This is a weekly series of guest posts on How Writers Work. Australian children’s and YA author Sue Lawson talks about her writing process.
How did you get your first book published?
Like all writers, I’ve had many rejection letters, especially for picture book manuscripts. My first published book, Dragon’s Tear, was picked up by Helen Chamberlin, publisher at Lothian Books, during a Writer’s Retreat at author John Marsden’s Tye Estate and had sold out before the launch. John’s retreats were simply amazing and not just because of Dragon’s Tear.
I’ve been so lucky with the support and advice I have received from many people – friends, family, editors, authors, publishers. Children’s publishing is such a nuturing supportive industry.
Your writing routine
When I’m not teaching or running an author session, my routine stays pretty much the same. I start work around 8.30 by checking my daily ‘to do’ list. (There’s nothing better than crossing something off that list!) I also have monthly and annual goals, all of which keep me on track and help me see the progress I’ve made, especially when it feels like I’ve had one of those days where you feel like you’ve achieved nothing.
Once I’ve checked emails, I start either writing or editing. I work in 45 minute bursts, a new technique I’m trying after listening to a radio interview with author John Birmingham who said he wrote for 25 minutes, then stopped for five. He also works standing up, which I just might try. I’ve modified his approach to the 45 minute burst after which I move away from my desk and hang out the washing, walk around the garden or maybe make a phone call. The idea is for me to clear my mind and move. Then it’s back to it.
I finish work around 3.15, when my daughter finishes school and return later that evening to tidy anything up.
I used to devote part of the day to editing, but now I force myself to ‘just write’ and edit once I’ve finished the first draft. That can be tough!
Your writing space
This mess is my writing space. Try as I might to keep it neat, it just doesn’t happen. There are notes for one of my WIP on the wall, pictures, CDs, which I listen to while I write, reference books, junk, Snoopy…The only time my desk is neat is after a book goes to press. I’ve developed a routine where I strip, scrub and re arrange my desk before starting a new project. What a creature of habit!
Your latest book or WIP
I’m working on two books at the moment – a middle fiction and a junior fiction.
The middle fiction deals with imperfect memories and families while the junior fiction is based on a true event. The first comes out in September 2011 and the second early 2012.