Writing Firsts for 2021

It is not uncommon for me to have multiple projects going on at the same time. I am often writing one novel whilst planning or editing a second. Or writing a non-fiction book alongside the novel to accompany my workshop programme.

But 2021 seems to be about breaking new ground.  

I am currently writing the second book in a series about a well-loved character – Ruby Sixpence. Last time around, she Whistled up a Storm; this time she is Stitching Time. This is the first time I have written a series character and I am finding it challenging to make this a standalone story so that readers don’t have to have read Book 1 before they read this one.

I am also writing a creative writing workbook for a school’s project which combines online prompts, real life workshops and the book. It is the first time I have written a book for children, and also the first time I have worked with an Illustrator. I am delighted be working with illustrator, Charlotte Cleveland. It is a great experience to have such a creative partnership even though we haven’t been able to meet up in real life. Through zoom calls and email, we have a clear idea of where the story is going, and what our character, The Story Mole looks like. 

The biggest challenge I am finding in writing for children is getting the voice and the tone right. I work with this age group a lot, so I am familiar with their interests, their reading level and their ideas. Whilst I want to stretch them, I also want to make the book accessible to a class of mixed ability children; differentiating the work in a class of 30 individuals is a skill teachers have, and use every day.

I want my character to be appealing but not too cute, to appeal to boys and girls equally and to engage the children to make the Story Mole their own. Most importantly, however, I want the whole process to be fun.

The aim is to transform writing from a chore to a joy, develop stamina for writing and develop a daily writing habit in children before they progress to secondary school. I want the programme to be exciting and to reignite a love of stories which all children have. Their workbooks will not be marked by teachers, and as well as responding to the prompts, they can use their book to record their thoughts, ideas doodles – whatever they want to do – just as adult authors do.

Managing multiple projects as well as planning the next book and implementing a marketing strategy requires a degree of organisation and planning. 

Which is where my own Notebook Habit comes in. I used to have one notebook on the go at a time, and all my thoughts, ideas and projects went into it. The problem was that I remembered I had written a note somewhere, but I could never find it.

So to manage multiple projects, I now use multiple notebooks. It makes sense! 

On my desk, I currently have notebooks for: 

  • My current novel
  • My Story Mole children’s workbook
  • Future Novels; notes for books at the ideas or planning stage
  • A Project book: for non- fiction projects. It has five separate sections, including self publishing, write your life, workshop ideas, and other non-fiction books for the future
  • Marketing notebook for blog post ideas, tweets, and other marketing plans 
  • Organised Chaos is my current hardback diary for appointments, deadlines, word counts, reminders and important things (like birthdays and tax returns)
  • Morning Pages for working through the emotional baggage which can cloud my mind when writing (although I now mostly do this online.)

I have drawers full of notebooks dating back several decades. When I am seeking inspiration, or if there is nothing to watch on telly, I will occasionally browse these notebooks and find nuggets of inspiration. 

My notebook habit is strong and evolved. I hope that through The Story Mole project, I can encourage the children to develop their own notebook habit, which will inspire them to write freely and for pleasure, for many years to come. 

Published by Anita Belli

Author and Creative Writing Tutor. Novels: Divas, Dogs & Dreamers. Once Upon A Blue Moon. Ruby Sixpence Whistles Up A Storm. The Traveller & The Rose. The Art Forger's Daughter. Non-Fiction: How to be An Author in the Classroom. Write Your Life. Kickstart Your Writing. Unlock The Block. For Children: A Month of Writing Adventure

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