Living Between the Lines

Sweeping away the Cobwebs

‘tis a wonderous thing, writing.

I am now, perhaps, three fifths of the way towards the completion of my latest novel. This is the novel written entirely in November under the strict, “no edit” instructions of NaNoWriMo.

December arrived in a flurry of festivities, the New Year with more of the same (including the unfortunate incident with the sausage). There was barely time to sit back and ponder the niceties of sentence structure or plot continuity and no time at all to contemplate denouement. So, with unfinished chapters and unanswered questions, ringing in my ears, I put the novel to one side and concentrated on family and friends.

A break from routine, even if that routine has been more of a challenge than most, gives one clarity of purpose. So, as January closed in with its threat of snow and cold North winds, a friend and I and two of my daughters, headed West to Cornwall and to Fowey for a long, “girlie” weekend. Daughter number three, about to present us with our third grandson, was unable to join us, this time.

Here we are, on the cold but sunny beach near our holiday home, enjoying the moment. The air was sharp and the light, as always, amazing.


There were plenty of people wandering across Readymoney Cove (Once a haunt for smugglers!) enjoying this break in winter routine. No wonder so many writers have enjoyed Fowey in the past, (Daphne du Maurier for one and of course, Dawn French). It really is an inspiring place to be.

So, refreshed and relaxed, we returned to face the snow and the ice that have plagued us this past week in Hampshire.

This week, I am back at home with snow all around me and inspiration at my fingertips. I have rediscovered the pleasure that going back to a first draft can have. As I pick my way through the chapters, I am struck by how the characters refuse to do exactly as I had planned. Today, one of the most minor characters in the book, if not the most minor, took on a major role. It is a pivotal role and I had not seen it coming.

I am excited by this turn of events even though it has meant re-writing an entire chapter and giving the character his legs. In the same breath I fear I will be losing a couple of characters who seem to have nothing to contribute beyond prettying up the stage. They crept in when I was throwing everything at the plot and will doubtless slide away without fuss.

With this momentous development under my belt, I took time off to do a bit of housework. This is not my favourite activity but I noticed a cobweb above my computer and felt a stab of guilt for leaving it hanging there for so long.

So, equipped with trusty vacuum cleaner slung over one shoulder (by the removal of said vacuum cleaner’s handle and footplate, it is transformed into something akin to the machine used in Ghostbusters) I set forth to hunt the rest of those cobwebs down.

True, the light in the house is not too good today. The brightness of the day has dimmed, rain is replacing snow and the artificial light shining forth from indoor lamp and spotlights, has yet to impact on the shadows. Nevertheless, I am hard put to find any cobwebs, even though I know they are there.

I remember my mother observing when she was about my age, that she could not see those cobwebs that I spotted so easily as I walked into her house. Alas, I seem to have reached that stage when eyesight is not as good as it once was. I have worn glasses for TV and driving for years. I have never had perfect sight but until recently, cobwebs did not elude me.

So, I set off round the house peering into crannies and corners, squinting at what could be a crack in the plaster or a strand of dust. I put on my glasses—this did not help, despite them being for the sole purpose of seeing. I climbed on a chair, ah, yes, that’s a cobweb!—oh, no it isn’t, it’s a dirty mark left over from when the Christmas tree was dragged across the room, too tall to stand upright until it had had its top chopped off.

After several attempts to sweep blindly at the corners with the elongated hose, I became frustrated at my apparent inability to focus on anything more than a couple of feet from my nose.

Thus, it was that I found myself holding my husband’s nifty, wind-up torch and shining it into the far corners of the rooms. Having identified more cobwebs than I care to count, I then attacked them with the vacuum hose. Since I could not both shine the torch and aim the hose, it took me some time and was still a bit of a hit and miss affair but I think I got most of them.

I can now empathise with my mother who apparently preferred to leave the cobwebs be rather than do battle blindly with them. I suppose it is just one of the signs of ageing that we must all face but, if you don’t mind, I wont be facing it again for a while—I will be asking someone else to do the de-cobwebbing in future!

