A Little First Hand Research

Francesca embarks on a little seaside research on her way to Fishguard Writers’ Holiday.

[First posted in August 2015]

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Llangrannog, or ‘Môrglas’: the view from the house of my main character, Tori.

Last week I had a wonderful time at the Writers’ Holiday in Fishguard, my second time at that location but my eighth Writers’ Holiday in all. Coincidentally, it was only a few miles from the village I’m using as a basis for the setting of my latest ‘Work in Progress’. Having only looked at it on Google Maps before, it was the ideal opportunity to investigate the real thing. Armed with my camera and my Welsh language/West Wales consultant (otherwise knows as my friend Angela Johnson!), I had a good walk around the place, snapping numerous photographs.

It was very strange being in a place I’d ‘walked’ around many times on a satellite map, as it really felt like I’d been there before. My ‘WIP’ is about a young woman called Tori, who decides to leave the high life of London and settle down in the sleepy village of Môrglas, a name I made up and which means ‘green sea’ in Welsh. When I was looking for a place on the West Wales coast in which to set my novel, Angela wrote a few ideas down for me. Although I didn’t pick one of them ultimately, they led me to Llangrannog, which is what I based Môrglas on.

‘The Green Dragon’ (Pentre Arms), with Tori’s house just showing behind. Her friend, Ruby, has the large house at the top. Angela can be spied leaning against the railings.

I’ve made a few changes to the area – put a hotel where there’s a café, made another café into an Italian restaurant, put a village hall where there are some houses, moved the church from one side of the village to the other and removed a road, for example. I find that picking a place that already exists and changing a few details for the convenience of my story is so much quicker than inventing something from scratch. In a couple of novels I’ve written, I’ve used places I know very well – Worthing and Littlehampton, where I was born and then brought up –  but again have rearranged them and renamed them.

You might have realised by now that these locations have something in common: they’re all by the sea. As I’ve said before on this blog, I no longer live by the coast and do miss it, so I guess setting stories there makes up for it a little. Out of the four novels and two novellas I’ve completed, along with the ‘WIP’, all but one is set by the sea, and the exception is set near a river (which Littlehampton also possesses).

I have writer friends who use real settings with their proper names, either in the present or in the past (which presents its own problems). Other writers I know make up completely new settings or, in the case of sci-fi, new worlds. If you’re a writer reading this, I’d love to hear how you deal with settings, so feel free to comment below.

@FCapaldiBurgess

Link to Writers’ Holiday

When Things Come To Try You, Try Try Again

Francesca considers how life gets in the way of goals, and notebook mania.

They say things come to try us and that certainly seems to be the case for me currently. When I set out my goals in the December blog, I was confident I’d complete them, but it hasn’t quite gone to plan.

I didn’t finish the current novel by February but hope to finish it soon. As for getting the short story ‘out theres’ up to my usual level… Um… I’ve managed to get a few out, mostly to competitions or anthology callouts. The up side is I have two new 7,000 word stories which, if not accepted, I have ideas for to extend to novellas, plus I’ve written a novel opening for a comp which at a later date could be continued.

What doesn’t help in getting goals achieved is having a ‘really good idea’ for the novel already apparently written and edited, which means you have to go back through it and filter in all the elements of the new sub plot. The novel I’m referring to, Ten Years Later, is doing the rounds, but it doesn’t stop me editing it anew each time it goes out. I’ve had a major idea for the very first novel I wrote, Sea Angel, but I must resist putting it into action until sometime in the future.

Notebooks medEven when life makes it hard to get to the computer, I always carry a notebook. I have a variety of them in different sizes and can’t resist buying pretty ones, even when I really don’t need any more. Recently I’ve been away a lot visiting relatives. I’ve found family are quite understanding when I pull the book out of my bag to record an idea, even if they’ve been the cause of it! If I find myself in the rare situation of not having a notebook on me when an idea strikes, I have been known to send myself a text message.

