My pen of choice is a Uni-ball ‘eye’ (medium point; black ink). It’s a really smooth writer, just perfect for the creative phase when you’re busy composting ideas and coming up with mind-maps on characters, plot, settings and the like. It’s also great for splurging early character sketches and initial chapter outlines.
Like most writers I know, I’m a bit of a collector of notebooks and have a whole bunch of different shapes, sizes and colours waiting to use. I’m particularly attracted to the gorgeous covers of the Paper Blank series – though they’re things I ask for as presents as they’re so expensive – a definite indulgence! And I often find I can’t bring myself to besmirch them with my scribbling, so I have several ‘virgin’ ones which I haven’t used since I got them. I guess if they become collectables, they might be worth something one day.
When it comes to doing the serious planning for the latest work-in-progress – like my middle grade stories Black Powder or The Buried Crown – then I have to use a straightforward black, A4, hard cover, ring-bound, ruled notebook. There’s a certain indefinable chemistry between the size of the page, the quality of the paper and the ink of my Uni-ball which helps keep my thoughts flowing freely. And notebooks with perforated joins are useful for ripping out the stuff you think is really going nowhere without making too much of a mess.
In the creative zone, I have a scrapbook into which I stick photos and postcards to help me form a picture of the world I’m writing about.
In the editing/rewriting zone – I find little sticky tags very useful for marking places in print-outs of my work. When I was doing the editing on The Buried Crown (my second book with Chicken House), I also used a bunch of eye-poppingly fluorescent thin Post-It style notes to jot down random thoughts and stick on to the appropriate pages of the manuscript. This proved very useful during those middle-of-the-night moments when you just have to get up and scribble something down or it’s lost to your dreams – and time – forever.
I’ve always been a wordsmith of sorts. I loved writing stories and poems while at school and then wrote professionally for many years as a communicator and marketer. But it was only after a redundancy gave me the opportunity to go back to school and study for an MA in Writing for Children at the University of Winchester in 2009/10, that I finally gave myself the permission to return to writing creatively again. And then, I got my big break with Chicken House in 2015 when they offered me a two book deal.
My debut novel, Black Powder, about a boy who gets mixed up in the Gunpowder Plot, came out in August 2016 and has been fortunate enough to win the 2017 Historical Association’s Young Quills Award (Primary Category) and a 2017 North Somerset Teachers’ Book Award (in the ‘Moving On’ category). My second historical novel, The Buried Crown, set in the dark days of 1940s England, but linking back to the famous Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo ship burial, is due out in April 2018.
I’m currently putting my stationery – and my time machine – to good use to plan out proposals for two further stories in the historical mystery-adventure vein.
Web address: www.allysherrick.com
Facebook: Ally Sherrick