I’m writing this on the flight back to Cork after a pretty successful writing retreat in the stunning mountain village of Gaucin in southern Spain. Arriving for a seven day break, I had an ambitious word count target of 30000 words. What I didn’t take into account was the fact that I was fairly exhausted from the day job before I even arrived!
This is how my writing week in sunny Spain panned out...
Day 1 – was not productive at all. I had a sluggish start, perhaps as a result of travelling the day before, which, by the way was excitement itself! The car breaking down on a motorway, in a tunnel sent my stress levels up a notch I can tell you. Thankfully it was an easy fix. In reality I put the slow start down to more than a glass or two of wine the night before and the pressure I put on myself to get cracking the moment I got out of bed.
I eventually got the pen moving across the page – I’m a bit of an old-fashioned girl when it comes to writing; forget the keyboard, I prefer the touch of a pen on paper any day, and yes, I agree it can be a real pain when it comes to typing up thousands of words some time later. Still, that’s the way it is. With less than 1000 words done a couple of old friends heard I was in town and persuaded me to meet for coffee, which turned into a lovely lunch at pretty spot by the fountain in the square. Three hours later back at the finca and I struggle to get into the zone. By the end of the day I was at 2000 words, only half the daily target I’d set.
Day 2 – I’m out on the terrace with a fair smattering of sun and a breeze that played havoc with the pages of my note book, finally getting to grips with my task for the week. Having broken down my plot on small pieces of paper, I now had the next two chapters planned out. I picked up this technique some years ago on a writing course. Using post-its, postcards, or for me, 3x2” pieces of paper, I write the things that I want to happen in a chapter and then shuffle them around into a sequence of events that works best to keep the story moving. Each topic represents around 500 words. Working this way stops me waffling on too much and helps me to tell the story in the right order.
With an undisturbed, more structured writing day I managed 3000 words before going out for dinner with friends and my son, who was very generously putting me up (or putting up with me!) for the week. Dinner was superb; we ate in El Atico, which I’ve mentioned in a previous blog. The food, wine and hospitality are second to none, as always. To top off the night we were treated to a spectacular lightening storm, lighting up the mountains and the valley before us.
Day 3 – Now that I was already 3000 words behind target I decided it was time to ditch the stress and reduce my target to a more realistic word count, or even no word count at all, just to be sure I wrote every day. Apart from getting a little too much sun on the backs of my hands while writing out on the terrace, this was a very good day, 3000 words written and well immersed in the lives of my characters.
Perhaps I didn’t say that this current book is about some of the characters from The Way of Life. It’s a few years on and we’re catching up with Joy, Kathy, Ruth and Trish. Primarily the main thread of the book is Joy’s story, but often what tends to happen as I get into writing is that the other characters and their stories become quite important too. Today I discovered Trish’s story going down a route I hadn’t initially intended, but I’m more than happy to run with it.
Day 4 – A trip to the seaside! Feeling the holiday spirit kicking in and thinking that I should shower a little attention on middle son, we took ourselves off to the coast, around a half hour drive, leaving some gathering clouds up in the village to welcome glorious sunshine and a warm breeze off the Mediterranean. We walked the promenade passing through Duquesa Port and onto the little village of Duquesa where I took this snap of the old castle and a cute brightly tiled bench beneath it.
I have to say I love this sleepy little village which is much quieter than the bustling port filled with numerous boats and bars. Continuing on the path out past the village we saw many whitewashed holiday villas, there were a couple for sale which spurred on a flurry of ‘if only’ and ‘one day’ dreaming.
After an eight kilometre walk we enjoyed a very pleasant lunch. The day was a totally relaxing holiday mode kind of day with no words written, but a happy writer. I’d talked through plots, dreamed a little and completely chilled out for a day.
Day 5 – Raring to go this morning, work mode kicks back in resulting in 2000 words written by lunchtime. In the afternoon I went off to take a few photos of my books in what was promised to be a stunning spot. I wasn’t disappointed, although, stunning as it was, the narrow winding road with its hairpin bends and sheer drops had my heart racing and my knuckles white from gripping the seat!
Not only did I get some great photos of my books I snapped this beauty; a Giant Peacock Moth, the largest moth in Europe, with a wing span the size of my hand.
I did get back to work, finding a shady spot I managed a couple of hours writing in this tranquil, warm garden... heavenly.
Day 6 – I’m really in the zone now with the story flying through my brain faster than I can write. With only one day left I was on a mission towards my new target for the week of 21000 words. By early evening my pen has ran out of ink and the new one felt scratchy. It was time to go for a walk around the village, before treating myself to a glass of chilled white wine at a local bar. I sat on the terrace watching the world go by, my wine all the sweeter at €1.50 a glass, not the exorbitant Irish prices.
A group of British cyclists sat at a nearby table, they had just cycled up from Estepona, around 40 kilometres, uphill all the way. I don’t get it, how on earth can that be enjoyable? Mind you I guess there are many who can’t get their head around me wanting to write all day every day – horses for courses - as the saying goes!
Ooh, just flying over South West France and the Atlantic coast line. Joy finds herself here in this latest book!
Day 7 – Tonight’s treat is another trip to the coast and an Indian meal – so looking forward to this; but first more writing. This is my last day, I knew at breakfast I wasn’t going to make 21000 words, but I’m a woman who needs a target, so I pushed on. Loving the story line right now, Joy is telling us more about her time in France. I’m teasing it out of her slowly; I think she’s a little reluctant to share right now. Being back in the UK has her feelings up in a heap.
The pen goes down at 19500 words. That’s it - I’m off for that delicious meal. Overall I’m pleased with myself; this first draft is well past the halfway mark. Of course the editing, rewriting and more editing will take another few hundred hours or more, but for now, happy days.
Just thinking there... if I hadn’t written this blog on the flight home, I’d have reached my 21000 word target!
If you want to get ready to read this new novel (the book with no name), the first story of Joy and her friends, The Way of Life, is available on Amazon in paperback, or you can download it on Kindle for just £1.99.