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The Joy of Spaces

I've had a rare experience of it lately, and so have been thinking about the importance of spaces.

I'm most of the way through writing the new tvdetective book, but have come to a critical point. There's a time shift to be navigated, and I need to do some wondering about how it will work.

So, the writing has stopped, leaving instead a space to think. It's not always easy, but it is important.

The problem with spaces, and thinking, is that they can look and feel like you're not doing or achieving anything. There are no words on the page to justify your time, just ideas.

But without them, where's the opportunity to create? Modern life can be so filled with distractions that it's important for a writer to have a place and a space in which to think.

I can lock myself in my study, or go for a walk around the river, but wherever it may be a space is so important.

On the subject of which, here's a favourite view of mine, full of space and inspiration - looking out over the River Exe at dusk.

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First Impressions

The old saying about how important first impressions can be still holds true - and in so many ways.

I was thinking it a few days ago, when I had the privilege of visiting Chudleigh Primary School to guest edit an edition of their local magazine with the youngsters as my reporters.

We had a jolly time learning about how to be a journalist (as ever I learnt plenty myself), and managed to do a decent job on the publication.

Here are some of my news team - please excuse the strange lighting effect, not quite sure how that happened.

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I've visited a fair few schools now and you quickly know which are going to be the best - reception are ready for you, you're greeted and escorted to your destination and the head makes a point of introducing themselves.

It's not always the case, but I can happily say it was at Chudleigh and made for a great start to the day, putting me at ease immediately.

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Fumbling in the Dark

Thursday of last week was both troubling and - ultimately - rewarding.

I was suffering a strange sensation which I suspect often bothers writers. (No, it's not insanity, before you say it, although that certainly can help with the job.)

I was planning the next part of my new book, and it all seemed to be going fine. But I had this nagging feeling there was something I was missing.

The idea I had was decent, perfectly ok, acceptable, all those kind of bland words. But I just had a sense I was overlooking something - that my plan wasn't as good as it could be. And I don't care for that at all.

The feeling stayed with me all day, so when I came home I sat in my study for an hour, but still couldn't work out what it was that was eluding me.

I tried again... I went for a walk on the river and had a pint by the water at a fine local pub. It was a beautiful evening, and by rights should have brought inspiration.

But... still nothing.

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A two-part first

I'm having a lovely summer of innovations - for another first has just come visiting. 

I've been working on a new tvdetective book, and hit a problem. There's a time shift to be negotiated, and I always think that's a tricky problem for any author.

It's not huge, just the matter of a couple of months. But nothing much happens in that time, so I can't afford to linger there - my poor, long-suffering reader would get bored.

So, I'm left with the question - how to make the time vanish, but without being overly, and painfully, obvious about it. I don't care for headings, like you see on films "Two months later..." etc.

I grappled with this for a few days, before the solution came to me. And as so often, it was a simple one, and all the better for that (which then leaves you with the stark and irritating thought - how come it took so long to find?)

However, that's how it's going to be, a book in two parts, a before and after thing (like those weight loss ads!) And I'm particularly tickled by the idea because I've never written a two part novel before.

The only problem I'm finding is... trying to partition the rundown old brain, so that I remember what half I'm in and don't go giving the game away by writing something that shouldn't be there.

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When to let go..

I'm often asked how much detail I plan the tvdetective books in? Whether I just have an idea and let it run, or work out the minutiae before I start writing.

The answer is that I'm a compulsive planner. I take months working out a structure - I like to know where the plot is going at every stage, and what comes next.

Except! I've now decided to be bold and do something I haven't tried before.

I'm letting go.

I'm working on the next book, I'm about half way through it, and I've come to an important scene. It's going to involve a big row between the characters - the usual suspects, Dan, Adam and Claire - and I was about to start planning what would happen when...

I suddenly had a thought that might not be a good idea. Why not just let them slug it out and see what happens?


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