claire hennessy

A Map of My Writing Day

I've been writing this 'Yours in Writing' blog for many years now, and I would like to thank all of you for the fantastic feedback and regular comments both here and on Facebook and Twitter. It means a lot to me. To say thank you, I'd like to address some topics that YOU have asked me to cover. The first - and yes, probably the easiest - is my writing routine. When do I write? How many words? Computer or long hand?

Over the next few weeks I will tackle the other questions I've recently been asked - on planning books, getting published for teenagers, what editors are looking for right now and other subjects. If there is something that you would like me to cover, you only have to ask.

So - my writing routine. And thanks to Claire Hennessy for the question, a very experienced writer herself.


Here's a map of my writing day:

7am  Rise (groggily) and get the kids to school.

8.30am  Get home and start thinking about what I have to do today.

Potter around the house avoiding work, 'tidying', opening mail, checking emails, Twitter and Facebook (terrible I know but best to get it over with early I find so I can get on with my morning! Twitter and Facebook are big distractions but also great fun and I dip in and out during the afternoon when I'm doing my emails and admin etc).

9.30  Walk - think about my current book while doing so (or that's the idea - it doesn't always work out that way - somametimes I end up chatting to my mum or a friend while walking - which is also nice!).

10.30am  Switch off my mobile and take the phone off the hook - my writing computer does not have the internet - which is a Godsend! Sit down at my desk.

Stare into space for a while.

Stare into space some more.

10.45am  Start writing.

I write straight onto my computer (I'm a fairly fast and accurate touch typist) but I do also write a lot of early plot notes/character notes in yellow notebooks. Yes, always yellow!

1.00pm  Collect my son or if he's in after school, stay writing until 2pm.

I aim to write about 2,000 words a day - that's my natural limit. Anything more than that is a bonus but if I don't reach my target I don't beat myself up about it. I write as often as I can, every day if possible - that way it's easier to jump straight back into the story. Otherwise I have to re-read what I've been writing and it slows the process down. Sometimes I stop writing in the middle of a sentence or a thought - I find it easier to pick up the thread of the story that way. It's probaby a bit nuts, but whatever gets you through, right?

In 15 years of writing (10 of those full time) I have always written something when I've sat down at my desk. Even if I'm not feeling great or am having a horrible day/week/month I still manage to write a page or two. I have NEVER left my desk without getting something down.

In the afternoon I deal with my emails (I hate email but it's a necessary evil), answer phone calls, write my blogs (I have two, this one and one on my Amy Green website and also blog for Girls Heart Books), do my event programming and check in with my Facebook and Twitter friends. I also update my website and write any reviews, articles or other bits of writing I've been asked to do.

I also used to work three or four evenings a week, but recently I have stopped this. I'm not as productive as I used to be but it gives me more time to spend with my family.

And that, my friends, is my writing day! I am very blessed to be able to write full time and I would like to thank my readers for making it possible.

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX

How To Contact A Writer - by Claire Hennessy

Here is a fantastic blog from my talented writer friend, Claire Hennessy. I like it so much that I'm reposting it. Do check out Claire's great website and blog here.

How To Contact a Writer by Claire Hennessy

Recently Sarah Dessen talked about getting an obnoxious email from someone when she didn’t reply to someone to help with a book report. It didn’t surprise me. Sarah Dessen obviously gets bucketloads more fan mail than, well, most of us, but this happens. It does.

Recently I had a conversation with another writer about getting sent manuscripts to read (‘tell me if it’s any good!’) from people out of the blue, and how to deal with that. This happens too. And it’s tricky in all sorts of ways.

