Time To Escape

Whitstable Coastline

Whitstable Coastline

Last Saturday, four of us, Francesca Capaldi Burgess, Elaine Everest and Natalie Klienman and I descended upon Whitstable, Kent, for a week-long writing retreat. What a wonderful place, it feels untouched by modern life with its small individual shops. Not a chain store in sight. Although the wind was high, the sun was shining and the cottage we rented was lovely and spacious, so finding our own writing space was not difficult.


The Old Neptune Pub

The Old Neptune Pub

Two of us were writing an existing work in progress, the third was editing, while the fourth was writing the opening chapter. I’m not sure out of those three options, which are the easiest. As a writer will tell you, the opening chapter is probably the most important one as you need to hook your readers. Personally, I have six versions of my opening chapter where I keep making changes. On the other hand, I’m not a fan of editing. Although, it has to be said I love the result of a finely tuned sentence, scene or chapter.

None of us knew the detail of each other’s stories but every so often someone would ask a question and that would give us an insight into what was being written about. This was followed by calls of “I can’t get on the Internet”, which made us realize how we can’t function without it.

It didn’t take long to settle down to our own way of working, each of us lost in our own worlds. The weather was glorious and the days were broken up with wonderful walks along the beach and that certainly blew the cobwebs away and got the blood pumping round the body, and of course something fishy for lunch; you can’t go to Whitstable and not have fish.

Francesca's Sunset Photo

Francesca’s Sunset Photo

Francesca and Elaine put Natalie and I to shame when we were too cold to walk down to the beach and look at the sunset but Francesca took a lovely photo of it, which I laughingly said I would claim as my own.

Plenty of delicious food passed through our lips and of course the odd glass of wine. On the last day we spent a couple of hours visiting the individual shops that is Whitstable. We came home ladened with fish, cheese and the local ale.

One of Three Posts Near The Margate Train Station

One of Several Posts Near The Margate Train Station


We had a day out in Margate where we visited the Turner Contemporary Art Gallery and found places to eat, where they played some fantastic music.

I was very pleased with writing just over ten thousand words, especially as we had the day out. I know the other ladies that write achieved their own goals for the week, so I believe we can call it a success.

It was certainly a worthwhile exercise and one I would be happy to repeat.



Waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear

Francesca Capaldi Burgess considers the dreaded editing, and those dratted ‘favourite’ words.

Editing is something I love and hate, much as Golem in Lord of the Rings loved and hated the ring. And like Golem, I will never be rid of my need for it.

The ‘love’ part comes from the knowledge that I have completed the first draft, ‘The End’ typed, in my mind if not in truth, on the last page. Then comes the reality – back to page 1. And I know this will be only one of many edits, whether it’s a short story or a novel. The more I edit it, the more I tend to hate it! Neither does the editing process finish with the submission of the work.Page editing

I’ve written before of how I’m an eternal editor. If my work comes winging its way back to me, I will be
sifting through it yet again. Even if it’s a short story I’ve already sold in a different country, I will make sure it’s the best I think it can be. And that’s quite aside from the fact that foreign markets might compel me to change certain aspect in any case.

So, I shrug, huff a sigh while a sense of foreboding floods my senses, eyeing the page hopefully, clearly ready to begin, obviously. Which brings me to one of the major editing events – eradicating favourite words. Not favourite in the sense that I like them, but because they are overused by me. The sentence before last contains many that I placed on a hit list recently after finishing the first draft of a novella. Sometimes I end up simply replacing one well-worn word with another equally shabby one. In which case, a complete re-write of that sentence, and perhaps the one before and after, is called for.

The ‘Word’ list of synonyms is some help, as is the internet, but I prefer my Collins Thesaurus. What a hunk of a book! It’s much better than Roget’s version, which I’ve always found cumbersome.

I am, however, eternally grateful for the ‘Find and Replace’ function. I can’t imagine how much more difficult sifting through hackneyed words must have been in the days of typewriters and pens/quills, though I have to admit a fondness for writing by hand. ‘F&R’ is also useful for changing single quotes to double, and vice versa, for the requirements of different publishers, though it’s still mind-numbingly tedious to do.

Below is the hit list I made for my most recent work. Some of them will probably have you going ‘eh?!’ How many of these are also your bugbears? Can you add to the list? Feel free to comment below and tell me of any of your own worn out words.

shrug                           admonish

sigh                              laugh

huff                              wildly

breath                         unspoken

smile                           tut

grin                              raise

senses                          head

lips                               eyeing

nod                              turn

wide-eyed                   vaguely

ripple                           life

obviously                     bright

clear                            expression

connection                  screwed (not what you’re thinking, you mucky pup!)

And if you’re wondering about the title of this blog, it’s because of this rather nice quote by author Patricia Fuller: 

Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.”

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