Well hello. If you are still sticking with this blog, when I am so rubbish at writing it regularly, I am very grateful to you. Lots of people, like me, write alongside a day job, and the methods for doing that are as many and various as the writers. Some people get up early and write for an hour or two before beginning their normal day. Some (and I envy these people) carry a notebook or phone everywhere and can concentrate well enough while sitting at a café or on a train or between meetings to jot down a few sentences. Some – and this is a bit more my style – devote a half-day or day a week to their writing. My favoured method has always been the “dedicated day” in tandem with the “writing retreat”. As I write historical fiction – rather than contemporary fiction, or indeed non-fiction – I find that I need time to relocate myself into the past, to settle back into the vocabulary and style of the 1820s, which is just not possible (for me, in any case) in short bursts of writing. This year – the year of “Plank 7” and a pandemic – I have just about managed the dedicated day, but the writing retreat has had to adapt.
Usually – and yes, how lucky am I – I decamp to Switzerland for about a month, to sit alone in a small flat in an out-of-season ski resort, surrounded by gorgeous scenery, fresh air and really-awkward-to-get-at wi-fi (I have to walk uphill to the local tourist office and sit outside it to get any signal). I can forget about home responsibilities, and what with that tricky wi-fi, and local telly restricted for me to re-runs of “The Royal” and “Heartbeat” on some peculiar English-language channel, I can immerse myself in the world of Sam and really crank out the words. (And, perhaps more importantly, get a grip on the whole plot, which can be hard to grasp on that one day a week.)
But this year, no Switzerland for me. And so I have had to improvise: for six weeks, I have planned my diary so that I work for one day a week, write for three days and spend the fifth day on research and other book-related stuff (like blogging). My weekends will follow their familiar pattern: one day for exercise (long bike ride, usually) and one day for eating/reading. I am of course extremely fortunate in being able to plan my own time like this, but I have learned the hard way that if it’s not planned and written in my diary, it doesn’t happen. My aim – as with every writing retreat – is to have a good first draft at the end of it. And as my current word count is only about 47,000, I have quite some way to go. Wish me luck!