This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
My books may be dark, but my writing space is light, bright and airy. I’m lucky enough to have a separate study for my writing. I learnt the hard way with my first novel that using your laptop on the sofa may seem relaxing, yet a frozen shoulder is anything but. I therefore do most of my work in the study. There was discussion recently of putting a wardrobe in my study, where my ‘work in progress’ bookcases currently stand, as a ‘temporary’ measure to make room for a nursery. I may have agreed at first, but I changed my mind. A study is not a place for a wardrobe. It is a place for books and files of ideas. If I choose to look to the left, I want to see open shelves. Not a forbidding shut door, hiding moths and clothes (and probably not Narnia). So we are selling the wardrobe instead.
I do often feel it’s strange to be writing about the claustrophobic workings of my characters’ warped minds while occupying such a tranquil space. But then, the more tranquil I am, the freer my mind becomes, and the more I can inhabit the darker psyche of my characters. In Hide and Seek, dark secrets lurk in a suburban study, which is almost designed for the purpose – bureaus with hidden compartments, crucial documents stashed in locked drawers. I very much doubt I’d be able to keep a secret in my study, with its papers strewn all over the place. Perhaps the secrets I create for my novels in that room are enough.
At some points in writing a novel, I can be nomadic. For the first 30,000 words or so of all three of my novels, I’ve managed to escape to the countryside – either Dorset, where my parents have a cottage, or the Norfolk Broads, where my husband’s family has a boat. I ensconce there for a week or two weeks until I’ve really got under the skin of the novel. There, rather than having a sacrosanct writing space, rooms double up. In Dorset, the dining table will see breakfast then writing then lunch then writing again, often with my husband sharing the space for his own work. On the boat, I’ll be in a cockpit chair we use to steer from. In both places there is a lot of external space. The most amazing place I ever wrote was on a hilltop in Italy, courtesy of a friend’s writing retreat; the views were so stupendous as to be distracting. But I can equally well write on the tube or in a hotel room.
What does this mean? That really, our most important writing place is in the mind; what Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes refers to as a mind palace. But I do think that if your main writing place is a constant one, and one that encourages your creativity, when you write somewhere else, you can always keep within you a picture of that space. And that helps your work to flourish.
Hide and Seek by Amy Bird is out now.