In search of inspiration, Caroline Deacon invites established writers and illustrators to tell us about their creative space. This month features Moira McPartlin

Tell us about your creative space. 
I write my first drafts in longhand. This means I can write anywhere but my creative spaces have changed through the years. Many of my early novels were written in cafes in the West End of Glasgow. I lived in the country then and my husband would drop me off in town on his way to work. I was trapped in the city for the entire day so I had no option but to write and soak up the creative vibes in the bustling streets.

I now have a campervan and love the freedom of being able to write anywhere in Europe. I normally travel for a few months in the summer and make a point of writing in the campervan every morning before I start my day. It is amazing to notice how the different environments I pass through filter into my writing.

Moira in her creative space. 

Once the longhand writing is done I move into my study and toil at the later drafts until they are just right. I’ve only lived in my present home for two years and I picked my study space before anything else. My desk is a trestle table that doubles as a sewing table. I am surrounded by books and notebooks but also craft materials. It’s a messy room and in need of decorating but that can wait. The best feature is the view from the window I face. I can look over the rooftops and see the distant hills of Ben Vorlich and Stùc a' Chroin in the Trossachs National Park. Even when the view is obscured by mist and rain I still know it’s there.

Indoor space for Moira's creative writing. 

Why do these spaces work for you?
Before I became a full-time writer I worked for Shell and worked from home some of the time but also travelled extensively. While travelling I learned to work and write anywhere - to be observant and to chronicle situations. I would then use my home office to gather all the collected scraps of writing and formulate it into something sensible and polished. I think the way I work now is not so different from when I worked for a corporation.

Do you need particular prompts?
If I get stuck I often use inspirational quotes to get me started. If I hear a good quote I will write it at the top of the page and won’t be able to move forward in the notebook until that quote has been written about.

I’m interested in sounds as prompts too. In November, rather than take part in Nanowrimo, I recorded a sound a day from an episode in my life. I now use those sounds as prompts for stories and am enjoying the process of what develops from that.

Your creative tools - what are they?
The first writing book I read was Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. The first chapter is entitled ‘Beginner’s Mind, Pen and Paper’ where she enthusiastically describes the pleasure to be had from using good, fast flowing pens and fun notebooks. I took this to heart at the time and have never wavered from it. I love the feel of the pen racing over the paper. My mind can be free and I am often astonished at what I have written when I read it back. I am particularly fond of Moleskine notebooks of any size and colour and also the fun notebooks found cheaply in TK Maxx.

I wrote about my love of notebooks for the blog Paperpenspoets
See Moira' article here 

Do you have a routine? 
I have different routines for each stage of my writing project. I write only for a few hours in the morning during the creative first draft stage. I need to give myself 'blue sky thinking time'. During the later crafting stages I work much harder and can be at my desk for around six hours a day. I am a morning person and I’m not good at working in the evening. I like to take lots of breaks during the day and normally go for a run at some point.

I try to do all my admin and publicity work on a Monday afternoon but that doesn’t always work.

Blue sky thinking time. 

What is the best creative advice you’ve been given?
‘Finish the damn book’. I know lots of great writers who start on a project but move onto something else when they get stuck and they never finish anything. I always have lots of projects on the go, and I know I am not a great finisher but I force myself to be. If you don’t finish the first draft you will never finish the final draft. The joy of writing THE END on your final draft is worth all the sweat.

Favourite ‘how to write’ book?
As well as Writing Down the Bones, I love Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing. Ray Bradbury is often dismissed in the literary world because he is a genre writer and that is wrong. In my opinion, he is one of the greats. And in reading this book you soon understand why. He spells out the joy of writing. With his great enthusiasm for the craft, he shares his love of poetry and reading. If you have yet to discover this gem of a book you are in for a treat.

Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing. 

Does exercise help? 
For me, running is an essential part of my writing process. Not only does it give me a break from my desk and eases the tension in my shoulders, running also releases my mind. I have solved my worst plot problems when I’ve been running. In Q & A sessions I often give running as an analogy for writing - it’s hard to get started but once you step out the door (or put pen to paper) you are off. When you’ve finished you feel great.

Planner or pantser?
I’m now both. I used to say I never plan. All of my novels began with a theme and then I would work on the character and set those characters loose to run with the story. For my trilogy I knew most of the plot for book one, Ways of the Doomed, because the story came to me in a dream. I also knew where the trilogy ended, I just didn’t know how to get there. Books two and three were a complete mystery to me until I began writing them. The last project I worked on was the only time I planned because it was a commission and the publisher required a detailed outline. I’m happy to say I found the process quite a revelation and will definitely try working that way again.

What question do you most like being asked about your work?
I love being asked where my titles come from. I work hard at finding the right title and there is usually a good story behind where I find them.

Photo credits: Moira McPartlin

Moira McPartlin’s debut novel The Incomers, which tells the tale of a West African woman moving to a small town in 1960s Scotland, was shortlisted for the Saltire Society First Book of the Year Award. Her speculative fiction Sun Song Trilogy of YA novels, Ways of the Doomed, Wants of the Silent and Star of Hope are set in 2089 and reflect many issues we are living with today. Moira describes herself as a writer, walker, campervaner, wife, mother, granny. She currently lives in Stirlingshire, Scotland.

You can find Moira on the following platforms
Moira's Website
Moira's Twitter

Caroline Deacon lives in Edinburgh and is the author of several childcare books. She now writes MG and YA and is agented by Lindsay Fraser of Fraser Ross Associates, Edinburgh. Find her on Twitter @writingdilemmas and at

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