Write Away: Add some zest to your writing

A shadowy me on Goodwick beach at Fishguard

Write away is an occasional series on my writing experiences and what I've learned along the way. It's inspired from joining a WI writing group last year, who've gently taken me to all kinds of places and forms of writing I never thought I'd go.

In this post, I'm going to tell you a little more about the practical side to my recent Postcard from Fishguard, where I joined a workshop aimed at gaining an income from travel writing...

My previous experience of writing workshops isn't good; for me they usually result in writers' block, so I approached a whole weekend immersed in the world of writing with some trepidation. I needn't have worried - and once again I did have a (temporary) block - sympathetic and knowledgeable tutors, a great location (and weather!) with the company of 50 or so like minded people made the whole weekend an enjoyable one.

Our tutor Simon Whaley created a relaxed vibe for his class of just two ladies. He has a whole host of experience and publication to draw on, and led us through the key steps of what to do from the initial idea and where it might fit, through to publication.

I'm used to stories coming into my head fully formed at unexpected times or while gardening, an approach which in my experience can fall down quite badly when placed in the 'write on demand' boilerhouse of a workshop. Simon's advice: "Remember, a shitty first draft is perfectly fine", helped me get over this hurdle and it can apply to all kinds of writing. 

Bright yellow gorse (Ulex europaeus) on the breakwater

His exercise on "adding zest to your writing" was an illuminating one. For this we had to write about our favourite place in two pieces of 100 words each. The first was just using the sense of sight and the second using all the other senses. The results are a great reminder that we tend to rely too much on our sight for our descriptions, and the use of other senses can add much more atmosphere, drama, and sense of place.

Here are my two pieces.... see if you can tell which one I found easier to write.


A sunshine filled day at the seaside is my favourite way to restore my spirits, in February especially. Here, the colours are stronger, the light is clearer and the sea is the perfect antidote to a plethora of wintry blue Mondays.

It's a time away from the summer crowds, with the added bonus of free parking. Just after a winter storm is a good time to go; who knows what treasures can be found on my meandering walk along the beach?

Alas, today there are no fresh fossils, nor iron pyrites glittering amongst the pebbles. Instead, I look up to see the bright yellow gorse has just come into flower. [109 words]

Other senses

"Close your eyes," says my guide, "breathe deeply and tell me what you find." With some trepidation I do as I'm told. I hear a faint rustle, and then the unmistakable aroma of coconut fills my nostrils.

"I wasn't expecting that! I thought you were going to play a trick on me and shove some seaweed up my nose."

My forager friend chuckles and before I can open my eyes he places something in my hand. It feels small, neither wet nor sticky; instead it's soft and pops slightly when squeezed.

"No silly, it's a gorse flower," he laughs. [99 words]

I spent ages agonising over where my favourite place could be. Then, I remembered the gorse on the breakwater on my walk when I first arrived in Fishguard, followed by the surprise flavour of the orange and gorse ice cream I tried at The Pig hotel in the New Forest a few years ago.

Another tip from Simon: using your imagination and creativity is fine, even when writing non-fiction. For example, an imagined conversation can introduce a real subject or situation in a more interesting way.

Did I really write about my favourite place? Are those pieces "shitty first drafts", or something further down the writing process? That would be telling... 😉

Update: Since I wrote this post, the BBC published an interesting article about the coastal navigation markers which dot our coastline. I included one in my top photo without knowing what they're for. I've been aware of them for years simply as something that's seen at the seaside. It's good to know their actual purpose.


  1. I think that the second piece of writing came more easily to you VP. It makes it possible for the reader to relate to you and captures the experience. It made me smile too. The course sounds like a challenging but most rewarding experience.

    1. Well spotted and thought out Anna! I wrote the other senses one first and it flowed so easily. The sight one was really painful to write and is typical of the kind of thing I produce when forced to write - especially when it's a workshop ;)


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