Sunday, June 30, 2013

Postcard from the retreat

My 'Christmas card list' tour continued with a trip to the south west recently. Friends in Devon and Dorset were 'treated' to my company while I abused their hospitality and called it a holiday. A working holiday though. In between weekend stays with friends, I spent the week at a writing retreat and made good progress on my current novel.

You may think that all I'd need to write a novel is an idea (check), a laptop (check), and some time (check). I find the discipline of devoting time to the job a good incentive to get on with it though. At Retreats for You almost all distractions are removed. Delicious food is served without need for shopping or cooking, drinks and snacks are freely available and convivial company is restricted to certain times. Meaning: all other hours can be devoted solely to writing. So I did. Except. It is important to exercise the body as well as the mind. The picture shows the River Torridge which was down a steep enough hill from my writing desk to class as strenuous and that dog needed to be taken for its swim.

Just to reassure you I was working, here's my Devon desk. I miss it already.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Postcard from the stone

I'm currently revising my latest novel, which means paying attention to details such as settings.The plot is in place, the characters are full of life - so now I need to colour in the scenery to allow readers to build a full picture of events in their mind. I tend to skip over that stage in my first drafts.

It should be easy. After all, I set my books in the city I live in. I regularly walk through it. In theory I know what it looks like and only have to translate that into words on the page. But although I think I'm observant it turns out I haven't been looking quite closely enough.

I went on a walking tour recently themed around the sculpture of William Bloye. His work enhances a lot of Birmingham's public and private buildings and he was Professor of Sculpture at the city's art school, which ties in nicely with some events in my book. Once I started looking at his work, I remembered other things I've seen in a similar vein. Connections were made, ideas generated, stories began to develop. I bet thousands of people walk past the plaque in the photo above every day without looking properly. They've probably got other things on their minds; it is near the entrance to a police station.

The tour was a good reminder to keep my eyes open and a notebook to hand. And it drew my attention to the story of a dog who accompanied his stone mason owner to work every day and is now immortalised in the fabric of the city. Bet not many Brummies have noticed, despite it being in a prime central location. I like how some of the city's stories are marked in its stones. Now I just have to tell a few of them.