A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
I couldn’t resist volunteering for this post because it means I get to show you some of my collection of notebooks. Also, I think the creative process, and how we deal with our words once those ideas have popped into our heads, is a very interesting one.
For me, the process begins with an idea which is quickly scribbled in a notebook – the seed, if you like – in the hope that I will be able to read it back later! I keep a notebook by my bed… err, correction, two, one in the kitchen, two or three in the living room (my main writing space) and a whole load of others in a drawer – all very necessary for future projects (of course). Oh, and there’s one in the car, and usually one in a handbag – every handbag. That’s quite a few. But this is all very necessary you see – as fellow writers will know, ideas often strike in the most random places, so you have to be prepared. Night-time is one of those times, so having notebooks by my bed is essential if I’m to record those thoughts while they are still fresh, and before I nod off again. My current WIP came to me through two separate dreams – one I recorded in words at some ungodly hour, and the other I drew a sketch of the moment I woke up. These two dreams, the notes and drawing, form the beginning and part of the end of the novel, and if I hadn’t recorded them there and then they would have disappeared into the ether. So, it’s really important for me to have a notebook to hand… a nice one, with a super-duper cover and sometimes cute little pictures inside 🙂
I also get quite a lot of random ideas in the car while I’m waiting to pick the children up from school – it’s in those moments of stillness, I think, when there’s nothing else to distract me, that the freshest ideas come. I had a netbook for Christmas a couple of years ago, with the intention of using it in the car, but when I tried, it didn’t feel right. When ideas are so sparkly new, or I have just solved a plot problem (or realised that I have a plot problem), writing them on paper feels the right way to record these thoughts. By the time I’ve logged on, got impatient at waiting, got distracted by emails/Twitter/Facebook, the idea/thought/lightbulb moment, has passed.
So, I always start with an idea in a notebook, and then build on this original idea, usually dedicating a notebook to each project (my excuse for NEEDING so many). With my recent WIP I drew the sketch from the dream, filled a quarter of a notepad with notes and ideas for characters, plot and possible themes – along with little sketches – and drew a map, before I began the actual process of writing on my laptop. Having said this, I do think different projects lend themselves to different methods, and when writing children’s picture books I will write down a basic idea in a sentence or two and then launch into the writing process on my laptop straight away.
For me, this is partly to do with layout, partly to do with text length, and partly to do with plot. With a longer manuscript, more characters, subplots and themes, I need to develop these ideas and carry out any research before I start to tell the story. With a picture book, or a poem for that matter, the process seems more instantaneous, and the shorter text and need for conciseness means I can play about with words as they appear on the screen, picking out rhythms and rhyme, imagining the accompanying images and shaping the words around them. The Ruby and Grub books were all written on my laptop – I have no hand-written notes for these at all (shock, horror), other than those that appeared on early draft printouts. I do, however, have a sketch I did of Ruby and Grub, as they first appeared in my head… and no, you can’t see it – Sarah Warburton’s wonderful illustrations are faaaaar better!
So for me, it’s notepads first, where seeds are sewn, and laptop later, where ideas can blossom. But I still keep a continual barrage of notes and ideas going in the WIP-associated-notepad right up until the final draft… well, it would be a shame to waste them, wouldn’t it?
How do you work through your writing process?