on writing contemporary fiction post-pandemic

As I write this blog post we’re entering week 11 of lockdown here in the UK. For the last 11 weeks I have only left my house to walk three laps around the next-door field first thing each morning and once to go to see my GP. I haven’t spoken face-to-face to another human other than my husband (and briefly to my GP). I’m finishing up the edits for my next novel and I am struck very suddenly by how hard it is to be inspired by the immediate present (or indeed the immediate future).

This lockdown has given us all time to think…

Perhaps too much time to think. But one of the things I’ve been thinking about is where my writing will go from here.

I set my books in a very specific time and place and, with the exception of my first book, they have been set no more than two years previous to their release. At some point in the very near future, by that rationale, I will be setting a book in the summer of 2020.

The thing is I absolutely don’t want to. Don’t get me wrong, I think a lot of very good fiction will come out of this pandemic, but personally I feel too embedded in what is going on to even consider writing about it. And yet I also know I couldn’t write a book set in 2020 without writing about it – it would feel incongruous, like writing a book set in 1962 without mentioning the Beatles or Profumo.

My next book is set in the winter of 2018 and the one after that is set in the 80s/90s and the summer of 2018. So far so good.

But what about after that?

Different writers will have different ways of dealing with this – I already know of one book coming out later this year that is set during lockdown. But for me something happened that I hadn’t been expecting.

Earlier in the year I took part in a (virtual) intuitive writing workshop that was meant to unlock the book you’d always wanted to write. And the seed of an idea for a book set quite a long way in the past came out of it – a seed that I have turned into a synopsis and am currently turning into a plan.

Writing about the past feels safer somehow, less unknown. It feels like somewhere I can escape the anxieties of the present. So when I’m not editing the upcoming books I’ll be off lost in the past. And after that who knows?

Although a book set in 1962 is sounding very tempting right now!

How about you? How are you tackling this in your writing? And readers, what do you want to see come out of this?

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One Comment

  1. I have been writing bits about my past for a year now and this has distilled in lockdown as letters. I have been writing, as part of an act of pastoral care, to an elderly couple I know who are house bound. For them and me (30 years their junior) the past seems ever more present.
    So, interesting that you have had the same thoughts and feelings.
    I do have a gem of an idea for ‘this time’ but, if I ever did work on that, by the time it shaped into a meaningful story, I think many would have written it several times over 😆

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