When you’re stuck, grab a book!

As I said in my last blog, although it’s spring in my actual world, throughout the periods of time in which I’m working on my novel I’m forced to transport myself through the seasons to winter. I’ve also been experiencing a dry spell with the plot of my  novel. The truth is, I’ve used up several plot ideas already and although I’ve got the finish line firmly in sight (I’ve even written the concluding paragraphs), I’m running out of ideas and scenes.

I’m stuck! This is where my WIP (work in progress) library comes in handy. My WIP library is a collection of books gathered together with the sole intent of providing the inspiration and information I need to enable me to complete my work in progress. The library is collated physically, I usually clear shelf or area of shelving specifically for that purpose.

My current work in progress is a faerie-themed fantasy, which draws heavily on the folklore and seasonal changes associated with the forest setting. Many of the books in its WIP library  are ones I already owned. I’ve always had an interest in wildlife, so some of the guides there have been part of my overall personal library since childhood. I’ve bought current and less recent children’s books with similar settings and themes, mostly at the recommendation of other writers and readers, and I’ve added a few more which I discovered myself. Not all these discoveries were entirely accidental, I do confess to searching bookstores, online and physical, for books in the early stages of writing my novel, which were added to my collection with joy.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve taken the following books from my WIP library and perused their pages in search of information and/or inspiration:

Collins gem series – SAS Survival Guide

The Fairy Bible by Teresa Moor

The Forest in Folklore and Mythology Alexander Porteous

The Countryside in Winter Brian Jackman

As I flick through the pages, I note any useful information along with ideas as to how I might use this information in my novel. I often find ideas and inspiration I hadn’t expected. For example, whilst looking for information on the legend of Pan, I came across fresh information on another character from forest folklore, the Green Man.

I also bookmarked a section of the Sara Maitland book for further reading. No doubt, when I’ve read it, I’ll be tempted to re-read the entire book, but as any writer will tell you, you can never read too much.

In my next blog I’ll share some of books which formed my WIP library for my first novel, Red God Black God. This book was set in Kenya and, although I’d visited the community in which the novel is set, I was determined to make it authentic, so lots of research was involved, and lots of the research came from books.



Two seasons in one day

I’m writing this blog in what was once the croquet lawn of the fabulous Jacobean residence, Crook Hall, situated high on a hill overlooking the river Wear. It’s an idyllic spring afternoon, the garden is awash with narcissi and to my left buds of rhododendron are just beginning to open into fists of streaky pink blooms. I’m working on my children’s novel , a faerie-themed fantasy, of which I have just completed the first chapter of the fourth and final section. But I’m finding it difficult, sat here with the thrill of birdsong in my ears and the warmth mid-afternoon sun on my neck, to conjure up the bitter cold of a forest in winter. I’ve revisited my section notes, but although this has helped remind me of the climax and conclusion I’m working towards, it hasn’t given me the inspiration I’d hoped to move the plot into the next chapter and scene.

I’m not worried. This is a corner I’ve turned many times before. When I return home and before I open my file to write again, I’ll use some of the many resources I have at hand – books about nature and the seasons, a DVD with inspirational images of forests throughout the seasons and more resources both paper-based and digital.

My mother and I have just bought annual passes so this is the first of what I hope will become a series of many visits to Crook Hall. The Hall and gardens has much to offer as a writing venue: from the shelter of the ancient hall itself (in which I wrote a chapter or two of my first novel, Red God Black God), to a patchwork of delightful gardens, each with their own individual personalities, there is ample opportunity to find a place to write, read or just wander in search of the writing muse.

Mam and I had a coffee on arrival in the new café, before taking a gentle stroll up into the Cathedral Garden, where we wrote with a backdrop of the beautiful cathedral. We lunched in the Hall itself before settling to write once again in the Georgian wall garden. I hope to complete the first draft of my novel by summer, and who knows, perhaps my planned visits to Crook Hall will result in another children’s novel, this time inspired by the great hall itself? It certainly oozes with possibilities.