I have several favourite pens and pencils depending on what I am doing and what kind of surface I am writing on. I have horrible handwriting and some pens make it worse, but I find that fountain pens improve it. If I can, I will write with an ink pen because my writing will be legible and I find the experience as pleasing as wearing new shoes. My Parker pens (I have three) are my favourite, but I find that the ink will often bleed through paper and so I can’t use them in notebooks.
When writing in my notebooks, I use a simple biro or a pencil. However, when I am signing books at events I will always use a black uni-ball, as the paper used in a paperback is very absorbent and easy to tear. Many people use sharpies, but I’m not a fan of a thick nib, so only use them when signing posters or for bizarre requests such as signing back-packs.
I’m not rational when I buy stationary. Sometimes I will go and buy a pile of Moleskin notebooks just to make myself feel good. There are certain brands (like Moleskin) that I love, and certain shops, for example Muji that I’m drawn to. I have developed a stationary toolkit, that will get me through writing a whole book, but even now I’ll be tempted by a pretty notebook or an unusual colour of ink. However, even though I can be tempted to stray away from my old favourites, I find myself going back to what works.
Before I write a book, I’ll choose a notebook – either muji or moleskin – thin rule, and preferably A5 so it fits in all my bags. Muji do a black cover with a glossy finished A5 narrow ruled book that is twice as thick as their cardboard covered pads and my absolute favourite.
I’ll write the working title of the book on the cover of the notebook and dump, scribble, draw and write lists in it. I plot on different coloured posit notes, which go up on the wall above my computer, but then are pulled into the notebook. I do as much work as I can in this pre-draft phase and none of it is on a computer. I read stuff and copy pertinent bits into my notebooks. I note down quotes or important references. I write scraps of prose or character biogs. I use different coloured pens as well as types. I stick in scraps with prittstick. When the notebook is full, I’ll move on to a second one.
I could not survive without the humble rubber ended pencil. Everything begins and ends with a pencil. Early notes are usually in pencil. I sketch in pencil. I can write for the longest in pencil. I edit using a red pen for striking out and pencil for suggested rewrites. I think I could still write books as long as I had a pencil.
I’m known as the Beetle Lady, because I have published a trilogy of middle grade books: Beetle Boy (2016), Beetle Queen (2017), Battle of the Beetles (2018) and I have a non-fiction book about beetles coming in September 2018. Before my first book was published I worked at the National Theatre as a digital producer and before that at the Royal Opera House and Shakespeare’s Globe. I’ve spent my life obsessed with different forms of storytelling, and I’m