Denouement, here I come…

I am an Author, wife to one, mother to five and grandmother to six. I live in the English countryside in Hampshire, UK, with my husband and two dogs and am a non exec Director for Glow


  • patricia60

    We have had several days of heavy fog and it too cold outside so we are painting living room dining and computer rooms. This does include lots of vacuuming too. I wrote a big post about some personal big changes and now need some writing space too. This morning in the clear winter sunshine I too can see cobwebs in bedrooms. I have a strange wand like pompon tool that expands up long and I no longer stand on chairs. It is called a Webstir. And I found it on Amazon.
    Wish I could hire someone to clean, still think of it as part of my exercise routine!

  • Teresa

    Sounds as if the novel is going very well 🙂

    I have a pompom thing such as Patricia described somewhere, but I don’t know where it is. I also have cobwebs 🙂 x

    • Deborah Barker

      I did have a long handled, feather duster Teresa – but I think it has long since lost its feathers. If I set up a few Arc lamps maybe I’ll be able to spot them before they get too numerous next time!

  • buffalostarmedicine

    Oh, but our nano’s are what they are! Exciting to push through an plug out the words, but a virtual nightmare to edit! Ach! I reached a point where I’ve stuck it in a box for sometime around May or June when I can go out and sit on the porch and yell at my characters for behaving badly. LOL! 🙂

  • screenscribbler

    Your commitment, during November, seems to have paid dividends. I can understand how that works. To just keep writing, without long periods of deliberating, perhaps over one sentence or even one word. Your story will be raw, fresh and have rhythm.
    I went to evening art classes for a few years. In life drawing, we were given a piece of charcoal to use in our sketchbooks. We were asked to produce a finished drawing in 3 minutes, then 2 minutes, then one minute. All of the sketches were better than expectations. I think the same applies to writing.
    I am looking forward to the finished product Deborah.

    Incidentally, can you please add me to your list of authors who have enjoyed Fowey? I was staying in Helston, and read Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Frenchman’s Creek.’ part of which was while I was actually in Frenchman’s Creek.

    • Deborah Barker

      Perhaps the same technique would work well with my Charles Dickens story John. I might try it! I like the simile you draw with art (oh dear, an unintended pun) Maybe we just need to trust our instincts more.
      I stayed in Helston a few years ago and I am so glad you can be included as an author who has enjoyed Fowey. I have to say that my visit to Jamaica Inn, on Bodmin Moor, in 2007, was not very inspiring but others may love it of course!

  • Hilary

    Hi Deborah .. cobwebs .. this place is full of dust – but might get attacked this weekend and into next week as I start to really clear the paper out …

    The weather doesn’t help – but the desire to sit in a warm cosy room and read, or do very little … lovely to have a house down near Fowey – I had an elderly aunt, and now her niece has her cottage on the way down to Heligan – the other side of the bay …

    Good luck with those edits .. gosh I’ll be glad when I’m clear and ready to go again ..

    Cheers and enjoy that new creation the minor character with a mind of its own … have fun – Hilary

    • Deborah Barker

      Hi Hilary, I am having a similar day when the urge to sit and read seems the way to go. The snow is now lying in patches here, I don’t think more is expected here but might be down your way? The first snowfall is pretty but the novelty begins to wane pretty quickly I find!

  • Joan P Lane

    I’m with your mother where the cobwebs are concerned (: The outside of my house looks like it’s been decorated for Halloween during summer. Deborah, would like to pass an award on to you, but don’t see any contact info here on your blog. Please e-mail me at when you have a chance. I’ve only chosen seven bloggers and you’re one, so hope you’ll accept.

    • Deborah Barker

      Hi Joan, how kind of you! I’d love to accept the award. I have been playing around with the theme for my blog (it will change again soon no doubt) but in the process seem to have lost my contact details. Thank you for pointing this out. I shall email you of course.
      Debbie 🙂

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