How Writers Work – Sue Lawson guest post

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.

8 thoughts on “How Writers Work – Sue Lawson guest post

  1. Your desk doesn’t look very messy to me, Sue. I always think that the more room you have, the less mess you’ll make. But it seems the opposite is true. Oh and you forgot to mention the Magpies flag over your window. Winning the Premiership last year must have provided lots of inspiration! (:

  2. You’re right, Gabi, I tend to spread out! I didn’t take a picture of the bed behind where I sit. It’s covered in my study books and notes!
    And as for footy – I do have a Collingwood obsession, it’s true. There’s a premiership poster above the notes on my wall (you can see the boys’ feet!) and my screensaver is also The Pies! If you’re really observant, you can see a ‘Magpies’ patch top and centre on my display board – that’s all that remains of my Collingwood dufflecoat! (It’s demise pains me to this day!)
    See, I’m quite the tragic! 😉

  3. Nice work space, Sue. My favourite item on your desk would have to be Snoopy (Gosh, I can’t help myself) I like your new writing routine. I think I’ll benefit greatly by adopting this strategy 🙂

  4. I think I am going to try your routine. I tend to get sidetracked on facebook and checking my blog to see if anyone is reading it. I also have to write certain parts of anything I am working on in coffee shops which uses up a fair bit of time. And then it has to be typed up when I get back home. The system certainly needs improving,


  5. I’m going to try the writing standing up thing as well! I hate how much time I spend sitting. At the computer, watching TV, reading. I would LOVE a treadmill desk but STANDING is free. 🙂

  6. Carol, Santa gve me that Snoopy (and the money box to the left) when I was 13. I have a Peanuts calendar on my desk too. Don’t think I’ll ever grow out of Snoopy and the gang!
    Jill, so far so good with the 45 minute routine – understand what you mean about coffee shops too. I spend half of my time observing people!
    And Sarah, I read somewhere about people who write while on a treadmill! It was a blog post I think. I entertained the idea for a while, but decided 45 minute bursts then walk around might be more productive!

  7. Always lovely to read about the different ways we work. Honestly, your desk doesn’t look messy to me – I’m a floor person, now that is messy.
    Like Gabi, I love the idea of 45 minute work bursts too. Oh the discipline.
    I have always loved the way you are so organised Sue. x

  8. If you could see my desk today as I finish an essay – organised? Chaotic! The ‘burst technique’ or maybe the ‘Birmingham Burst’ does work well!

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