I’m very excited to be able to share with you my quarterly writing column.
The first in the series is an overview on how to get started if you are embarking on writing a novel and are unsure how to begin. That first blank page/screen can be a very lonely place… but once you get started it’s not so bad!
I’ll be sharing some more tips in my next column along with my latest book review and top reads.
I went to Italy with an expectation to find time, peace and inspiration to create. My idea was to write, edit and continue book 3, with the aim of nudging it in the direction of 80,000 words and completion.
It was an amazing experience to be able to spend the day being creative, sitting in the shade of a tree in the overgrown garden. Occasionally staring at the view as I wrote about rural Gloucestershire in the 50’s, far off tractors working away, a noise I got used to over the month we were there.
A long break for lunch of gorgeous fresh produce from the market alongside DD’s (husband) homemade bread, was a nice distraction from the laptop.
By late afternoon the Bee eaters arrived, swooping around the fig trees to catch their dinner, showing flashes of olive green and bright yellow as they loudly warbled …for want of a better word!
Evenings spent in the traditional kitchen, music blaring (no neighbours), Figgy, the stray cat looking on, glass of wine in hand, knocking up something tomato based with pasta was a beautiful end to most of my days.
Did I reach my target? Well I wrote everyday and have definitely improved and lengthened my manuscript. I also found my love of painting! Some days I found myself drawn (no pun intended) to painting and others to writing. It was a massive pleasure to have two to choose from. I think I’ll continue to do both alongside each other, they seem to compliment each other well and keep me exceptionally happy and fulfilled.
All in all a molto bellissimo experience!
It’s that time of year again…the leaves are turning and hordes of book lovers are descending on my home town.
The Cheltenham Literature Festival is always such a great event, particularly when it’s on the doorstep. I am renowned for being useless at catching buses and frequently miss them … I swear I have timetable dyslexia!
So it was a miracle that we made it to Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s talk about the impact of her work and fantastic feminist views. I have enjoyed all of her novels. My favourite is probably Purple Hibiscus (another lent out never to return) followed very closely by Half of a Yellow Sun. If you enjoy great fiction with superb characters and plot and fancy losing yourself for a few days, read them. You won’t be disappointed.
The following day we made it (I know, weird right? Two days in a row and I negotiate the bus network!) to a superb discussion on the Syrian conflict hosted by Lindsey Hilsum. Lyse Doucet, BBC’s Chief International Correspondent was a great speaker; passion and knowledge abounded.
I couldn’t resist buying a copy of No Turning back by one of the other panellists, Rania Abouzeid; an outstanding journalist with many stories to share. Alfie (my son and companion to the festival) was very happy with his signed copy.
After a delicious smoked salmon and cream cheese crepe in the food tent and a discreet distribution of Dance with Fireflies bookmarks on tables, we made the last bus home…..unfortunately, the only bus back wasn’t exactly a direct route. We alighted at The Rising Sun pub on Cleeve Hill and walked through two fields of sheep as the light faded. Luckily I wore trainers and not heels (I’m not really a heel kind of person). Almost home, our house in sight, the mother of all rams, big, black and well hung, stood in the only gateway, blocking our path home.
A bit of flapping about with the newly acquired Waterstone’s bag with the aptly titled No Turning Back book inside, finally worked on the stubborn beast and our journey was complete.
In 2016 I’ve discovered the joy of writing in different places. It’s so refreshing to be somewhere else other than staring at the same view from my office day after day…not that the view from my office is horrid or anything, it just gets a bit samey. By far the best location this year was the balcony which overlooked Porto Roma Bay in Zakynthos. A very close second has to be looking out onto the rooftops in Lucca.
I wonder where I’ll be writing next? I might cram a bit of editing in on a trip to Torquay….Our trip to Iceland is a long way off yet. Maybe book 3 will be started by then….I wonder if my Macbook would suvive a dip in the hot tub 🙂
I’m learning how to be “Mindful” at the moment. Its an amazing way to get off automatic pilot and to be aware of the here and now. To really live in the moment. It’s quite hard to master but I’m getting there. You have to be aware of your thoughts as they drift in and out of your mind but not get tangled up with them, just observe them, non judgmentally. I have daily exercises to do, meditation is one of them but also to do daily tasks mindfully ie: making a cup of tea or eating a meal…its amazing what you notice when you experience something fully, in the moment. All the detail comes to the fore…It’s not just a lovely way to be calmer, happier and more at peace but its really helping with my writing too.
The course is called : http://www.bemindfulonline.com …its about £60 but well worth the money.
What form does your writing take? I’m addicted to writing a diary and recording my life and my mind. But I’ve also written, or partly written, 2 novels and a screenplay.
How does writing make you feel? Writing a diary is therapeutic. It helps me dissect my worries and challenges and reach an objective conclusion. I always feel better. I feel very proud to have created such a large volume. I love looking back at them.
Where/when do you write? Most of the time when I’m by myself or in bed. I never write at a desk and virtually always write in long hand. I need a good pen and an expensive notepad. My favourite place to write is mid-dogwalk on Gillian Curr’s memorial bench overlooking Cleeve hill and Cheltenham.
What do you write about? My life, my work, my family and my friends. I spend a lot of time working out problems and trying to articulate the future. I sometimes tackle wider news and issues.
What’s the best thing about writing? Writing things down makes you pause, think and construct your thoughts. Keeping a diary has revealed how I’ve matured, changed, got things wrong and got things right. I hope its a valuable memorial of me and my era.
How long have you been writing? I started writing my diaries when I was 17. And I have kept this going with one or two gaps for 34 years.
Where do you start when thinking about writing a novel? Mine came to me relatively easily…it was handed to me on a plate really!
My novel is based on my maternal grandmother’s life, a daughter of the Raj. My grandmother was a prolific letter writer and hoarder. I am lucky enough to have access to a trunk full of letters, diaries, photograph albums, notebooks, the family cookbook, even her wedding present list. I was brought up with glimpses of her life in India. From stories of the colonial bungalow she was brought up in, to the lively restaurant with dancing and partys that she ran with her sister in the hill station of Nainital. The exciting voyages on troopships from Bombay to England and back again, amidst the second world war.
I feel it is a story that hasn’t been told before. It has a delicious mix of optimism, love, suspense, humour, tension, joy, sadness and prejudice.
My journey began with a lot of research, I mean a LOT of research. I spent a few months reading and trying to decipher hundreds of letters from Phyllis, my grandmother to her sweetheart, Arthur. And from both families in India and England. Some handwriting was easier to read than others.
As I read, I noted down anything of interest and dated the information to build up a clearer picture of who was where and when, and what sort of dialogue they were having.
Within these months I felt I got to know Phyllis, my protagonist, which helped me to carve out her character.