A Year Writing About the South Downs Way

It’s a year today since I started working on my project about the South Downs Way. What started as a theme for some linked short stories has sprawled in the most amazing manner, and become something much more ambitious. This is by far the largest writing project I’ve worked on.

The full project will emerge as around 150 short stories all based upon the hiking trail. One of my favourite things about hiking is how the stories of the landscape and the walkers intertwine. There are the stories of the places you pass through, and the stories you swap with your companions. And then there are people you encounter, the little things they tell you. This is something you only experience when travelling at two miles an hour and I wanted the collection to capture this.

I’ve spent most of my life in Sussex, so my own stories are spread out along a section of this trail. But I want this to be more than just an anthology of Sussex stories (with a few in Hampshire on the west end of the trail); I want this to be a novel. During my MA, Nicholas Royle made a passing comment that “you can’t make a novel out of vignettes”. Producing the satisfaction of a novel from tiny independent stories is going to be tricky, but I’m sure I can pull it off.

I’ve produced three books so far. While the nights are drawn in, and I’m walking on the Downs less, I’ve been re-organising things a little, and preparing lots of new stories to add to the 44 published this year.

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