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Three questions...

1. What happens when you haven't got anything to write about?


That's a good question - especially this past year. I write in my study with Ruby, the three-legged rescue dog, snoozing in the dog bed that is permanently under my writing desk. It's 5.45am and I haven't written anything new this morning, so I thought I'd answer this question (and a couple of others) in a blog post.


During 2020 - the year of Covid 19 - my writing desk was taken over. Working from home meant that I did very little creative writing because when I walk into my study at 5.15am my job was there waiting. So last year was an extra challenge in terms of writing - anything.


Let's put that to the side for a moment. There are mornings when I'm not writing something new but there are other things to do. I read (aloud) manuscripts - looking for every opportunity to make an improvement, update the spreadsheet for my junior series, write a blog post...


However, I'm also a realist. There is no point sitting at my computer for an hour or so with nothing to do. If that's the case then I make a cup of tea and potter around the house, listening to a podcast. In the summer time I might go for an early dog walk, or water the pot plants.


For me it's a challenge to write every day. And I just don't have the determination to write something to fill in the time. Having said that, a lot of writers do because it's an opportunity to hone the skills of writing.


Maybe this is something I should rethink - especially now that I have my desk back.


2. How do you pick a theme?


I don't.


When I write it's all about the story and the characters. It's a movie in my head that I type into a manuscript. Themes emerge along the way, but I don't set out with one in mind. Take Unpacking Harper Holt. When I started writing, it was about a girl moving to a new town and starting at a new school. My notebook doesn't have a single scribble about themes - but they are there. They just weren't at the front of my mind.


By the time I finished the first draft, well the themes were obvious and when I talked about it with friends who read it in the early stages, they could tell me what the major theme were.


Soon, my second book Everything We Keep, will be released. I can tell you what the themes are now - but I couldn't when I started.


If you've read my earlier posts about writing, you will know that I like to listen to authors talk about writing and read books about writing. What all that listening and reading has taught me is that there doesn't seem to be one right way to be a writer - there's just your way.


I don't start with a theme - but you might. I don't make a detailed plan (or any real plan) but you might. I don't know where my story is going until I get there - but you might.


You just need to find your writing way.


3. Do you want to be a full time writer?


Absolutely! But... maybe no... well sort of... hmmm...


Sometimes I think I would like to be a full time writer - with lot of books that are read by lots of people. However, I'm also an introvert - I could stay home all day and just write and potter around, venturing out only for a dog walk or to meet one of my friends for a coffee. I can survive quite happily with very little human interaction.


And while that sounds ideal - to me - it's maybe not the best thing for my writing.


Just the other day I was listening to a conversation taking place near me. The topic wasn't really interesting, but the way one person was speaking, the cadence, well that really got my attention, and it might just come in handy when a character arrives in a manuscript.


Last weekend, out shopping, I saw a four-wheel drive, with a camping trailer that had a canoe strapped to the top, parked over two spots in the carpark. The owner had just done some shopping and was organising supplies into tubs. The next time I have a character who is going camping I now have a picture in my head that could help me with the description, to develop that idea.


It's moments like these that I would miss if I didn't leave my house for work - so maybe, for me, it's a balance - part time writing and part time work.


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