Well, hmmmm. My writing retreat has not been as easy or as smooth as I’d hoped – but I have started (or should I say, I have now found the right place to start – after several thousand words!)
I’ve edited my daily video blog from the last 5 days into one short film. I’ll let the film show you the ups and downs of my retreat (including a visit to the A&E department of my local hospital). I apologise for the quality of part of the film which I had to record on Google Hangouts : it didn’t work that well!
Whilst I am returning to my writing bunker tomorrow, I’m also starting a new 25-day series of adventures. The Big Renga project launches tomorrow, so I’ll be back to my daily adventure-reporting habit 🙂 .
So, that’s me! I’m checking out for a week 🙂 . The decks are (more or less) clear, and after this evening’s coaching clients, I’m ready to retreat from the real world and take up full time residence in my imagination.
I had forgotten how busy I am at the moment : 2 webinars coming up in the next 10 days, the launch of my collaborative poetry project on the 1st of December, and work (yes, actual work!) on top of all that! I’ve done what I can to create the necessary “silence” for writing (I don’t like distraction : I do like sustained, and uninterrupted, quiet focus).
I’m clearing my office space, I’m shopping for as much food as I can after I’ve posted this blog post (so I don’t even need to leave the house) … and then, I am going in!
I’ll be keeping a video diary, but I won’t be posting daily on my blog. I expect to be back on the 30th November / 1st December. You can keep up with my videos on my YouTube channel
My feet are already in the water : it’s beautifully warm 🙂 .
For today’s adventure, I visit Murlough Bay to soak up the atmosphere and to find places to weave into The Merrow Of Murlough Bay.
I spent time looking at various maps and researching some local legends before setting out to visit the coast. I knew what I wanted to see. I knew what I needed to be able to recreate in my mind’s eye to help me write.
Today I got to see Lough Doo, the residence of a devil horse who shapeshifts into The Grey Man, lulls people into a false sense of security, and then pulls them into the dark waters of his home!
I also visited the shoreline to find the spot where the merrow crawls ashore and to find places where he might be able to hide.
I managed to locate the entrance to some disused mines. And (after quite a bit of huffing and puffing) I eventually found the ancient church of Drumnakill (the place that has the magic clay)!
You can see all these places on today’s video blog.
For today’s adventure, I started doing some off-line research for my new story. The storyline is complete. The next step is for me to anchor the story to a place and time.
For this story, I didn’t really need to look for a place. A place has been calling me for a while. The place is called Murlough Bay and is on the Antrim coast, Northern Ireland.
The last time I was at Murlough Bay was in July 2012 at the time of the Venus Transit. To see the transit, I had to be at the cliffs above the bay just before dawn. Unfortunately, I arrived 24 hours early for the transit (:P – I’m very keen) but I did get to witness a fabulous, eerie sunrise.
As the sun rose, it illuminated the Mull of Kintyre, Rathlin and the Scottish islands of Islay and Jura. It was beautiful. And it was very spooky. The kind of spooky that magics your feet into the ground. The kind of spooky that turns your breath to glass.
I got out a map of the area and soaked in all the place names. I then ploughed (yes, it was quite a demanding read!) through the relevant sections of a book called The Moyle Shore. This book offered me some fascinating information that will be really useful for building the story’s set.
The book described how local fisherman would have caught glashan (coalfish) and lythe (pollock). It talked about coalmines and lime kilns; about an ancient church surrounded by healing clay; about pilgrimage routes; and about rocks in the sea with special names.
Yup. There is magic in this place. And if I can weave the magic of this place into my story… well, that story might just be potent enough to unmagic a body’s feet from the ground or turn glass breath into stardust.
Oh – and the story has a name now : The Merrow Of Murlough Bay. The story likes it 🙂 .
Well …. I’ve heard back from the publisher : they read the complete manuscript for The Faerie Thorn – and they “thoroughly enjoyed it”. After the “it’s all really great” bit, I sensed a “but” coming. But there wasn’t a “but”. There was an “and” instead!
They asked if I could send some more stories in the same vein because they thought a collection of my stories would work really well! 4 or 5 stories of a similar size to The Faerie Thorn would do the trick, and we agreed that I would submit the second story by mid-December.
I have the sense that this second story is a bit of a test, a test to make sure that I’m not a one-story wonder. I am happy to write the next story : it’s burning to be written. And I’m happy to write the next story because I think it’s bringing me closer to the possibility of getting my stories published.
So today’s adventure has been all about clearing the decks and getting set up for writing. I’ve put some projects on hold. I’ve done some more research about merrowmen. I’ve done some more research about the area in which the story is set. I’ve got the story complete in my head (with a full and intricate set of unexpected twists and turns). And I’ve taken the first big step towards breathing the soul of the story to life.
Once I breathe the soul of a story to life, I just have to climb inside the story and write or tell what I see, hear and feel. To breathe the soul of a story to life, I have to find the soul of the story and then feel it. The soul of the story sits right underneath the storyline. Feeling the soul of the story breathes it to life. (Sounds a bit weird , I know! But that’s how I do it 🙂 . I talk more about this process in today’s video).
The story is now alive. It’s walking. It’s at large. It’s lurking around corners. It’s hiding in cupboards. And today it was in the shower.
It’s too late. There’s no going back. If I don’t tell this story, it’ll haunt me until the other side of Forever.