get that information, and I’m certainly far from done. Will I use all that research in writing the book? Heavens, no! But I need to have it firmly in my mind to avoid needless technical gaffs.

And then in the middle of all this I remembered the sage words of Eric Wright, one of the people whose writing started what has become the Golden Age of Canadian Crime Writing. Eric was an academic who would tell writing students (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Don’t let research bog down your writing. Just do it. You can pick up the pieces when you start editing.”

So that’s what I decided to do this past week. I have the research sort of roughed out in my brain and notes.and when I get to the end of the story, I’ll simply find a friendly technology historian (do they even exist?) and ask them to proofread what I’ve written. It’s not as if I haven’t done that kind of thing before.

Know what? I’m feeling more energy and the novel is moving ahead. I’m certain I’m getting things wrong, but who cares at this point?I’m certainly a lot happier.

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