I think there’s a lot fuzziness out there in the world about what is okay, and what is not okay, to contact an author about. And the ease of communication – social media as well as email – means it’s so much easier to get in touch, and easier to have a sense that you’re owed a response. (‘She RTed me that time! Why has she not read my manuscript and sent it to her publisher yet?!’)   I have… not necessarily the definitive guide, because every writer is different, but some things for people to consider, based a little on my own experience but also on paying attention to what many others have said about correspondence with readers.  •Some writers respond to fan mail (and by this I mean communications that are just appreciative, rather than asking for something); some don’t. Of those that respond, some will do personal responses and some will do a generic reply. Whatever they do… it’s their choice. There is no ‘rule’ that says authors must reply to all fan mail personally. I have never heard or seen any writer declare that they hated getting fan mail (or that they didn’t read and appreciate it very much) – it is almost always about time. Personal responses take time, and time is something almost everyone is short of. Neil Gaiman once spoke about how he’d become someone who ‘answered emails professionally, and wrote on the side’ – I think most people would prefer authors keep writing books.  •Fan mail tends not to be treated in a time-sensitive manner. If an author gets an email from their editor or agent with a big long list of things that need to be sorted out about their work-in-progress in the next fortnight, and one from Little Suzie wanting to know if they have any tips for her… well. (Snail mail also tends to go via a publisher, which means it can take longer to actually arrive in the author’s hands than you might expect.) Even if you do hope for a response, it is unlikely to be as super-speedy as you’d like.  •If you have a question to ask a writer – whether it’s about their books or their writing career or you’re looking for advice – do your research first. Go to their website, do a Google search, find out as much as you can that way. (There is a reason many authors’ websites have things like Frequently Asked Questions or sections on writing advice – these are things that come up over and over again.) An awful lot of people don’t bother doing this, and it’s one of the reasons why many writers do auto-responses. •Find out what the author’s policy is on communication – some may note that it takes them X amount of time to get back, or say that it’s better to get them on Twitter, or Tumblr, or something like that. Everyone does things slightly differently.  •It is never an author’s job to do your homework for you. If your teacher has said you need to get a response from a writer (whether this is a book report, an assignment on ‘becoming a writer’, etc), he/she is in the wrong. It is never anyone else’s job to do your homework for you. It is not the job of an author you’ve never met to make him or herself available for your often time-sensitive questions. (Laurie Halse Anderson has a policy on her website; Holly Lisle has a slightly snarkier page about it.) I suspect that teachers who assign things like this feel it shows students will go the extra mile if they get a response from an author – but the focus should be on what the student is doing, not how/when/what the author responds.  •Even if you’re, say, Facebook ‘friends’ with an author, it’s better to err on the side of formality/professionalism when sending a message or email – avoid acronyms and internet shorthand and all that jazz. (If there’s ongoing correspondence, take your cue from them – some writers can OMG and !!! with the best of ‘em. Others will genuinely see your ‘by d way i tink ur awesome!!!’ as indicative of a lack of respect or clued-in-ness, because the level of written-word casualness that exists online is a relatively new phenomenon and is still best avoided in most messages that are not to someone you know well.) •Do not send email attachments – some email servers will block these immediately. If you have something that can’t be placed in the body of a text – like fan art – upload it somewhere else and include a link, or ask if you can send it on.  •Do not send writers your manuscript (of a story, of a novel, of your poetry collection, whatever). More on that here. There are of course exceptions to this rule – some authors will run competitions on their blogs and invite submissions, and if you’ve been corresponding with someone for a while the rules can shift because this isn’t an initial-email-to-someone-in-their-professional-capacity situation anymore. •If you’re asking an author for advice on something personal – like maybe it’s something they’ve written about in their books – just be careful, okay? Protect yourself a little bit, just in case they are among the writers who don’t reply or maybe take ages – it doesn’t mean they don’t care or that there isn’t anyone else out there you can talk to. (Some writers love giving advice; others are very wary of it. I can see both sides of this one – it is a really, really tricky area.)  •A lot of this applies across the board. If you’re asking someone you don’t know or barely-know for a favour, there’s a really good chance that they’ll say no. You increase the chances by being kind and respectful and understanding and doing your research, but they still might say no or not reply or not reply quickly. It’s almost certainly because they’re busy doing other things, work things or life things, and not because they’re selfish terrible awful people who must go on your List Of Mortal Enemies.

 (This blog first appeared on Claire's website)