To discover how others are working, Loretta Flockhart speaks to writers and illustrators 
about their creative spaces, inspirations, routines and tools. 
This month, we hear from writer Stuart White. 

Stuart is an award-winning author and secondary school teacher. He has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing and founded and runs WriteMentor. He made the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices longlists in 2020 and 2022 with Honorary Mentions for Ghosts of Mars, and Astra FireStar and the Ripples of Time.


Ghosts of Mars, his middle-grade novel won the WriteBlend and Wishing Shelf Awards in 2023. Stuart’s YA debut, The Nameless, won the Wishing Shelf 13+ Award and was the finalist in the 2023 Book Bloggers Novel of the Year Award. Stuart was included in The Bookseller’s 2021 list of Rising Stars in the publishing industry.


What’s your ideal creative space and where do you usually end up working?


I work in the wee box room in my house and while it’s not ideal – I’d love to be in a Parisian café or something more inspiring than rainy Scotland – it’s functional enough. It’s separate from the rest of the house when I do need a quiet space to focus. My bike is underneath the standing desk so I work standing or cycling. I was sitting for too many hours before and this has helped my energy and productivity levels immensely. I am a serial multitasker, and this space allows me to do that.


Stuart writing on his under-desk bicycle

When do you do your best work, or feel most inspired?


It’s usually at night, once the kids are in bed. After 8pm is my only real time to work. I’m least disturbed and can get a solid block of writing done.


Does this equate to when I am most inspired? Absolutely not! But writing isn’t about inspiration, it’s about perspiration and getting the work done! If you only wrote when you were inspired, you’d barely write at all! 

Where do your ideas come from?


The shower! I narrate long passages of the story, only to not fully remember them after. I do spend time thinking and brainstorming before I write a book – sorry but pantsing is absolute insanity! I usually start with a world or situation, then a character who is the least suitable person to exist there to embed that inherent conflict throughout the background of the novel. Most of my books were conceived in this way.


What are your favourite tools for writing?


I use Word for writing. Writing is literally punching keys, so I don’t think you need much more than an open Word document. I use Vellum for formatting my books and spreadsheets for planning/ story bible/ character profiles/ arcs.


I used to use the 750 Words website – it tracks your word count and offers encouragement. It’s good to get into a better writing habit or come out of a drought.


What inspires your work?


Mostly my own interests. I just write stuff that I think would've been fun to me as a kid, in the hope that it might be fun for current kids.


Astra Firestarter And The Ripples of Time

What encourages or hinders your work?


I am usually the biggest hindrance to my work. Things like family and work get in the way of writing and are sometimes impossible to avoid, but I believe that we are the chief antagonists in our stories and that if we got out of our own way more often, we’d find very little hindrance to our work!


How far into a new project do you feel comfortable sharing your ideas?


Immediately – it’s pointless to write a whole book, taking a year or more, before you’ve even shared any of it. You need to check your 1-line pitch is enticing, saleable, and commercial enough otherwise what’s the point if you plan to publish traditionally.


You need to check if the voice is working in chapter 1, because that’s a huge fix to do later, and you have to make sure your opening is hooky enough to engage a reader and then gatekeepers. So, the earlier you share a new project, the better it is in the long run.


I know some people don’t like sharing early etc. as it might dent confidence, but I exist with almost no confidence in my work, and sharing it does the opposite. It raises my confidence to continue and finish the novel.


Ghosts of Mars: The Adventures of Eva Knight

Do you work in the same way for each project and proposal?


I’m a bit chaotic in my process, to be honest. Some people are metronomic and can sit and write 1000 words a day, every day, with consistent output. I’m more erratic and vary from writing nothing for weeks to 5k in a day, or a book in a few months. I have zero chill. I am all or nothing.


Has the way you create change over time or is it the same as it has always been?


I’m more of an upfront writer now and front-load planning and world-building much more than I used to. I know my pitch and rough synopsis before I sit down to write the voice and then chapter 1. I’ve found it saves me so much time on the other side. Pantsing only ever brought me pain during editing, no matter the fun at the time of the first draft.


The Nameless by Stuart White

Best creative advice you’ve been given?


Focus on process, not outcome. Create sustainable habits that will not just help you write one book but continue to do this in the long term and build a career.


What was your favourite book as a child and do you still have a copy?


The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and yes, I still have an old, battered copy of LOTR. It’s all 3 books in one chunky paperback. It saved me, sitting alone in my loft, isolated and unhappy, and took me to another world at a time when I needed it most.

*Header image: Ell Rose and Tita Berredo

**All other images courtesy of Stuart White 


You can find Stuart on X  @StuartWhiteWM. Stuart's website is


Loretta Flockhart is the Creative Secrets editor for Words & Pictures
You can find her on Twitter @lolajflo


Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures.
Contact them at

Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. Contact her at:


1 comment:

  1. Nissa Van Riper3 May 2024 at 13:08

    I found this so encouraging--thank you.


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