How I am Writing My New Books Every Minute Even When I'm Not • by Natascha Biebow

Writing is
something I do. But most of the time, I am not writing.


While I am supposed
to be writing, but really I am not writing, I am:


- Juggling: if
you have work, family, volunteer commitments, and life in general like me,
chances are you are also juggling. This is useful for writing because it means
you are living. And living is what is at the heart of writing. So, I make lists, do the school run, hoover the house, check in on my mum, keep wishing dinner will cook itself, help run SCBWI-BI to pay it forward to other writers and illustrators, edit books, and breathe . . .  because one day these
experiences will be in my books.


- Reading Other
People’s Writing (Books):
each day, I indulge in a bit of R-E-A-D-I-N-G. Very
often, this is not a children’s book, but if you pay attention while you are
reading, you can glean quite a few useful things while you are not writing:
inspiration how to write good (or bad) dialogue, techniques for storytelling, ideas
for formats, insights into the competition, an awareness of the marketplace. If
it’s a book that hooks, or a funny book, or an artfully written one, you can
bask in good language like a shark basking in the sun and dream of one day
writing a book like that too.

Some books I've been reading


And picture books and nonfiction research

- Walking the Dog:
this is an excellent way to pound out plot problems and other writing niggles.
Plus observing people in the park means you might
get the odd ideas for characters. Importantly, it makes you go out so you are
not entirely a hermit in front of a computer staring at a blank screen or
typing wondering where this book is going . . . You might even find out what is
actually going on in the world and meet a person. And it's exercise so it helps you stay fit. (NB: If you don’t have a dog,
you can walk yourself.)


My dog Luna lives for watching
then unsuccessfully chasing squirrels.

- Reading Aloud
to a Child (Or a Pet):
reading A-L-O-U-D is an excellent way to get an ear for the
sounds and structure of writing. When reading aloud, I get completely and
totally immersed in the story and it is oh, so rhythmical in a way that reading
silently just isn’t. (Sometimes I read my stories A-L-O-U-D to the walls –
thankfully, they don’t voice their opinion).

- Cooking, cleaning, washing and Taking Care of Other Chores that always seem
to need doing on repeat
: see juggling (above).

- Listening to Craft Webinars or Reading Craft Books: mostly listening to other
authors speak is a comforting language of threads of a shared experience in the
life of writing; it is also great procrastination “Hey, I’m learning HOW to do
it, yes, really” instead of bum on seat. Bonus is you can do it at the same
time as Walking the Dog . . . and get in the zone.

- Watching Children
be Children:
if you are lucky to meet a child on your walk or pass a playground
or even have family with children or children of your own, you can do something
very important while practising not writing: watching and listening.


- Sleeping. A surprising amount of writing can be done in that subconscious state before you fall asleep. This is a great time to noodle around with ideas and story problems. Plus it's necessary.


-Eating Chocolate (Shhh!) definitely helps you keep going.


In other words,
I Am BUSY Living, So A Piece of Me Can Find Its Way Into My Books:

All this living
is collecting material for writing. One day you’ll see it in my books. I am
working on a new nonfiction project; while I’ve done some research and there is
much more to do . . . as I’m ‘writing through living’, I’m figuring out HOW TO TELL THIS STORY to make it compelling for a child to read. Every book I write
is written because of some living I did. A piece of me is in there, and it is
this that I am hoping will connect with readers big and small to make the story
resonate with them also. 


picture books are 100% TRUE STORIES. 


To figure out
and collect the ‘true’ bit, I need to do a lot of outreach and research. I've decided my topic has ‘legs’ – e.g. it hasn’t already been done by someone else and it has
a strong enough hook – so I am busy uncovering more of the required
facts. Eventually, it will be time to weed out what should go in the book, and what should
be parked up (what is not relevant to the story can possibly go in the


Fueled by curiosity
and a love of my new topic, my quest is to discover the inner truth, the passion
that makes THIS story tick, the child-centred angle, something that will elicit
an emotional response from my young readers so they, too, can connect with the
spark that led me to write this book.


When I sell my idea to a publisher, you'll be the first to know how the living has made it become a real book. As I told a group of school children on a virtual author visit recently, it can take years to make a book, sometimes as long as they have been alive.  It's about trusting the process.


 For this, I need much time LIVING.


Natascha Biebow, MBE, Author, Editor and Mentor

Natascha is the author of the award-winning The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons,
illustrated by Steven Salerno, winner of the Irma Black Award for
Excellence in Children's Books, and selected as a best STEM Book 2020.
Editor of numerous prize-winning books, she runs

Blue Elephant Storyshaping,
an editing, coaching and mentoring service aimed at empowering
writers and illustrators to fine-tune their work pre-submission, and is the Editorial Director for Five Quills.
She is Co-Regional
Advisor (Co-Chair) of SCBWI British Isles.
Find her at



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