When I started writing my fourth book, the sequel to "True to Herself", while on holiday in Cyprus recently, I was delighted to have started the process of writing a book after a two-year break. It was also very brave to face a pure white blank page.
It was important to establish a routine and to follow it every day: a kilometre swim, breakfast and a writing session in a lounge somewhere in the hotel away from the bustle and noise of tourists. Simple. I wrote my manuscript longhand because this way of writing frees me up to scribbling, doodling crossing out words. Later, it would help with untying the knots in the plot.
When I returned home to Cornwall, other commitments vied with my early morning routine but the writing process continued in a pot pourri manner, in other words - whenever I could slot it into the day. All went well, I talked to the orchids on my writing desk; they blossomed and I created a story. All was well. The feel good factor was present.
As background, I was still going to use West Gidding, a village near London, and Sydney, Australia but the next generation in the book was going to spend considerable time in South America to add some panache to the story. After all, I had over ten years of life experiences in Latin America, to draw from.
However, three weeks, and 20,000 words later, I was stuck with the plot. I had plenty of ideas but none held the WOW factor for me. What was I to do? I decided to go for a walk and admire the flowering azaleas; a walk to clear my mind. Was I being too disciplined with my programme of writing? I had read somewhere that routine stands in the way of creativity. It was time for a change in my approach.
In the meantime,I went to see the streaming of the opera, La Forza del Destino from the Royal Opera House. It was magnificent. Emotionally I was moved. Maybe the unblocking of my emotions would help the writing process. Next morning, my story was even more static and felt somewhat trite in comparison to the drama in the opera.
Perhaps I needed to do character studies. You know the kind of thing: hair colour, mannerisms and so on. This was easy as I already had several characters from "True to Herself". Of course, these characters had changed dramatically from the year 1985 because the new book, was set in the new millennium. A golden opportunity to stretch myself language-wise and describe the changes the passage of time had wrought in theses people's lives.
I sketched a diagram mapping the order of events in the new book, in particular, "the point of no return", and the halfway point. Dangerous ground, as ideas have to be supported by the writing and I knew instinctively that I might change my mind about the mid-point of the book. However, I'd broken through the writing block.
The sun was shining for the first time after the rains of the last few days. I was torn between needing to follow my muse and sitting in the sun. The problem was solved when I changed into sun-baking attire, opened the French windows on my balcony, set up a folding table and proceeded to write.
Switching places where I worked physically led me to new ways of working. I felt excited. Discovering that the "not knowing" what was coming next in the plot, freed up my ideas. The mental composting of the last two years was now paying off.
This morning however, I woke up with the smell of coffee strong in my bedroom. Strange - because I'd stopped drinking coffee in 1983. I was used to finding solutions to life or writing problems when I woke up; sometimes they come as dreams, sometimes as single words. So it was straight to my writing desk and orchids, and a paragraph about drinking coffee was inserted in the appropriate text
By the way, at present I only have names for the characters from "True to Herself". Would anyone like to suggest a name for a nineteen year old woman, related to Moira, who is trapped by the administration in the convolutions of south American bureaucracy?
LINKS TO MY BOOKS
To buy 'True to Herself' click:
To buy 'Moving from Grief in Cornwall' click:
To buy 'South America: Under the Skin of a Foreign Country' click:
To watch the VIDEO of "South America Under the Skin of a Foreign Country" click:
The South Downs , background to much of the walks in West Sussex in Book 1 "True to Herself"
Barbara M Webb graduated in English at Queensland University, St Lucia. She has lived in 7 of the 52 countries she has visited. and now lives in Cornwall in the UK.