This is a weekly series of guest posts on How Writers Work. Australian children’s and YA author Carole Wilkinson talks about her writing.
There’s nothing unusual about my writing method. It involves making sure I get enough hours in front of the computer each day. I try to write 1000 words per day [Michael Pryor writes 4000 words per day?!?] Sometimes that can happen in a couple of hours, sometimes it takes all day. I’ve learned from experience that my brain works best in the morning, so I aim to be in front of the computer at 7.30 am, and I try to avoid any appointments in the morning.
Afternoons disappear in a flurry of answering emails, going to the library, reading for research, getting some exercise and doing all those other things writers have to do (eg this week I have written two guest blogs, written a fresh bio for an upcoming event, answered a questionnaire for a writers festival later this year, planned some school visits).
Yes, I have a messy desk. I tidy it up on Friday afternoons, but it soon gets messy again. A lot of what I do in my spare time also involves sitting at the computer (eg family history, doing stuff for the climate change group I belong to) so there are usually piles of stuff for those activities as well.
I work on a Macbook as I like everything to be portable, but for ergonomic reasons, when I’m at the desk I attach a mouse and a separate screen, and use a wireless keyboard. A chair with good back support and a footrest complete my desk equipment. Without these things I get backache, neckache and spend a fortune at the osteopath.
Tools of the Trade
I have done away with keeping an appointments diary and use Ical instead. On the other hand, I do prefer to have a hardcopy dictionary and thesaurus. I also have an old alarm clock. The digital clock on my computer only tells me one thing—what time it is right now, but a clock face gives me a sense of how long it is till lunch, how much of the day is left. As far as taking notes and writing down ideas, I am in transition there. I have electronic notes files for every projected piece of work in the program that I use for writing (Scrivener, which I love). However I still have notebooks for when I’m out and about. This system is not working well as I have multiple notebooks and it sometimes takes me a while to find things. I am hoping that when I can afford an Ipad, my note-taking problems will disappear.
My whiteboard is a really important tool for me. Whenever a story gets stuck, or I need to solve a plot problem or work out a sequence of events, I do it on the whiteboard. It almost always gets me on the right track. I don’t know if it’s just the change of standing up instead of sitting in front of the computer, or if it’s handwriting, or writing on a vertical surface instead of a horizontal keyboard. I have no idea, but it works for me, especially if I do it first thing in the morning.
What am I working on now?
Currently I am working on a new Dragonkeeper book. This is not a continuation of the first series. It is set 400 years later. This is my fifth Dragonkeeper book, but that doesn’t make it any easier! Getting the initial story down is still hard work. The whiteboard is definitely getting a workout lately!