What I have spent a great deal of time on over the past year is research for Sarah Ann Elliott (SAE from now on, takes too long to type it out in full). It began as family history research on Ancestry.com. I've now become the family historian and have uncovered a wealth of information and stories, including some secrets that were never meant to be known by the family. Murder, lunacy, drunkenness, abuse, theft, prison, illegitimacy, divorce, bigamy, suicide. Just the usual stuff that happens in every family. I've also discovered love, great courage, endurance, survival, intelligence, talent, ambition and good will. Again, like any normal family.
What I did uncover was one particular story which resonated with my own life over and over until I felt I had to write about it. My great great great grandmother, SAE, born in the north of England in 1823, died 1912 aged 88. Parts of her life parallel my own weird and wonderful life so much that I began to feel as if I had been channelling Granny Sarah. So I started researching her life in detail. Great detail. And the more I searched, the more questions I found. As I endeavoured to find answers to those questions, I realised that it wasn't only SAE's life I was writing about, but the lives of many, for no-one lives in isolation and our lives are greatly affected by intersecting with the lives of others.
So my research became more intense - and also an addiction. Just ask my Hubby. At least he always knew where I was. Attached to my computer or iPad, oohing and aahing over my latest thrilling bit of research, which didn't thrill him at all. Lucky for me, Hubby is well housetrained and kept me fed, clothed and clean whilst I was immersed in my research. And the moment arrived when I was finally able to put all my research into some sort of order (called a Timeline) and proceed with actually writing the book.
So I'm well into the story, but it's happening non-chronologically in the first draft stage, which is not how I normally write. First draft is usually a stream-of-consciousness writing session beginning at the beginning and not stopping until "the end". Then I go back and begin the tidying up, usually taking 4-5 drafts until it's ready to publish. But SAE is based on documented facts about her life, and I find myself writing around those facts as I put them together. So the birth of her fourth child was written about before her own birth. Basically writing the "dots" as I find them. Then I have to join the dots together in the next draft and put them into a readable order.
Several people have asked me how long this book will take to finish and how long will it be. It's well under way, it will hopefully be finished in the next year and how long is a piece of string? And I'm loving every minute of it!