Gaynor Torrance puts forward the case for embracing technology to enhance your writing.
My schooldays were over before the technological revolution reached my corner of the world. Growing up in what was later acknowledged as one of the most deprived areas in Wales, funding was minimal. Choices had to be made, which is no different from the way things are now. We had books, pens and paper, but I, like many others, received a decent education.
Back then, everything took so much effort. Two of my three A levels were essay based – English and History. My research was limited to whichever books were readily available, and drafting had to be done in longhand. Despite the advantage of being ambidextrous, assignments still took hours – changing hands whenever my digits cramped. And of course, you couldn’t submit anything where the text had been crossed out or altered. So if you made a mistake, you had to rewrite the entire page.
When I became an undergraduate in the early 1980s, I stepped into the big wide world where I was introduced to many new wondrous things. It was where I had my first encounter with a computer – a machine of gargantuan proportions, a metal monstrosity with a mass of wires, filling the space of an entire room. But not just any room. It was a locked room, where only a chosen few were allowed to enter.
As a psychology student, I spent an hour a week during the first term, trying to get to grips with BASIC – which at that time seemed anything but. After that experience, I didn’t get to use a computer until terminals linked to a mainframe were introduced into my workplace in the early 1990s.
Since then, much of my adult life has been spent undertaking research of one kind or another. My PC replaced pen and paper a long time ago. I’ve come to embrace the ease of drafting and amending documents, along with the satisfaction of finding, sifting through and analysing the vast array of information available on the internet. Of course, there’s a lot of misinformation out there, but there’s also plenty of useful stuff too.
As a writer of crime fiction, research is an integral part of my writing process. It’s something I find immensely enjoyable, as it broadens my horizons and enables me to discover things which would otherwise just pass me by. For instance, in my international thriller, STEP UP OR DIE, I researched breaches of human rights by large global corporations such as the oil and tobacco industries. I looked at bills passed by the US government. I was able to see street views of parts of New York, Toronto and London, which helped me describe places I was writing about. I also studied the fascinating history and architecture of St Paul’s Cathedral, which became a significant venue in this book.
In 2018, I was fortunate to be signed up by Sapere Books – a wonderful publishing house based in London. And on 7th October 2019, they are publishing REVENGE, the first book in my Detective Inspector Jemima Huxley thriller series. These books are based in Cardiff – a place I know well, having lived there for the best part of twenty years. Though, the stories occasionally spill out into other parts of Wales too.
Throughout the Huxley series, the internet is continuing to prove its worth when researching topics as diverse as forensic techniques, mythology, ancient cultures, personality disorders, to name but a few.
So for any would-be writers out there, my advice is to embrace technology and make it work for you.
Read more about Gaynor Torrance
20th September 2019