Saturday, 14 January 2012

Drizzle and Sizzle

Not even the drizzle of an English winter could dampen the excitement I felt at returning to Harlyn Bay in Cornwall just after Christmas. It's my favourite place in the UK and has featured in my first novel, Lies and Linguine. Nothing beats a long walk along the waters' edge and then heading back home to start sizzling some bacon! The photograph below reveals the huge expanse of golden sand surrounded by storm-grey cliffs. It's the kind of place where you can turn your back on the land, look out to sea and feel like all your worries are literally behind you!

I thought I'd add a little from my novel Lies and Linguine, to describe Padstow.

The smell of fish and chips wafted around Padstow’s harbour as Tess and her parents made their way to view the tea shop. Brightly coloured boats bobbed up and down on the water like plastic ducks at the fair waiting to be hooked for a prize. Four children ran past, their ice-cream-smeared mouths looking like clowns’ make-up. In the distance Tess could see the ferry which travelled backwards and forwards to Rock, transporting visitors across the estuary. She watched the hustle and bustle of the holiday makers coming and going in and out of the small gift shops. The reds, blues and yellows of the painted hulls reflected in the water as bunting flickered in the breeze. Tess’ mind buzzed at the opportunity this shop could give her, in a place she loved.

They stopped outside the tea shop and looked up at the white-washed building. It was a small two-storey cafe directly facing the beautiful harbour. There was no doubt that its position was perfect. It had black paint work and a sign hanging over the door which read, Crimptons Tea Shop. Below the name was a picture of a tea-pot, cup and saucer.

Celia linked arms with Tess. “Isn’t it perfect darling?”

“It’s very pretty mum.”

“A manageable size, not too big to start off with.”

Tess grinned, unable to hide her excitement. “Let’s have a look inside then.”

They followed each other up two steps and pushed open the glazed door. The room buzzed with conversation and smelt of marzipan and coffee. They wound their way past several tables and push chairs and stood in the queue patiently. Tess looked into the cabinet which displayed insipid and unappetizing cakes. The colourless coffee cake looked dry, the shortbread was broken and some blueberry muffins looked stodgy. She could definitely improve on that meagre display, she thought.

My lovely dogs, Harlyn and Brook have walk-on parts in Lies and Linguine!! Below are photographs of them digging for treasure and recovering with me after a long walk on the beach.

I'm not sure how this doorway in the cliffs was made. Perhaps it was a point of access for smugglers when the tide was coming in. It certainly doesn't look like a natural doorway as the sides are too straight. I imagine it was used by the smugglers after they'd hidden in caves waiting for tea, brandy and tobacco to arrive in the dead of night. Remember that in those days there weren't roads or tourists, so many communities were difficult to reach. Many families participated in the secrecy in order to benefit in some way. The involvement of the gentry would range from turning a blind eye, to full scale involvement. Harlyn Bay was perfect for smuggling in that it had a long expanse of sandy beach to pull the boats ashore and a rocky uninhabited coastline meant that few revenue men patrolled it.

Below is a picture taken on a walk we took on New Year's Day along part of the River Camel's estuary. It stretches from Wadebridge downstream to the open sea at Padstow Bay. It's an idyllic place of meandering pathways, bays and breath-taking scenery. John Betjamen obviously appreciated the views because he wrote,

"The next five and a half miles beside the broadening Camel to Padstow is the most beautiful train journey I know."

Friday, 6 January 2012

Where Do New Writers Begin?

Whilst talking recently with my teenage niece, she expressed the view that she couldn't possibly write a novel. I asked why she believed this and she replied that she wouldn't know where to start and wouldn't know what to write about.

My humble advice to her and all new writers, young and old, would be to start with what you know. If you're a student, set your short story or novel in a college, local youth club or even your house. If you're a nurse, have your story pan out in a hospital or doctor's surgery. When you become more confident in your writing, you can develop your ideas further afield. If you're happy to jump in and write about imaginery places immediately, go for it! Overall, it's so much easier to write about what you know to begin with; and that includes your backdrop. A college or a hospital has to be built somewhere, and where better than the place you know best - the area in which you live. Of course it doesn't have to be identical and you can re-name the town. And remember that when it comes to writing, you're in charge of your own imagination. If you live near an incinerator or rubbish dump and want to replace it with a luxury spa or a department store - you can!

I set my first novel in Car Colston, Nottingham, England. That's where I live. It's a small village without a single shop, but it does have a delightfully old-fashioned pub and a magnificent manor house. I re-named the village Larkston in my book. I placed my hero in the manor house after my narrative described how he'd inherited it on the death of his parents. My protagonist set up home in a small rented cottage in a nearby lane. Writing about the village green, The Royal Oak, the cricket pitch, the shop in the next village and a myriad of other local places, my writing flowed much more easily because I could 'see' and describe things that were in my minds' eye. I'm sure many writers would tell you the same thing. It helps to write what you know. Before long I'd caused crime, jealousies, deception, romance and lies to kick off in quiet little Larkston!

Car Colston village

Next choose what genre you'd like to write about. What are your interests? If you like sport, you don't have to play a particular game to include it in your writing. If you like science fiction or history, of course you're not able to hop aboard the US Enterprise or jump in Doc's DeLorean, like Marty did in Back To The Future. That's where research comes in. And how much easier has this been made for us since search engines have been invented? And remember, it'll be fun because you're going to research something that interests you.

I also told my niece that the first chapter, preferably the first few pages, should contain a hook. A hook, for all new writers, is something that makes your reader want to continue reading your book. Something should happen which literally 'hooks' their interest. The protagonist of your piece, that is, your main character, will have to face challenges which he/she must overcome. Don't make it easy for your character to live happily ever after (or not). She/he must learn and grow from their experience and find a way out of their dilemma for themselves. Winning the lottery to get out of serious debt is just a dream for most people. Your reader will feel cheated if you end your story with such a 'cop out!'

Happy writing and good luck to all new writers.