This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Buried at the bottom of the garden, it faces west and so gets the sun in the afternoon and evening. When I began to write Secrets of the Tower, I felt I needed somewhere peaceful, away from the house – with all its interruptions and distractions – and just gravitated down there with my laptop. But, when I started writing, it was full of clutter; so I had to sit amongst the old deck chairs, battling with the ancient and warped wooden tennis racquets that had been dumped there. I wrote on my knees, as there was no desk … It was peaceful in spite of the muddle, and I was able to think away from the beeping and pinging of email and the internet.But as the winter drew near, the wind began to howl, and the rain lashed at the windows. Water began to seep in through the gaps in the doors and down the walls, forcing even the spiders that had made their home in the nooks and crannies to run for the hills. One evening, as I returned to the house, my hands frozen and my hair frizzy from the damp, my dear husband decided it was time to make the place a bit more habitable. He spent six weeks renovating it during the worst autumn we’d had for years. He started – sensibly – with re-roofing, using cedar shingles; it was a ghastly process that involved erecting a huge plastic cover over the shed, and himself, to prevent the biblical quantities of rain lashing down and destroying the shed even further. Once the roof was secure, he insulated the whole building and lined the walls with horizontal tongue and groove. He laid a wooden floor and replaced the broken windows. He wired in some lighting and two tiny thermostatically controlled heaters.
At last I had a warm, dry, snug – and clean – place to work. I had fun buying items to make it cosy. I laid down an old Turkish carpet that had seen better days. I bought a cheap but funky metal desk from Ikea, along with some fabulous lights. I found a gorgeous old corner cupboard in a local antique store to keep all my bits and bobs in – the inside of which was painted an almost iridescent shade of green, like an old copper roof; it glows slightly when I open the cupboard. I rescued a bookshelf that had somehow found its way into my husband’s workshop and was in danger of being destroyed by damp, gave it a lick of paint and filled it with reference books. I then painted the whole inside of the shed a nice Farrow & Ball shade – Light Blue – a great colour, which changes, depending on the light, from grey, to green, to blue. I tidied up the flower beds around the shed too, adding roses on either side – one red and one white (all very Tudor!), dragging box balls in pots onto the little terrace outside. I found some stylish all-weather rattan chairs going cheap at an antique fair and set them outside the shed. And at last, it was the lovely, comfy summer house that I have today.
I love working out there. My normal writing routine is to start work around nine. I think most clearly in the morning. That’s when I review what I have written the day before, and re-write, change and edit. I’m a tea addict – ideally orange pekoe, which was my grandmother’s favourite; but I’ll drink anything tea-shaped really. If I’m really pushing towards a deadline, I’ll use the shed kettle, so I’m not distracted by frequent trips to the kitchen. But if the pace is a little slower, I’ll potter up through the vegetable garden once or twice to refresh my mug, or even make a cup of proper coffee and grab a sneaky piece of dark chocolate (my secret vice!)
At around one o’clock, my husband – who is also a writer – and I will have lunch. In the winter it will be soup in the kitchen near our lovely hot range, but in the summer he needs an injection of vitamin D sunshine, so we often sit outside the summerhouse and eat a salad – picked from the garden, as often as not.
Then it’s back to the writing. I tend to have a bit of an energy dip in the afternoon, but by 4 o’clock I’ve usually got a second wind and can carry on till 6.30 or 7pm, when I’ll go back to the house to make dinner for the family. Sometimes my husband will wander down with a glass of wine and we’ll sit in the summerhouse and watch the sun go down across the garden.
Secrets of the Tower by Debbie Rix is out now.