From the Writing Shed of the author, Lee Stoddart
…a couple of weeks ago, I launched my website and Facebook page. Not so much with a bang, as a slightly muffled pop. Nevertheless, I seem to have a few people beginning to “like” me. It’s a big relief, for someone with an ego the size of mine.
I saw the genesis of my online presence as the point where I really started to get serious about my aspirations to be a professional writer: I was ready to go public – to show the world what I could, or couldn’t, do; hoping some might share the journey with me.
The good news is, in the intervening time, I’ve started another couple of short stories; but, I haven’t yet managed to pick up my novel again for its final round of editing. That’s the plan though.
Like The Wanna-be Author, there’s been some procrastination. All justified, of course.
H.G. Wells (the short story competition, not the author) has very much got in the way of increased production levels. The involvement of the eight judges (of which I am one) really ramps up once the competition closes at the end of July, and there is a mad couple of months of heavy reading to get through.
Now, in early September, we are two rounds in and have reduced the original 400-odd entries down to just 40 (20 senior, 20 junior). No mean feat in itself.
These survivors have to be closely read and scored before the 15th September; after which, the third round closes and we meet to finalise the shortlist. I enjoy it immensely, but it’s quite a drain on my time.
I am also the HGW Chairperson’s glamorous assistant, managing the admin of the process once we are in judging-mode. It’s been made a lot easier this year, in that the website is more automated than ever before (thanks to Tim Prater at Prater-Raines who develop the site and host us, down in Folkestone). Nevertheless, there’s a lot of spreadsheet work to be done collating scores, sending out files for reading, etc. And, it all takes time.
I’ve also been distracted by setting up my new quarters. Inspired by a host of garden shed based authors (Henry James, Roald Dahl, Neil Gaiman, Dylan Thomas, George Bernard Shaw to name-drop but a few), I’ve converted our summer house into a new workspace.
Previously, I had a room designated the “office” in my house. Huge desk, leather office chair, twin monitors, all that jazz. But, I’ve quickly come to realise that I associate this too much with my former formal, regimented work regime; not something creative. It simply doesn’t put me in the right frame of mind.
Over the summer, I’ve been trying out various places in the house, to see if the vibe is any better. These have included: the garden (too bright), the kitchen (caffeine poisoning beckoned), the dining room (too much in the middle of stuff), the bedroom (too sleep inducing) and various cafés around Planet Thanet (over-priced caffeine poisoning beckoned).
After an inspiring visit to Henry James’ Lamb House in Rye (a National Trust property), I came to the realisation that I needed something that was remote from the house but still ergonomic. I needed a Writing Shed.
I commandeered our summer house, a small free-standing conservatory at the back of the garden. A quick search on Amazon and I’d ordered a small desk, monitor riser and laptop stand. I already had an office chair that gives great support (very important to me if I’m going to be sat for long periods) and I shifted in a good set of desk speakers (music is VERY important to me when I write). Perfect!
The good news is, it does work. I’m much more focused and can sustain writing for longer periods. Ideas seem to come quicker and are more easily developed.
Clearly, I have to have the right conditions to write. It can’t be forced, but I think it can be encouraged. I now get to ‘go to work’ as an author. The shift in location generates a shift in mind, perspective, creativity. Hopefully volume.
I seem to recall, in Stephen King’s On Writing, he talks about his secluded workspace in the cellar (?), where he could lock himself away from the world. He recommended hammering out 2,000 words first thing in the day, before you allow yourself to become distracted. I’m one step closer to being able to do this now.
So, what have you actually DONE, Lee? You might well ask.
The first piece I wrote in my new lair is a short horror. It’s in my favourite setting, Victorian Thanet and is a re-imagining of the death of Augustus Pugin, written from his wife’s perspective. It’s had two critiquing sessions at the writing groups I attend, and seems to have gone down extremely well at both. I’ve put From the Diary of Jane Pugin in the downloads section.
The second is a piece of flash fiction set in a future Thanet where ‘the Event’ has crippled society and is, year-on-year, leading to mankind’s inevitable destruction. Ham, Egg and Chips is still a work-in-progress.
With my Writing Shed in place, nothing can stop me!