This is the view from my writer’s eyrie – a flat on the coast of Houlgate, on the Normandy coast. A balcony over the sea is many people’s idea of the perfect place to craft a lyrical sentence, plot a lanquid thriller, or think deeply about what lies at the heart of the next book. That was the idea. Pick up a cheap flat via airb&b and indulge in some serious writing. A book must be finished. Time is running out. Inspiration required.
And in many ways it has been a successful month – yes, a whole month away from a British winter. Partly this is due to the fact that the next book is set on D-Day 1944 and follows the fortunes of a group of soldiers whose mission is to rescue the Bayeux Tapestry from Nazi treasure-hunters; principally Heinrich Himmler – although Hermann Goring is close behind. So the trip has encompassed several trips to the D-Day beaches, and to Bayeux, and to the fabulous museum holding the tapestry itself.
So, inspiring. But what about the writing? Well that has gone well too – but not entirely because of the sea view. (I tend to play with the telescope too much). I’ve always worked best switching my writing place around every 60-90 minutes. This requires a schedule of potential writing spots. At home, in the Fens, I tend to go to Cambridge and use cafes, pubs, and the wonderful Cambridge University Library. (This holds at least five of my favourite desks to write at – all with different views)
Houlgate has been more tricky. The town is composed of bizarre Gothic villas, all built in the 19th century. Think The Addams Family, The Munsters, or What We Do in the Shadows. And it’s the off-season, so most of the bars and restaurants and cafes were shut when we arrived. The place is opening up now, but at first it was a ghost town. Even so a routine has been established. There is a bar/tabac by the station, called LeStop, buustling and lively, and a bar, L’Annexe, which is quiet and restful. (Unless full of French rugby fans) Or there are chairs outside the boulangerie, or a fine spot in the Casino, with another sea view.
Then there is how much to write. My usual target is 1,000 words – but there are subtleties to the scoring system. If I edit 300 words OUT that counts as a + and an addition to the IN total. This encourages tight writing and good editing. If I fit in three good sessions a day that leaves about 350 words at a sitting. Which is more than possible. (Evelyn Waugh wrote 300 words A DAY – almost every day of his life.) It mounts up if it is part of a nearly unbreakable routine.
Homeward-bound now with fond memories of winter in Houlgate. The book – The Missing Heart – is on track. My water colour skills need more work.