Monday, 24 June 2013

Getting in the mood by Abie Longstaff

I’m getting ready to write a new book. 

For me this process starts with collecting ideas. My ideas come from everywhere – the radio, the newspaper, people’s stories, nature, the television – so when I’m at this stage of a project I tend to immerse myself in themes that might crop up in my book. Some of the process is about finding plots and characters, but some of it is also about retreating into a cave of writing where I (try) to shut out the world.

My new book is about a tropical swamp so I need:

1. Ideas for words

These might come from the internet;



from other books, like the wonderful Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson (any excuse to read this...);

or from brain storming on my own;


2. Ideas for images

I find Pinterest a really good source for images. I often make boards for my books as I find it really helps to collect all the pictures in one place. For me the images kick start themes, drawings and plots, or even just get me in the mood to write.  

My boards:

For my swamp book I have:

both of which are starting to spark off ideas. 

I visit places that might inspire me and take photos (these are from Butterfly World):

I also draw my own images to help jog things along.



 3. Ideas for noise

I find sound a very evocative sense so I will search for noises that echo the mood of the book. For my swamp I’ve chosen a rainforest birdsong background.
I might have this on while I gather images and draw and sometimes throughout the entire writing process. Bits of birdsong may find their way into my descriptions and the noise helps to imagine the hot, humid feel of the jungle.

4. Ideas for scent

I got the idea of using scent from an author friend, Nicola Morgan. Her blog full of writing tips is highly recommended:

Nicola told me she sometimes lights a candle to get her in the mood to write. I’ve started doing this too, choosing a scent depending on the book. I’m trying a tropical reed diffuser to get me in the zone for my swamp book.

I’d love to know how you get in the mood.

(If you want to see more of my boards, You can find me on Pinterest under AbieLongstaff)


Catherine said...

I love the Pinterest idea, like an electronic version of a picture board.

My five year old tells the most amazing stories and conversations with her sparked off a lot of my PiBoIdMo ideas.

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thanks, Abie. It's good to hear how other people get into the mood for writing. For the past few years I haven't really thought about the environment for writing as I was mostly always ready to write. After what feels like a big gap I'm going to do some proper setting aside time for writing this week and I may well use some of your ideas. Unfortunately I think a candle in the office might set off the smoke detector as it's very close...

Abie Longstaff said...

Catherine - children can be really useful like that! Mine have sparked off lots of stories, and remembering what I got up to as a child with my sisters has sparked off a few more :)

Juliet - I'd be rubbish with a candle and would probably knock it over. A reed diffuser is about all I can use without risking burning down my study!

Moira Butterfield said...

Great to hear about you setting the mood, Abie. A trip to the Eden Project beckons, perhaps, to experience that tropical heat...

Jane Clarke said...

Inspirational post, Abie, thanks. I've never tried Pinterest -off to have a look.

Abie Longstaff said...

Yes - Eden project or...Thailand would be even better!

Lynne Garner said...

Once I get a basic idea for a story I just let it fester and eventually something useful will 'pop' up. Recently I've used Pinterest twice for non-fiction books and found it extremely useful.

Abi Burlingham said...

What a fab and helpful post Abie! And I have just ordered Journey to the River Sea - it sounds like a gorgeous book.

Anne Booth said...

This was a brilliant post. I'm definitely going to try the pinterest (have never used so may need to ask my teenagers for help) and the background sound, and I will have a bash at using a scented candle! I wonder about the sense of touch, too? Come to think about it, the sense of taste is pretty good - maybe I can put down eating cake as essential for picture book writing?

Abie Longstaff said...

Thanks Abi - it's one of my favourites, but then again, I've yet to find an Eva Ibbotson book I don't like :)

Anonymous said...

Great post, Abie. I use the "soak it up" method for inspiration. In other words, while drafting a story about paper dolls, I surrounded myself with my daughter's gazillion handmade paper dolls. I wrote notes for a poem about a compost heap, while I sat by and stirred and sniffed and explored our compost heap. And I revised a manuscript about bedtime during a storm, during a hurricane, which provided lots of great howling and creaking and vivid imagery. I also find inspiration on walks which is why I try always to have my camera and a little notebook along. Happy writing, all!

Linda Strachan said...

Love this post, Abie.
I'm just starting a new book, too, and gathering ideas.
I like to collect images but I've never used pininterest, may take a look.

I love this stage, it feels like ideas are floating around in my head, like bubbles, each with something different inside. It could be an image or a scent or a character's personality, but I have no real idea where they will fit in the story yet.
It's an exciting time!

Donna L Sadd said...

This is great, Abie. I've been stuck on a new MG novel and think doing most of what you've mentioned above, might just kick it into high gear. Thanks for posting! :0)

Paeony Lewis said...

Lovely ideas for inspiration, Abie, and congrats on the new picture book series. I use my trusty children's illustrated thesaurus for young books, but I'll look up the online visual link you've provided - sounds intriguing.

Btw, Eva Ibbotson was also popular in our house. On one World Book Day my daughter dressed up as the little hag, Odge (complete with a cuddly mistmaker), and she was frustrated nobody knew who she was.

Sue Purkiss said...

Lovely post! I've just started using pinterest too - I relly like it, so I'm afraid it could take up a lot of time!

Jean P Webster said...

Thank you, Abie. Helpful & inspirational.