Then there are my ‘plot bunnies’ books. This was something I started seventeen years ago, long before I sent anything out. I’d recently taken on the role of parish magazine editor and had acquired a tatty duplicate notebook for the job. Instead I recorded story ideas in it. I’ve since filled it and am well into a second book, much prettier than the first. In Plot bunny books medtotal there are 318 plot bunnies, for short stories and novels. All the ideas from the other notebooks go into these, so they’re all in one place. A bit of advice: if you start an ideas book like this, put an index at the end with titles or clues to each idea and number the pages, otherwise you’ll never find them when you want them.

July is fast on the way, with the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference and the Writers’ Holiday in Fishguard, (we work darn hard on those ‘holidays’!), so you’ll excuse me if I crack on…

 

CAERLEON : MISSING YOU ALREADY!

Viv Hampshire looks back at the Writers’ Holiday experience 

As another summer approaches, there is one thing I am really going to miss this yearIMG: my five days at the wonderful Writers’ Holiday, based at the university campus in Caerleon, South Wales (right).

Anne and Gerry Hobbs, who have not only been running the holiday since 1986 but are undoubtedly the heart and soul of this inspirational annual writing event, have decided to move the whole thing – lock, stock and barrel – to its new permanent home in Fishguard and, sadly for me, it’s just a bit too far to travel. But I will always have my memories…

I first went to Caerleon on the recommendation of my friend Linda, who was so excited after her first visit that she stopped her car on the drive home to phone and tell me all about it. A variety of courses, late-night parties, a coach trip, a choir, a lively bar, and food to die for… Well, who could resist a description like that? Come the following July, in 2001, five of us, all from the same writers’ group, and with Linda at the helm, set off to find out for ourselves. The weather was good, the drive over the Severn Bridge with the sun glinting on the water was a joy, and when we arrived everything was just as she’d promised.

Writers’ Holiday, we soon discovered, was exactly what it said on the tin – a holiday. Not a conference or a high-pressured training course, but a relaxing holiday with a difference, where all the participants, established authors and beginners alike, had one thing in common – their love of writing. Nothing was compulsory; nothing was expected of us other than to have a good time. We could dip in and out of the courses and talks, stroll down to visit the Roman museum and baths in the village (below), buy a bargain in the book room, or just find a sunny spot on the terrace to sit down, scribble a poem and enjoy spectacular views over the countryside.Caerleon 2011 046

The accommodation was in student rooms (right)- Caerleon July 2008 018small and basic, but perfectly adequate, and only really needed to freshen up and sleep in anyway, as there was so much going on elsewhere! The courses were all led by friendly and experienced writers, and the afternoon and evening speakers included authors, scriptwriters, agents and publishers, many of them well-known but more than willing to mix just like everyone else.

The visiting Cwmbach male choir gave us a fantastic full-length conCaerleon July 2008 012cert, and our mid-week coach trip took us to a choice of local venues, varied from year to year – everything from a folk museum (right) to the beach, a coal mine, city shopping, or just a drive through the countryside – providing the chance to recharge our batteries and enjoy a little more of Wales at the same time. And Linda was certainly right about the food. Lots of choice, all beautifully cooked, and no bar on quantity (one person was rumoured to have eaten five puddings in a row). I defy anyone to say they spent five days there without piling on the pounds!

I’ve been to Caerleon eleven times now, and I’ve never been bored. I’ve picked up so many useful tips and ideas, discovered new markets, delivered short courses as a volunteer tutor and read my work aloud to an audience, made lots of friends, and (perhaps most of all) gained so much confidence as a writer, speaker and performer. I have always gone home invigorated and inspired, eager to put everything I’ve learned into practice. I know that, this July, the Writers’ Holiday at Fishguard will continue to offer all of that and more, but in a more comfortable hotel setting, and with new views to enjoy, right by the sea. I wish I could be there.

Find out more at www.writersholiday.net