Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Things You Don't Need

OK, here they are: the non-essentials of writing. Or, at least, the non-essentials of my writing.

First: what to wear. Writers don't need a uniform, it's true. Except, if you're me, you kind of have one, because I'm a creature of habit, and I'm also VERY into being comfy when I write, and let's face it, one of the perks of writing is that you don't have to get dressed up to do it. So I tend to throw on the same outfit most days, because I'm boring like that. Here is the bottom half of it:

Yes! Stripey socks. I can tell you're jealous now. My husband bought them for me at a festival, and I wear them all the time. In fact, they may not be non-essential at all, because I'm coming to believe that they have magical powers and enhance my writing ability and I can never take them off, not ever, not even when they're old and smelly and unravelling.

(I bet he's sorry he bought them, now.)

So I wake up, get dressed in my leggings and stripey socks and old slippers, and then I make coffee. Note: THIS IS NOT ONE OF THE NON-ESSENTIALS. THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT STEP.

Then I go into my office.

Let's be clear: you definitely don't need a home office to write in. For years I wrote at our dining table on my laptop. But my office is my haven and I love it. And yes, my desk is always that tidy. (Don't worry; the rest of my house isn't. I'm not weird or anything.)

You also don't need to have a banner of your last series, which is the coolest office accessory EVER, and your publishers have dropped lots of hints that, actually, they'd kind of like it back now please, and you keep ignoring them and now they've pretty much given up.

Another thing you don't need is to have inspirational objects to do with your work in progress, though I almost always do this. I've craftily hidden my current ones in the above photo, because they'd give quite a bit away, and I haven't gotten bored with being Mysterious yet. (Also, Usborne have asked me not to share any details at this stage, so I'm not just being evil.) (Though I'm perfectly capable of it, it's true.)

Almost the whole time I was writing the Angel series, a small rock sat on my desk. I found it in New Mexico, when my husband and I were there doing research for the series: trying to find exactly where Alex grew up. I looked down and saw this stone with an 'A' on it. 'A' for Alex, and for Angel. It seemed a good omen. It sat on my desk for years. 

OK, those are some things you don't need. Here's something you do. Notebooks are essential. I MEAN THIS SO MUCH. Big ones, small ones, expensive ones, cheap ones: I MUST HAVE THEM ALL. See? I'm not kidding:

I buy a new notebook for each book I write. There's no real reason for this; most of the notebooks you can see there are only half-full. But I'm kind of obsessed with notebooks and will grab any excuse to buy a new one. I found the notebook for my current WIP in France. It's hardback and looks like battered leather; I could just imagine my main character using it. 

But notebooks don't have to be something fancy; they can be very plain. The notes that eventually became the first book of the Angel series were in a cheap red spiral notebook that came from Tesco and started with:

Jhia is a psychic - teenage, doing it after school. Everyone thinks she's weird, avoids her. Still learning her craft.

Someone comes to see her. Or school fair? Inexperienced, she blurts out something she shouldn't. 

New boy starts school. Makes friends with her. Alex - he's been hired to shadow her and find out what she knows. Alex is outside of system. No one knows who he is - he doesn't exist. Bizarre childhood, trained killer, trusts no one. But can be v charismatic. 

You can see that it was just a rough idea at that stage - Willow had a different name, and there wasn't an angel in sight. But that's what notebooks are for: a playground of ideas where you can jot down anything that comes and see what develops. So, if you want to write and don't already have one, rush out and buy one now. YOU WILL THANK ME.

Back to the non-essentials for one final thing: you probably don't need a large, bossy tabby who sleeps on your filing cabinet. 

But I find it helps.


  1. One year I took to writing whilst wearing a baseball cap. No idea why, and haven't done it since. But it made sense at the time. Also comfy socks are a definite writing non-essential.

  2. Ha, love the idea of a baseball cap! I should try it. It would go well with my stripey socks! ;)