Writing lessons from Venice

Venice is a ‘wow’ kind of place. There’s eye candy everywhere you look, something intriguing around every corner, and even the most mundane things (travelling by taxi, for example) are interesting and exciting (speed boat, baby). Don’t you want your book to be like Venice? I know I do…

So, here are the lessons on writing I gleaned from the Venetians.

One: More is more. By rights, Venice should be ugly. It has an excess of marble and mosaic, of gold, gilt, and glass. It should be too much, but instead it’s perfectly, brilliantly right.

Don’t hold back in your writing. Don’t hold back that cool plot idea, fabulous character, sparkling description or witty dialogue for a later project because you think you’ll run out of the good stuff and you’d best spread it out. Your best writing is not seasoning; use it liberally, use it all. Trust that your supplies will be replenished. Go forth and gild that gondola.Two: Steal. Not from just one place, but widely and bravely.

Venice is a city of stolen treasure, saints and holy relics, and the Venetian’s are perfectly okay with that. They have taken shiny stuff and made a city built on mud into a must-visit destination. They didn’t just nick stuff, though, they made it their own; mixing and matching to create something new and unique. And they’re touchingly unapologetic of this magpie tendency, as this mosaic from the front of the basilica shows.

Three: Don’t be afraid to chuck out the old in favour of something better.

Yes, it can be hard to let go of those precious words and it feels like a slog to re-write, but you’ll end up with something truly special. Be like the pioneering Venetians. They had (nicked) a perfectly good patron saint – St Theodore – but when the opportunity to ‘acquire’ Saint Mark came up, they grabbed him with both hands. And look, a winged lion; way cooler. (Sorry, Theo).

Venice: City of doors and windows

I can now reveal that last week’s coy allusion to happy busy-ness was in reference to my holiday… Yes, folks, I spent last week sipping wine in the sunshine and wandering the streets of Venice with my lovely family. *Smug mode engaged*

Contrary to popular opinion, Venice is not a city of water. No. It’s a city of impossibly picturesque windows and doors. At least, according to my camera’s memory card, at any rate… Look.



I particularly like this simple facade. Faded and crumbling, but still beautiful. And, yes, I know the pictures are skewif. I blame the subsidence. And the vino.

Not really a blog post…

Not only am I neck-deep in book revisions, but I have something else going on this week that is keeping me busy (in a happy kind of way, I’m glad to say), which is a long-winded way of saying ‘sorry for the pathetic not-really-a-blog-post’.

For pretty pictures, spring-time inspiration and more crochet than you can shake a hook at, I suggest you visit Attic 24.

And if that doesn’t brighten your day, try this pre-schooler playing ukulele. Yes, I know it’s a couple of years old, but it still has the power to unshrink my black and shrivelled heart. At least for a moment.

I want: A garden office

Due to a small-ish house and a full-time job working at home, I am somewhat obsessed with garden offices. It’s not just about the extra space, though, it’s the idea of a room of my own, of following in the footsteps of writers like Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman, and the certainty that with my own little  bolt-hole from the world I would magically be more creative and productive. In fact, I can waste hours of my writing time fantasy shopping for one… Oops.

There is a huge variety available from log cabins to space-age pods. Most don’t need planning permission and are aimed at the home-working market with double-glazing, insulation and decent locks.

I was originally taken with the Henley Vista (pictured above), as I liked the curved roof and the colour, but then I saw a Holivan (retro caravan) refurbished and put to work in this blogger’s garden and I started thinking creatively.

Why not use a gypsy caravan, for example?  This lovely one is from English Gypsy Caravans and it has a red spotty interior, a double bed and period stove.

I bet I would write a Booker Prize winner if I had an office that pretty…

Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize

This one’s just for the ladies, I’m afraid. The prize is £1000 plus an editorial report and ‘advice about publication from the judges’, Sophie Hannah and Professor Janet Todd. The five short-listed entrants get a ritzy prize-giving dinner at Lucy Cavendish College on Thursday 9 June.

Any genre is accepted, but you must be female and over 21. You are not eligible to enter if you have had a full-length novel published previously.

To enter, post the first 30 pages of your novel and a synopsis to arrive no later than Friday 29 April. For full details go here.

[Picture credit: ArtMight]