SUZANNE HARRINGTON: Time to finish my book would be a novel idea

I once interviewed a wealthy author of popular novels, who said the only way to finish writing a book was to lock oneself away in one’s second home with just the housekeeper — not the butler — and spend four to six weeks keyboard-bashing without distraction.

What sensible advice. If I had a second home, I’d be on the blower as we speak, ordering the butler to air the writing salon and polish the biros, for I, too, am at the end of writing a novel. Just one more concentrated burst of and-then-and-then-and-then, before I type ‘The End’.

In the absence of a second home, and the first one being overrun with dogs, lodgers and teenagers, my options are as limited as my time — leaving dogs, lodgers and teenagers unattended for four to six weeks might not be optimal. Instead, I calculate I have four to six days before the house is trashed by partying teenagers, chewed by crazed dogs, and vacated by irate lodgers. Still, that’s why coffee exists: to write faster.

All I need is somewhere completely isolated and without internet, in which to hunker down and give birth to my book. It’s already 80,000 words dilated. Like the rich author, I want a (second) home birth

A friend lends me her woods. How grand that sounds, I think, as I drive off-road and follow scribbled instructions to turn right at the oak tree and follow an invisible pathway to the middle of nowhere. It’s like that line in once-upon-a-time stories — eventually, they came to a clearing. Deep in the woods — in truth, more like a Nick Cave song than a fairytale — is the clearing, where the lonely shed in which I will write for a week is hidden.

“Where’s the nearest Seven Eleven,” says my companion, unhelpfully.

Even the dog, along for protection, looks unconvinced. The woods are utterly silent. Will my solar power lights last a week? My laptop? My nerve? My companion is here for one night only, until I settle in. I note the bathroom facilities — a shovel — and remind myself that bears do this all the time. I gather wood for the firepit, feeling like both Hansel and Gretel simultaneously, as my chap sits playing with his phone.

What a beautiful place, I keep telling myself. So peaceful. So tranquil. So natural, so removed from concrete and electricity and running water and humans. Just the rustling of leaves, the cooing of wood pigeons.

The spreading darkness. The unexplained snapping of twigs. The shadows.

The dog suddenly sitting up, ears pricked, staring into the inky darkness. A squirrel? A serial killer? What if my boyfriend were not here, playing Candy Crush on his phone? Blair Witch Project, that’s what.

After twenty-four hours of a dozen jumpy serial killer false alarms and zero word count, I give up.

So much for second homes. I retreat to the comfort of concrete and electricity, still no nearer ‘The End’.


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