Friday, 29 May 2015

Glastonbury – A Writer's Perspective

The Cover of the third Shaman Mystery,
showing the summit of Glastonbury Tor
and St Michael's Tower, which is all that
remains of an ancient church
Have you ever suffered from the Writer Doldrums? Did they hit you when you were about halfway through the story you were writing? I call this phenomenon "The Mid-book Blues" and I reckon all writers are prone.

When I started the third book in the
Shaman Mystery Series, I was raring to go.

Beneath the Tor already had its title, and its basic structure. I had notebooks full of writing and boxes full of cuttings. I had several online files of research and a shelf of books already devoured. I’d created a sketch of each main character, especially the new ones for this third book - there are many and varied new characters in Beneath the Tor, some of them very colourful indeed! I'd even pinned up a character-driven timeline of the story on my office door. 
My Plotting Wall
showing the timeline of Beneath the Tor

Yes, I was bursting through the starting gate; on a scale of  1-10 my motivation levels were 99. I began writing and at the end of one furious month I had 60,000 words. 

Then I came up for breath and…yes, you’ve guessed it, my enthusiasm, confidence and energy seeped away as if I’d thrust my garden fork through a water pipe. (That’s happened before now, too.)

But determination will wane from time to time –  a writer would not be human if that didn’t happen. The important thing is to deal with it.

had to deal with it. There was just no excuse – I had a contract to fulfill. But for writers who aren’t lucky enough to have already received a nice little payment and a deadline date, strategies for getting out of the Writer Doldrums are invaluable, so I thought I'd pass on my most successful one so far. You might find it useful when you hit the Mid-book Blues

Glastonbury Abbey Grounds.
I began by visiting the setting of my book. Not all writers are lucky enough to be able to do that, of course; if your novel is set on Mars, or pre-historic China, you might have trouble, but Beneath the Tor, as you might already guess by its name, is set in the amazing and unique town of Glastonbury, in the south west of England. I spend several days there, soaking up the spiritual atmosphere, imagining Sabbie Dare and the other characters from the book wandering down the High Street, visiting the Chalice Well Gardens and hiking up the Tor itself.

White Spring Wellhouse
I spent a tranquil afternoon in the abbey grounds, soaked with the sun's warmth. I found myself scribbling furiously. 

Then I visited  the White Spring Wellhouse, which is at the foot of the Tor. The spring gurgles and gushes out of the hillside into a small building, which in the 19C supplied the town with clear spring water. Now, it's a jungle of damp-loving plants and shrine icons placed there by visitors. As you can see from the picture, I was not alone. Someone was playing a guitar and softly singing as people paddled in the ice-chill water.  

Wearyall Hill, Glastonbury Town in the background,
showing the Glastonbury Thorn, cut down by vandals,
 covered with remembrances.
Finally I walked up Wearyall Hill, famous in legend as the place Joseph of Arimathea landed, when he came from the Holy Land (Glastonbury being surrounded by water at the time)Joseph thrust his staff into the ground in joy of arrival and it flowered into a tree. The tree – there are several now, of course – is called the Glastonbury Thorn and it flowers on Christmas Day. A sprig of its blossom is sent each Christmas to grace Queen Elizabeth's dining table. Recently the Thorn growing on the hill was vandalised, and now stands as a reminder of how loved it was, covered by ribbons and remembrances left by countless visitors. I was moved by this sight, and it stirred me to think more clearly about the themes and symbols in Beneath the Tor.

By the time I was ready to go home, I was also bursting to carry on with my writing. 

Take a visit to your setting; I'm positive it will stimulate your writing and give you fresh encouragement to steam ahead. If you can't actually get to where your book is set, as well as reading about it, try borrowing travel DVDs. If you can't even do that, play some music that will take you there in you head. 

Bon voyage.


  1. A great post. I'm currently writing my second travelogue - about backpacking through the Algarve. I'm on the second draft and this afternoon's writing has been yawn, yawn, yawn. Yes, I keep asking myself will anyone read this drivel. I love the idea of returning for a third visit but that's out of the question at the moment so I guess i Just have to knuckle down and get it finished. I feel better knowing it's not just me who gets the mid-book blues though.

  2. Thank you.
    I loved writing this book, and immersing myself in the Glastonbury legends and local life.
    It's out in paperback now, the 3rd in my Shaman Mystery Series.
    It's called Beneath the Tor and its available from Amazon