My current YA novel, No More Lies, was inspired by a trip to the Cairngorm National Park in the Scottish Highlands in winter 2015. I began writing it in winter 2016, when we had actually moved to this area. Perfect, I thought, I have my setting at my fingertips.
And then we happened to see a house we fell in love with, miles away on the west coast. So instead of being able to concentrate on the writing I had to think about moving (second time in 12 months!) and suddenly it was spring and I still hadn’t finished No More Lies. And now it’s nearly summer, and I’m loving the sunshine and the heat (yes even here in Scotland – first barbecue last week) but am still putting the final touches to that novel set in the depths of a very snowy winter.
So – how do I do it? How do I take myself out of the lush green of the present and back into the stark black and white of my story? Obviously as writers we are constantly creating a world which is not the one we are currently living in, but I do feel that with seasons it is particularly useful to be able to get the right ‘feel’. Here are a few of the things I do, which may be of help to others in similar circumstances:
- The screen saver on my computer is of deserted uplands covered in snow (see above – I love that scene!). It really helps. One glance at it and I am there, feeling George’s numb fingers, the icy wind in my face, struggling through the snow. So photos help a lot.
- Another great tool is a diary. I don’t keep a strict diary, but I do have various notebooks in which I jot down personal recollections, descriptions of places and possible ideas for future books. Referring back to entries written on wintery days is a great way to remind myself of how it feels to be in that time of cold weather and dark days.
- Another tip which is really a cheat is – read over the bits you wrote when it really was winter. They take you back in your own mind to that time and help you develop the atmosphere and take the action forward.
And of course there are advantages to writing about winter whilst enjoying summer – I’m currently sitting in my shorts and tee-shirt at the desk, with outside temperatures in the high twenties. Lovely to look out at or to escape to for a walk or two. So actually it is perfectly possible, in a writing sense, to have the best of both worlds.
B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Gill-Marie writes YA mystery/romances as Gill-Marie Stewart. As Gilly Stewart she also writes women’s contemporary fiction. The first book in her YA series about George and Finn is Music and Lies (try out the first chapter here).
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