What’s my writing process?

A lot like this, mainly. With probably more eye rolling.


I don’t have a routine, but I’m very picky about my working environment. The slightest excuse not to write and I won’t get anything done! I need chewing gum, a spreadsheet of my daily word counts on myWriteClub (to keep me accountable!) and lots and lots of music. I’m currently obsessed with Halsey’s album Badlands.

As for my writing process, usually I start out with an idea from a dream, or something I wake up thinking about. I’ll make a note on my phone like: reincarnation fic? and over the next few weeks I’ll be working out how it could play out in my head. I won’t write anything down for months probably, and I always start with plot, not characters.

When I decide to start writing it, I’ll type out everything I can think of about my idea and try and form it into a synopsis, like: There’s a girl who meets a boy in her first year biology lab and she knows his name and what his voice sounds like. Then I’ll probably leave it a while again, a few weeks or days.

Then I start reluctantly doing character development (I am terrible at this) (no really). I have now on four occasions got to the point where a new character appears and had to stop writing to decide what they are like, because I’d been putting it off for so long. It usually takes me two drafts to really understand my characters; until then I’m just kind of bemused by them. Once it clicks I can tell you everything and anything about them and love them like children.

Right now I’m writing a character and I’ve written 25k and all I really know about him is that he’s a softbro. We’ll get there eventually. The way I tackle my character development fear is usually via tumblr? Like I have very detailed book tags with all my character insp pictures: book one; book two; book three; book four; book five. I don’t know if that is useful to know or not. I just see a lot of stuff on my dash that reminds me of my stories. I know a lot of authors use pinterest for this.

I write chronologically and don’t let myself skip ahead, though I usually find myself waking up to write down lines and dialogue I want to add later.

I spend a lot of time messing around with formatting. I can’t just go into a word doc and write. It has to be Sitka text size 12, and I need page numbers and a title page and headers because ….I’m a good procrastinator.

I usually I have at least one epigram before I write a word (I collect too many epigrams. I have to cull them frequently.) It used to be single spaced but usually you submit in double spaced, and I’m used to it now. I find single too crowded.

My document usually starts as a plan, but this tends to be pretty aggressive and sarcastic and I don’t really follow it. I usually focus on the short term- I have a list of one-liners or dialogue from notes on my phone I want to include, so I paste that into the word document and write through it. It’s satisfying if I write in all my notes, I’m more pleased to have done that than if I wrote 10,000 words.

I find working from little tidbits like that can really help if I’m stuck with a scene, it’s like fic prompts.

Like: she sullenly refused to meet his gaze, sure he was laughing at her
“what kind of feeble response is that”
use phrase ‘monstrous rage’ hah

I just try and fill in the gaps between those ideas!

I have to have pictures of my characters before I can write them. I need to know what font their handwriting is. I need to know what their favourite slang word is.

I occasionally write out by hand, but I have to type it up pretty much immediately, and I usually waste a long time editing it instead of writing more.

Usually I listen to my book playlists. I can’t really write without music, but it has to be music I know really well. If I’m having a good writing moment I’ll be singing too. At the minute I’m listening to Brave- Sara Bareilles, Young volcanoes- Fall out boy, and High Hopes- The Vamps a lot. It needs to be upbeat because I type to the rhythm of the music.

My writing time is usually from 2pm-1am, but when I go to bed I’ll have an hour where I keep waking up to make notes.

I use a lot of italics and try to actively avoid adverbs. I dislike all caps dialogue. I try and think about what different media types I could use and work them into the story- letters, instant messages etc.

When I’ve finished I’ll share it with a few people and my mum and then put it away from two months before looking at it again.

Published by Lauren James

Lauren James is the twice Carnegie-nominated British author of many Young Adult novels, including Green Rising, The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. She is a RLF Royal Fellow, freelance editor and screenwriter. Lauren is the founder of the Climate Fiction Writers League, and on the board of the Authors & Illustrators Sustainability Working Group through the Society of Authors. Her books have sold over a hundred thousand copies worldwide and been translated into six languages. The Quiet at the End of the World was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and STEAM Children’s Book Award. Her other novels include The Next Together series, the dyslexia-friendly novella series The Watchmaker and the Duke and serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise. She was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and many of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. She sold the rights to her first novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university. Her writing has been described as ‘gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘a strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly. Lauren lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2022. She has taught creative writing for Coventry University, WriteMentor, and Writing West Midlands.

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