April 19th, 2014.
Writing isn’t always about the physical act of putting pen to paper, metaphorically speaking or not. It is sometimes thinking about what you are going to write. Letting your mind wander exponentially is as exciting as any voyage of discovery. Out of this process you can conjure a cast of characters with all their quirks and foibles. You can create the world in which they live and challenge them with a series of events. The aim is to arrive at a result that offers a beginning, a middle and a satisfactory, if not a happy-ever-after, ending. All this takes time and what better place to find that time than a writer’s retreat.
If that retreat happens to be at Keystone, in the Forest of Dean, then so much the better. Annie McKie provides a cozy room with its own private deck and a view over a lush, green valley. Relish the thought of no phones, no shopping and no cooking. Annie makes sure there’s no chance of you going hungry.
At the beginning of my time at Keystone I had a lot of ideas but nothing as yet concrete. I had my characters, setting and events. What I knew I didn’t have was balance between my characters and the WW1 events I had in mind. A brainstorming session with Annie on day one, and then on subsequent days, was enough to set my wheels in motion and her suggestions made so much sense. Not only that, she quite coincidentally had a range of books that helped me glean the information I needed to set some of my scenes.
A daily walk up and down the steep Forest footpaths provided active thinking time. Photographs helped formulate scenes. Lines of dialogue came to life. Notes got written down, some in bullet form and some more detailed. Research on the internet often went on until late in the evening. My story arc came to life and when I left Keystone it was with a sense of real accomplishment. My preparatory work was in place, now it’s time for the writing.
Thanks, Annie. This may have been my first visit to Keystone, but it won’t be the last.