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Writing with Mummy


Every writer has their quirks of process. With the range of technology open to the modern author the opportunities for quirkiness are exponential.

Once upon a time it was a dip-in pen. Cumbersome for the inky-fingered writer, but for the historian a boon. Researchers looking into Dickens or Shakespeare, for instance, will be able to reference original manuscripts with all their scratchings out, additions and notes in the margin. Who convinced Hemingway and Solzhenitsyn to hump about those sit-up-and-beg typewriters, when pen and ink have so much more fluidity, and flexibility and weighs just a few ounces?

As a graphic designer my style is very visual. And I naturally take full advantage of Google for my pictorial research and fact-checking. Gone are the days when reference libraries were the only option; with the Internet, research is near enough effortless. For me the ability to immerse myself in the visual aspect of writing absolutely is critical. But I maybe go a bit further than most. For instance, I create a ‘mood board’ for every scene, dropping a collage of plundered images into PowerPoint. Writing then becomes simply a matter of describing what I see before me. Imagination is a wonderful thing, but why go to the trouble of imagining, when you can just observe.

I have other quirks. For instance, same as Dickens or Shakespeare (but with arguably less impressive results) I will write everything out in longhand. There is intimacy in the hand brain connection, which stimulates a flow of ideas. Furthermore I will only use a fountain pen. There’s something sensual about the resistance of the nib gliding over paper. My current preferred writing instrument is a vintage Parker (made in the USA in 1974 with a 14K nib). I load it with perfumed ink from the world’s oldest ink manufacturer – HERBIN of Paris. I may not be able to afford the best car, or even the best pen, but I can at least afford the best ink in the world. My two favourite inks are red – rose perfumed, and blue – violet perfumed.

When I have completed writing my first draft in longhand, I dictate the result into a Word document. Once I have amended all the usual irritating mistakes, the next stage is to play it back in the worst synthetic voice Microsoft can offer. Something about the robotic intonation of AI which highlights faulty grammar. Then, it is over to my trusty beta reader to tell me where I am going wrong.

In all the above I have two words to which I constantly refer. BE THERE. This reminds me to observe through the eyes of my characters. To see and feel what they see and feel. You will have your own process. I’d love you to share them with me.

In the 19th century ink made with ground down Egyptian corpses was very popular, unfortunately this is no longer available. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mummy_brown

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