The Writing Process (or From Crazy Notebooks to Draft): Guest post by Sue Lawson

Friday, December 16, 2011

Here's a guest post from Sue Lawson about her novel planning process, as part of the blog tour for her new novel, Pan's Whisper.


Thanks so much for inviting me to visit Hey! Teenager of The Year, on the Pan’s Whisper Blog Tour. I read your blog regularly, Steph, and love it (as I do Girl Saves Boy).

Writers all approach the process of writing differently, so I thought it would be good to explore how I write and how it has changed since I wrote my first book.

Each book I’ve written has been an adventure with differing challenges and successes, but the one thing that is constant is that with each book I’ve learnt so much about writing and about myself. The exciting thing about being a writer is there is so much more to learn.

My writing process has changed dramatically since I finished my first book, Dragon’s Tear, in 2003. I used to be what I heard John Marsden describe as a ‘brick layer’ where I’d write a few pages, stop, edit and write a few more before stopping and editing again. Talk about a stilted process!

My lack of confidence contributed to that stop and start process, plus the inability to turn off my internal editor (Boy is he loud! – and yes strangely, it is a male voice – go figure!). While I still am wracked with doubt as I write, I’ve now forced myself to either ignore the internal editor until I’m ready to polish, or if all else fails, I yell at him. True! ‘Just write, edit later’ is my writing mantra.

Generally I write from start to end, but when I’m writing more than one point of view, as I did with Pan’s Whisper, I complete one character’s point of view before starting on the next. This way I find I avoid the problem of the two voices being too alike. When I was writing Pan’s story, I’d add notes at the end of a chapter about Morgan’s piece. I write each character’s story in a different document and merge them when I’ve done a first edit on both.

I type my first drafts, though if I am having trouble finding with a scene or piece of dialogue, I pull out my trusty notebook and write by hand (with a Kilometric or Ball Pental, extra fine – I have pen issues!) until the piece feels right.

I guess where I differ from most writers in the planning. I’m an over the top planner, mainly as I find the better I knew my characters and the setting, the story flows more smoothly as I write. Each time I start a new manuscript, I buy a new notebook – nothing flash – spiral bound, plastic covered, stripes, pink, plain – and do all of my planning in this book. The science behind my notebooks isn’t impressive. It started because I’m disorganised and lose stuff. All the time! So my theory is, if I keep everything in the one book, I won’t misplace anything. At least that’s the theory!

In my notebooks I plot my story, take research notes, develop characters and even put together the character’s homes. I raid magazines, newspapers, websites, blogs, tumblr and other places for snippets that suit my characters and settings. When I was writing Dare You, I created character collages as well as writing character profiles. Not only was it fun, but it helped me nail those characters. Since then collages have become part of my planning routine.

When I was writing Pan’s Whisper, I trawled through endless real estate pages to piece together the McMinn’s home. I discovered the perfect fa├žade for Pandora’s last home around the corner from my place when I was on a morning walk.

I revisit my notebook throughout the writing and editing process, adding bits of information, fleshing out characters and re-designing the setting.

My blog tour continues on Monday when I visit the amazing Michael at

Pan's Whisper on the publisher's website
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