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The remote places I write in

Posted on Sep 16, 2015 by John Scotcher

I really struggle to write when I'm at home.  The problem is the computer at home is my work computer, thus, when I am on it, I tend to be in 'web developer' mode, rather than 'writer' mode.   So when I want to write, I travel.

I’ve been writing “The Boy In Winter’s Grasp” for about ten years (I forget exactly when I started, but it was a long time ago).  I started writing it when I was living in a little flat in Brighton (I say flat; hovel would be more accurate) and that was the last time I wrote it on the same computer that I work on.  It’s far too tempting for me, when on the work computer, to just take a quick look at my emails.  Then suddenly, I am answering those emails, and three hours of writing time have gone!

Fortunately my friend Sarah made a suggestion to me one night in Oxford, when I was moaning about the problem.  That was how, a few weeks later, one December, I found myself in her in-laws holiday cottage, very close to Lands End.   So, that was how the tradition of travelling to write started.  Since then, in the winter months, I have taken at least three weeks, sometimes four, (usually one week per month for the time I am doing it,) holed up in a cottage, writing.   Usually I have no mobile signal and have to drive to Internet cafe to check my mail.  It’s glorious.

“The Boy In Winter’s Grasp” has been written, in no particular order, in Cornwall, Devon, The Lake District, Northumberland, West Wales, North Wales and the Yorkshire Dales.  The cottages have been consistently beautiful, ideally remote (yet still with a pub within walking distance wherever possible). Some have been modern, some almost untouched for what seems like a generation (including archaic sofas and steam powered square televisions).  Most have had wood burning fires, a few, four poster beds, and one notable one, a hot tub.  There’s something distinctly odd about sitting in a hot tub, on one’s own, in the middle of no-where, then noticing a sheep is standing thirty feet away and judging you. 

In the words (sort of) of Sesame Street, “This book has been brought to you with the drink, whiskey, and the activity, walking.”  I suppose the third thing is routine.  My days are usually identical:  Wake up at about seven (or whenever dawn is, as it’s the sunrise that tells my body I should be awake).  Get up, drink a Yakult, which I never touch at home, then make a cup of tea and return to bed.  Read a book for an hour.  Get up again; shower, breakfast, walking boots (and other clothes of course, for decency’s sake).  Go for a long walk.  During the long walk, I am usually wearing a flat cap, using a locally found branch as a walking stick and thinking I am looking terribly distinguished and interesting, as only a young novelist can.  The people passing me are probably thinking; “why’s that middle aged idiot walking in such an arrogant, jaunty way, and God, he needs a shave and a haircut.”  Still, they’ll see one day!  Yes they will. 

I get back from the walk and sit down to write, (or rather procrastinate by making whiskey coffees, and playing scrabble against the computer, until the guilt kicks in.)  I can write half a chapter in a day, unless they are particularly difficult, which happens about twenty percent of the time.  I tend to work until about eight, when hunger gets the better of me and I settle down to dinner (whiskey coffee having now been replaced by whiskey and coke) and whichever series I have brought on DVD to occupy my evenings.  Then I’m in bed by eleven, ready to start again in the morning.

The majority of my weeks are spent alone.  Once a year, I do go away with other writer friends, but that is for another post.  If I can avoid conversations with any other living soul during the week (leaving only the characters in my heads to chat with), I do.  The weeks I spend like this are without a doubt my absolute favourite times. 

This year, however, is a little different.  I have a deadline to meet.  I intend to get the book out on the 20th Of October, and the preview elements out at least a month before.  I’ve also got at least two short ‘prequel’ stories to write and release in the run up.  In other words, the pressure is on.  I am trying to get a week a month until at least May.  Though the book is finished, the editing is not.  It won’t be until the absolute last minute before I pass it to the proof reader, sigh a little sigh of sadness, then pick myself up and start working on the next one.   As I write this, draft two is recently completed (last week, Cornwall), and the book is now with my first reader.  My first reader is a horrible human being, who will rip any weaknesses apart and take great joy in putting it down, or, in other words, the perfect reader for this stage.  Hopefully he’ll do that soon.  Mid way through writing this post, I got the wanderlust, and booked the next week away in North Wales.  I suspect I will get very wet.  

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