How much is too much?
It depends on the question, of course. Are you asking about tea? Then the answer is – there is never enough. There is never enough tea!
If you’re asking about research, well… that’s a different matter entirely. I am packing up research to follow husband on tour. For my first novel I had a reasonable number of research books, mostly autobiographies of plural wives and history books of the West. The bulk of the research was done on-line, as I learned growing cycles in the Oklahoma Panhandle and got to grips with the politics of rapeseed and Monsanto. (You’re wanting to read it, now, aren’t you?) This second book is a different kettle of fish. I’ve taken a little picture of the essentials. This is after I’ve pruned, mind:
The basket is the absolute, absolute essentials: crucial research, maps, postcards, propaganda. One basket worth was plenty, I told myself, and started packing. The bookshelves hold books I’m either still using or haven’t started to use, with reference on the top shelf and fiction on the bottom. Most of those books will have to come along for the ride as well, or I run the risk of having to replace them. The standing files on the table are transcripts and interviews of primary research from my interviews or from the sound archives of the Imperial War Museum. So, I’ll probably need them – better safe, eh? The wool – well, that is research indeed. I am an appalling knitter, but my characters are not. It was the primary female activity on the Isle of Man, the one thing that all of them – Nazi, Jewish, Communist or Manx – had in common. But I might not need all those needles.
The towers of white A4 paper are drafts of the first novel. Can I leave them behind while the first novel is in a state of flux? I think I shall have to. After all, I plan to return with brand new paper towers. I shall try to leave the enormous dictionary, my grandmother’s, and will most certainly leave great-grandfather’s table behind. But everything else in the picture is coming. How else could I write?
Of course, I could make it all digital. I am putting what I can into the research folders of Scrivener, but that tends to be new stuff I come across, mostly on-line. There’s no point trying to come over all Google books and digitise books I already have, books I want to read and highlight and argue with as paper objects, thank you very much. I resolve to fold down the back seat and stuff them all into the car. Who needs clothes?