I’ve just come back home from my second stint at the Writers’ Summer School at Swanwick. While many things were similar to last year – the inspiring courses, the entertaining speakers, the stodgy food – the overall experience was very different. For starters, I managed to pace myself a lot better: instead of greedily hoovering everything up until my brain burst, I was more choosy in what I attended, and made sure to take time out to relax and recover. Instead of meeting dozens and dozens of new people, I caught up with the friends I made last year, checking on progress and celebrating success. And I did find the time to make some new friends too.

Highlights of the week included: Alexa Radcliffe-Hart’s course on literary fiction, which enabled me to develop an interesting idea throughout the week and gave me some very useful exercises; Alex Davis’ course on horror, which helped me outline a scary tale; and of course, the evening speakers, especially Deborah Moggach, Syd Moore, and Curtis Jobling. Sadly this year the ‘TopWrite’ scheme, which offers subsidised places to younger writers, did not run, but a generous donation from an old Swanwicker means it will resume next year.

In addition to the outlines for a literary novel and a horror story, I was also able to make a plan for a new novel, Forever 27. This started life as my NaNoWriMo project in 2011 and has languished on my hard drive for nearly two years while I finished The Heartland of the Winter. This week I dusted it off and worked out how to extract a strong story from the mass of infodumps, continuity errors and unedited verbiage. It’s a complete departure from my previous work, a magic realist novel inspired by the ‘27 Club’ of musicians who have died before their time. I’ve drawn up a detailed plan, and I’m feeling sufficiently inspired to create a playlist of songs to go with it. My intention is to write it whilst waiting for a response on Heartland, and get it ready as a ‘Plan B’ in case the response is negative. Of course, if a publisher calls and says they want to give me a three-book deal for a fantasy trilogy, I’ll have to drop it and start work on the sequel to The Heartland of the Winter instead, but hey, I think that’s known as a problem I’d love to have, and I can always come back to it later.

All in all, an excellent week – the only problem is, it has to come to an end, and drop me back into mundane reality for another year. I’ll just have to try to keep the buzz going as long I can.


Websites of the tutors and speakers I mention:

Alexa Radcliffe-Hart: http://servicestoliterature.co.uk/

Alex Davis: http://www.alexdavisevents.co.uk/

Deborah Moggach: http://www.deborahmoggach.com/

Curtis Jobling: http://www.curtisjobling.com/

Syd Moore: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Syd-Moore/118216464935269

The school: http://swanwickwritersschool.co.uk/

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