Crafting words in a cupboard

From coffee shops to trains and sun loungers, my favourite places to write are possibly not quite what you’d expect.

My first novel was written in a cupboard. No seriously. At least, part of it was, anyway.

I’d already written some of the book. Maybe a quarter of the first draft. It had been my ambition to write a novel for some years. I’d tinkered with short stories. I’d started first drafts of several different books, never really getting beyond the first chapter. And then I had the idea for my first novel.

Finding a place to write

At the same time, my girlfriend (now my wife) and I, decided to move in together. We couldn’t afford to rent more than a one-bedroom flat. Certainly no budget for a big house with a purpose-built study. However, we found a flat with a strangely large cupboard. On seeing it, I remember remarking, “I reckon I could get a desk in there.” The Lettings Agent laughed. Little did she know.

So, we moved in. I managed to (just about) wedge a desk and chair in the cupboard. And with me in there too, the door only just closed.

It was dark. Airless. No windows and slightly damp. Very hot in the summer and freezing in the winter. But it was my tiny cupboard office and I spent many happy hours in there, typing away and crafting several drafts of my first book, The Unexpected Vacation of George Thring. And when I got my first publishing deal, the story of my cupboard even made the local paper. We stayed in that flat for 5 years, and during that time, I wrote much of my second book, Killing Dylan, in the cupboard, too.

More space to work

Eventually we moved out of that flat and bought a house with more rooms. So, now I have the luxury of writing in my own office (well, half of the spare bedroom). I have a new writing desk. I have a board up on the wall to pin ideas to. And I usually cover the walls, doors and any clear space with post-it notes, containing character details, plot points and a rough story structure.

The office has a lot more space. It even has a window and a radiator. It’s considerably more comfortable to work in and it’s where I wrote my third book, 46% Better Than Dave. But sometimes I still miss that cupboard.

Working on the go

While I like to have a dedicated place to work, you never quite know when the muse will strike, or a good idea will pop into your head. That’s why I tend to carry a notebook with me, so I can jot down ideas and write on the go. I’ve been known to write on the train, in the pub while waiting for people, in the hospital or doctor’s surgery, during my lunch break at work, on a sun lounger on holiday, on planes, and in many, many coffee shops.

Having a notebook in my pocket is also particularly handy when the wife insists on dragging me into town to do some shopping. I can usually leave her to it, sneak off to a coffee shop and do a bit of writing while I wait. Which leads me to…

You can’t beat a coffee shop

As I say, I’ve spent a lot of time writing in coffee shops. Either scribbling away in my notebook, or tapping away on my laptop. It’s a bit of a cliché I know (nicely observed by Family Guy). And you can barely walk into a Starbucks or Costa without seeing at least one person with a laptop. But I find it a very productive place to work. It’s good to get away from the quiet, still atmosphere of the house (and the wife who can’t help but interrupt me).

I like the buzz and energy of coffee shops. And they’re great places to people watch. I don’t go there looking for people to inspire characters, or listening in on people’s conversations. But you never know what you might see or hear that sparks a little nugget of thought that could lead to something in a book. And like Freddie Winters (the main character in Killing Dylan, who also writes in coffee shops), I like the coffee and the free WiFi.

So, when do I write?

I think any time is the right time to write. I find it’s good to have something of a routine. Setting aside a specific time each day to get my head down and craft some words, or just bash something out to increase the wordcount (both are equally as useful). For me, that time is the morning. I also have a day job, as a copywriter for a big Marketing/Advertising company. I spend all day writing something or other (from ebooks to blog posts, concepts, adverts… you name it), so I find that I’m a bit done with writing when I get home in the evening. Instead, I get up early in the morning, head into the office at home, and try to get at least an hour done before I get ready for work. Some mornings are more productive than others… depending how tired I am.

So, that’s where and when I write. If you’re a writer too, what’s your favourite place to work? Get in touch and let me know.

Published by Alastair Puddick

Author Alastair Puddick

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