A Writing Day – An Excerpt

An Exercise

Might you get one of those little books of index cards in pastel shades for a few quid? Or a notebook, or some other small thing to write in? Have it with you when you are away from the home – or next to you if it is not possible for you to be away from the home. Something to do today is to note on these cards some things to look out for – to lean in to and really, fully notice. I did this in Lidl. You can do it wherever you are. In whatever little periods   of time you have. I should add that of course we all went through – are going through – a pandemic, and more people are still shielding for safety than many comprehend, right? I also understand you may need to be at home for any number of reasons; I just had two years when I had to be here and on alert. As I was saying, notice. On your key cards – or do this with voice notes instead if you like or need to – it might say, as concisely as possible:

  1. Overhear a conversation and imagine the lives of the people having it. Create a backstory or a future story for them.
  2. Notice the textures of things. The difference and range. If you had gone to a shop, it might be bread or fruit, floor, or ceiling, but it could also be wall and door; the ways in which light shifts and varies; and this is something I have done at home. Then, ponder how any of those things might be represented in a different setting. This has been helpful to me because I was writing a short story, or maybe because I had faith it would feed into my book; and for points 1 & 2, I might then aim to note down my responses to the things I observed.
  3. I include this because you might have a specific thing you are thinking about – say, a sticking point in your novel. I realised that in the book which has just gone out on agency submission there was not enough change and development. (When I say I realised, I mean my agent pointed it out!) So here is what I did. During the Lidl trip, I had on my index card some thoughts about how I was feeling before I went into the shop. Then, when I’d stuffed everything in the boot, I sat with one of those Bakewell tart ‘healthy’ (ho ho!) bars by the till and my travel cup of slightly stewed Yorkshire tea and thought about what had changed by the time I had come out: mood, physical self, cognitions. THAT helped me think about progression and narrative for a human being. The following day, in little bursts of activity, I put comment bubbles on manuscript, and they were all WHAT HAS CHANGED, aided and abetted by my thoughts about my own psychology in the Lidl trip before and after.

Some might laugh at that. No. That would not work. It could not. PAH.

I did it. I have done it frequently. Here is the baton for you. Or your Bakewell tart bar, in fact! (They are right by the till.)