poetry and prose about place

writing a novel – selecting a setting #2

with 5 comments


So the poet has decided to write a novel…


Title: unknown

Working Title: Saving the Landing Church

Setting: a writers’ retreat including an abandoned church

Characters: main character a writer

Plot:  unknown


From the first thought I had about my novel, I knew I wanted to include a re-purposed church in my setting.  I thought it would be an ideal location to tell stories about writers in search of contemplative and quiet spaces to do their work.  As I thought about equipping a writers’ retreat, I realized more spaces would be needed, for eating and sleeping for example, and I thought about bringing two other buildings to the location, a house (the church manse) and a sleeping quarters (the church hall).  I mentally set them on the site of our (real) property by the lake and … taa-daa! … I had the setting for my book.

Selecting a setting like this meant thinking about how these buildings could have been brought to the site.  In our area we have lots of experience with moving buildings, including churches.  For example, there is the fascinating story of how churches were moved to a new site along the Saint John River to allow for the flooding by the Mactaquac Dam.   For a wonderful novel about the flooding and the displacement of the homes and families, Riel Nason’s book The Town That Drowned (Gooselane, 2011) is an engaging, humorous and award-winning read!

To write my novel, my first step was to write a short story about moving the church to its new location at the imaginary writers’ retreat.  As I wrote, I realised the move was only a small part of the story.  I began to ask myself questions about how the community might react to the move, how the re-purposing of the church might change its character, and how the stress of acquiring and moving the church, and interacting with the community, might change my protagonist.

an imagined writers’ retreat

Designing the setting for the novel has been a lot of fun.  I have had to think about how the buildings might be arranged at the new location.  I’ve thought about what would have to be done to prepare the new site for receiving the buildings (digging a well, installing a septic system, pouring foundations, and creating access).


Other aspects of setting I’ve had to consider include:

  • the community and landscape where the writers’ retreat would be situated,
  • how the property would be embellished to make it ideal for writers seeking variety, solitude and places to write (benches, paths, and so on),
  • design changes to the inside of the house, church and hall in order to make them ideal for a writers’ retreat.


I’ll write more these aspects of setting in a later post.


So, what do you think of my imagined writers’ retreat?  Do you have any suggestions for how to make writers flourish in the setting?


Copyright  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

December 10, 2012 at 7:19 am

5 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Jane, I am really enjoying having this opportunity to follow your journey through novel-writing. As long as there’s a place at the retreat where there’s always a coffee pot on, with some comfy chairs nearby for people to gather and share, it’ll be a success!


    Jane Fritz

    December 10, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    • Hi Jane. It’s funny how little things make you think. I had a look at my work so far and, through 52,000 words, everyone is drinking tea! When is the last time you drank tea at a writer’s seminar? I’ll have to get some coffee on for the real people! Jane


      jane tims

      December 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm

      • Too funny. For sure you need at least as much coffee as tea! 🙂


        Jane Fritz

        December 11, 2012 at 7:46 pm

  2. I think just looking at your drawing makes me want to visit your writer’s retreat for a few days or weeks. Looks like a lovely setting. Following along as you put this together is fascinating, Jane. I never before thought about how many connections have to be made to tell a good story.



    December 10, 2012 at 7:55 am

    • Hi. I worry this will get boring to my readers. I have some drawings of my characters coming up, including my ‘bad guy’. As for connections, the worst is the time-line. In my draft I forget and write snowbanks into the story in June. Lots of fun. Jane


      jane tims

      December 10, 2012 at 12:56 pm

I'd love to hear what you think...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: