Character Travel
Charlotte Rains Dixon  

Writing in France (Or Anywhere)

Bon jour.

I am in Pezenas, France, down near Montpelier and Beziers (where we stayed Friday night and had an experience on the free bus trying to find our hotel that still makes me laugh out loud every time I think of it).  We–six of us–are staying in a house that could more accurately be called a mansion, with three floors and a grand marble entry on the inside, and a koi pond and swimming pool with a swag of oleander dripping above it on the outside.

Every morning at 9:30 we meet to workshop attendee's stories and discuss our book in common (Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes).  Our subject this year is character, so everything is viewed through that lens.

And every afternoon we write.  (I got in five pages yesterday).  Then at 5:30 we meet for wine, olives, pate, cheese, and bread–lots of bread.  (Paleo people just have to put aside their thing about carbs.  Besides, the wheat is better here.  And so is the butter.  And the eggs.  I'll stop now.)

In between, when the writing is done, there are walks into town (curvy streets barely wide enough for cars, restaurants tucked into every alley, shops and art galleries and lots of people smoking) or into the country side (vinyards and big old stone houses).

But notice I said, when the writing is done.

Because that's the point of being here, after all.  And it is surprisingly easy to get writing done, even in paradise, when you've got a whole houseful of people doing the same thing.

Between this experience and the Book in a Month class I took before I left (which entailed writing 20 pages a day for 14 days, thus finishing a draft, and then rewriting it the last two weeks of the month)I've come up with new knowledge of how to get words on the page and, as always, I am here to impart this wisdom to you.

Are you ready?  It's a multi-part process, so it is imperative that you pay close attention to the very end.  Here we go.

1.  Write

2. Write some more

3. Take no longer than one minute to ring your hands about how bad the writing is and then get back to it.

4. Write more

5. Notice you are writing utter crap and charge ahead anyway

6. Write, write, write

7. Finish your goal of pages or words for the day and breath a sigh of relief because you did it.

So, yeah, I'm being a bit tongue in cheek here (ya think?) but the gist of it is true.  I'm come to realize that we (myself included) make the act of writing way too complicated and emotional, when really, it all boils down to one thing: getting words on the page.

It doesn't matter how good or bad those words are, your only job is to throw them at the page.  To sit your butt down in the chair and write.  Because the wonderful thing about writing is that it can always be revised–and revision is ever so much easier when you actually have word on the page to work with.

What about you?  How is your writing going? What tricks do you use to get yourself to the page?

0 thoughts on “Writing in France (Or Anywhere)

  1. J.D.

    I love the way you use parenthesis to enclose the paleo people comment so that it ends with a smiley.) The period even looks like a little wink.

  2. Charlotte Dixon

    Thanks, J.D.! We are holding a spot for you for next year!

  3. Dyoung

    “Tricks to get yourself to the page…”

    How about an empty calendar? Of which I don’t have. Unless I quit everything in my life. Oh how I wish for days that start as they do now, a good walk or run, coffee, and peacefulness. It’s the middle of the day that needs altered. Instead of getting ready to leave my house everyday, I’d love to stay in my cozy morning clothes and write. Write on the sofa. Write on the deck. Write in the woods. Write on my bed. Write at my desk…. You get the picture.

    Parts of me feel that would be the best life. To be paid to do the thing that I truly love, which is the thing I feel is a true calling.
    But there is a small part of me that wonders, would it eventually become a job and resentment set in? Gosh. I think that’s the thing that keeps me from really trying….

  4. Charlotte Dixon

    Speaking only for myself, I can say that I do writing as my only job (though I do various types of it) and I never get tired of it. I’m so grateful and happy every day that this is what I get to do I can’t even believe it.

    Here in Pezenas, there’s a little square where I sometimes stop to have coffee and glace (ice cream) and watch people walk by. I think the ideal life would be to write all morning, go for a walk, then have the coffee late in the afternoon for a wee break, returning to write a bit more, and then, of course, enjoy du vin. I’m not quite there yet, but it sure is fun to think about.

    I encourage you to go for your dreams, my dear loyal reader!

  5. Kayla Dawn Thomas

    Ahhh, your description has me right there with you. Please pass the wine. 🙂 And you are so right about throwing words at the page. People have been amazed at how fast I write when I sit down get after it. I just go for it knowing I’ll clean up the mess with my red pen later, and whatever I miss my wonderful editor will catch. Happy to know your trip is going so well!

  6. J.D.

    Whenever I dare put something to the page, all I hear is there must be conflict. Certainly in mysteries or thrillers it is the essential ingredient. Can we write about conflict if our lives are perfect? Not to say that life in France or Italy is perfect but it can seem that way for a few days. Yes, the architecture, the history, and the food and the wine will always be stimulating. Is life there the same as here once we are no longer fascinated but the change in scenery? Is it so pleasant because we leave our troubles (our conflict) behind. Is it paradise after six months? And if it is what will we bitch about? The book John Grisham wrote in Italy is crap. Grisham’s books for the most part are great, but no one reads the client because they are fascinated by the woods where the boys played or the courthouse where Reggie worked. Nope. We have to unravel our tangled lives. Therefore Charlotte, I think you must return and suffer with the rest of us.

  7. Charlotte Dixon

    Thanks, Kayla Dawn!  The workshop ended today and it has been fabulous–all our writers made great strides and are very happy.  I see you coming some day soon!

    Sent from Surface

  8. Charlotte Dixon

    I refuse, J.D.  I'm going to stay here forever, drinking my nicoisette in the square in the afternoon and enjoying my local wine and cheese and pate in the evening.  And I shall make up conflict about the man painting a picture next to me, or the old lady at the patisserie down the street.  Maybe her croissants are bad.  Seriously, it is wonderful here, as I believe I've said a time or two, but I will be glad to get home–eventually.  And you're coming next year so you can suffer with me.  Well, we can pretend we are suffering.

    Sent from Surface

  9. Dyoung

    My dream of bring on a secluded beach- having time only for sun, sand, and writing….I know it wouldn’t come without some shortcomings, or conflict. The only true perfection is Heaven, and we aren’t there..yet. Even my favorite chef, author, and friend has her share of issues when she’s in her heaven on earth place, key west. Lulu Buffett has to deal with flat tires on her bicycle when she’s riding to the market to gather fresh foods for that days menu. While she cooks like no other, and eats like a queen, she still puts her pants on one leg at a time. While she produces some amazing things with her cooking, that doesn’t mean she’s not dodging the daily grind right along with the rest of us.

  10. Dyoung

    Thank you for your encouragement!

  11. Charlotte Dixon

    Ah and there are no stories without conflict! So that's a comfort right there! I will have to look up Lulu Buffett–she sounds wonderful! I just gave one of my characters the name Lulu, as a matter of fact!

    Sent from Surface

  12. Dyoung

    She is Jimmy’s sister.
    And makes the best cherry tomato salsa and wow sauce for her fried green tomatoes.
    Yes. Look her up. I have her cookbook. I’ve met and had drinks with her twice. Her best restaurant is in gulf shores. One of my favorite places on earth!

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