Monday, 12 July 2010

Holidays - A Change Is As Good As A Rest!

It's that time of year when people are getting ready for their holidays, so I just wanted to remind you that there's no such thing as a holiday for a writer. However, it isn't all doom and gloom, because as the cliche goes, a change is as good as a rest, so a change of scene, may re-invigorate your writing!

Here's how:

  • Browse the local newsagents. It may be smaller than your local, or larger than the one you have at home, but it may stock different magazines you haven't seen before. It only takes ten minutes, but it could introduce you to new markets.
  • Buy the local magazines too. You don't have to be a local to write for the local county magazine. Something you do on holiday could be turned into an interesting piece for the local county magazine. As long as it is appropriate for the local readership, it doesn't matter where the writer lives.
  • Takes lots of holiday snaps! You never know, they may prove useful for your articles. And also, holiday snaps can be great research tools too. Take pictures of any plaques or information panels. You can read them later on your computer.
  • Buy any local history books. They can provide useful background research.
  • Place names can provide some great character names!  In the Lake District there's a small hill (ironically!) called Tom Heights. Perhaps he's a window cleaner? What if Tom Heights was afraid of heights (high altitudes, not other members of his family!)? In Shropshire, there's a village called Leebotwood. Whenever I drive through it, I imagine a classroom teacher shouting across a playground full of eight-year-olds, "Lee Botwood stop throwing stones and go and stand by the wall this minute!" Buy the local map and peruse it for interesting character names.  
  • Don't forget to eavesdrop. Go and sit at a beach-side cafe or village pub overlooking the village green. Enjoy a local delicacy, and savour the local chit-chat. You never know what overheard comments may inspire you. (I over heard a couple of weeks ago at a Norfolk cafe, "Of course, we had to throw his third leg away!" (Well, I'm confused, are you?)
  • Why not take an old story that hasn't quite worked and relocate it to where you're staying on holiday? What impact would that have on your characters? How may it change the story?
So if you have a holiday coming up in the next few weeks, don't think of it as time off. Think of it as an opportunity to reinvigorate your writing!

Good luck!


  1. As you know I love eavesdropping, Simon! It can be hilarious. I agree. I've been to a couple of our Shropshire towns recently and taken photos and notes and intend to write some articles on them. I think even though it's on your doorstep I think it's a great opportunity to write. I'll also be writing up any day trips to the coast I go on over the Summer hols. As you say, writers never take holidays - they present too many good writing opportunities to miss!!

    Julie xx

  2. Also, if you're not going on holiday, viewing your hometown from a tourist's point of view can yield useful as you'll notice things in a different way.

  3. My dad used to make up daft stories of how places got their names. We'd be in stitches as we passed through new places with weird and wonderful names.
    I'm smiling now.
    Brilliant post Simon.

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  5. Thanks for the reminder that a writer never has a holiday, nor do they ever clock off!

    Talking of weird and wonderful names, somewhere down south, en route to Bournemouth I believe, are two places, Middle Wallop and Over Wallop. There is another Wallop too, but the name is lost on me at the moment. They always made me chuckle. One of them is (or at least used to be) an RAF base too.

    Didn't JK Rowling use a map for names for her Harry Potter characters?

    And apologies, I got my facts wrong...

  6. Crikey Simon, we are camping near a naturist's site! (I say only near to but sometimes you do bump into the lesser dressed whilst out walking) That brings a whole new genre to mind!

  7. I think that it is certainly true that a writer is never truly on holiday and I believe firmly in never going anywhere without my camera - ou never know what gorgeous picture will appear before you I find...

    Thanks for sharing a few excellent tips


  8. Try to pick up local magazines when holidaying abroad as well - even if you don't speak the language that well. I always do this when in Italy, and always take away a batch of ideas which can 'translate' to the UK market in some form or other.


  9. Fully endorse the idea of checking out the local magazines when on holiday. For two of our short breaks in different locations last year I discovered I had a lot of photos on a single theme and in each case was able to sell an article to the local title.

    Viewing your own location as a visitor also pays dividends and can be worked on at any time of year.

  10. Terrific post Simon - the other thing that photos are useful for is conjuring up the atmosphere, smells, feelings months or years later when you actually get round to writing about the resort in either fiction or non-fiction.
    It'a also worth popping into the local tourist office and getting whatever free brochures they have. Mention that you're a freelance writer as they may give you extra stuff.
    For this reason I have printed up some business cards ( you can do it on your computer) - nothing fancy, just my name, contact details and the word writer,
    Ask them if they have any photos of the area they can email you for use with articles. I have usually found these office to be very helpful and friendly and eager to help put their town on the map.

  11. Hey, there's some more great ideas here, thanks for commenting one and all.

    Yes, thinking of your home town as a tourist destination is a great idea. You can remind editors that you live there, which makes you much more of an expert on the subject!

    As for camping near a naturist's site, just be careful where you point your camera lens! That's for a completely different sector of the magazine market!

    Looking at foreign based magazines can be a great ideas generator. And if you see an idea in the local county mag, you may be able to produce a similar version for your home county magazine too.

    Having lots of photos on a similar theme can generate numerous ideas. My pictures of my own dog snapped in front of various tourist destinations generated an article, which later became my first book, '100 Ways For A Dog To train Its Human'.

    And yes Ann, tourist boards can be immensely helpful, especially if you're not comfortable with cameras. they often have hi-resolution images on CDs that they can provide purely for promoting the area, which are great for illustrating articles with. If you don't ask, you don't get!

  12. A-ha! Thanks for the suggestions Simon.
    I'm off to Cornwall soon on holiday, where I will write a story about a boy called Lee Bottwood who had an unfortunate accident with a Cornish ice-cream, requiring him to have an articficial leg. But don't think for one moment this is going to be a tragedy - wait until you discover the hilarious misadventures that happen to his artificial legs, causing several to be thrown away...
    As for comical place names - he can live in my county, Cambs, and come from the always-creases-me-up village of Pidley.
    There is a business there called Pidley Paintball.
    But seriously, thanks for the ever my notebook will go with me. :-)

  13. Great stuff! But where is that pier? Worthing by any chance?

  14. It's Cromer pier, Rob. (Standing ina cold North Sea, even in June!)