Monday, 8 August 2016

8 Tips for Writing in Cafés

It's the summer holidays, and while my children are no longer at that age where they expect to be entertained every minute of the day, there is that expectation that mum will be the one driving them to where they expect to be entertained every minute of the day. Which is how I found myself working from a café for two mornings last week, instead of my nice snug study.

It certainly brought back memories. When the children were younger I would regularly take them to one of those indoor play centres. They would go crazy sliding through twisty plastic tunnels and getting lost in ball pits, and I'd drink lots of coffee and write. Much of Breathless was written this way - but it did help that I'm the kind of person who can screen out background noise as I work!

But even I was surprised at how much I managed to achieve last week. I'm not sure if it was the coffee, a different environment or just being away from the Internet - probably the latter! So if you feel the need to get away for a few hours, just to write, here are my tips:

(1) Choose a café where you are already known, or one that's part of a large chain where you'll blend in with everyone else.

(2) Go during a quiet time so you're not seat hogging, and sit in a quiet area so you're less likely to be disturbed or asked if you're writing a book - although this is a good opportunity to hone your elevator pitch!

(3) Order plenty of drinks to keep the staff happy enough that they won't turf you out, but don't go mad because it'll get expensive. Preferably, use a café that has a loyalty card scheme - after a few visits you'll get a free drink!

(4) Sit facing the room unless you want people reading your draft sex scenes over your shoulder. There's no greater temptation than an open laptop. 

(5) If you're the kind of person who can't write in a noisy environment, try revising or proof-reading instead. In the old days I used to cart around a huge A4 lever arch file with my manuscript in it, now I copy my work onto a Kindle. Alternatively, just print out a few chapters.

(6) Consider using a (shock horror) notebook and pen. A notebook doesn't need charging, you don't have to worry about it being damaged and it's far more portable. But take more than one pen, in case it runs out, and ensure that it's comfortable to write with.

(7) Don't expect to write perfect prose. In fact, don't expect to write anything at all. Start off writing notes, like a long synopsis. With any luck you'll find the notes will get longer and turn into snatches of dialogue or description and then whole scenes. Before you know it, you'll have drafted an entire chapter.

(8) But if you find writing fiction in a café doesn't work for you, try something else - outline a new story, or write a blog post or article instead.

And if all else fails, get out your camera. You never know when all those Instagrammed coffee shots are going to come in handy ...

Related Posts:

A Room of One's Own
Getting Noted
My Writing Process
Seeking Inspiration
Where I Write (written for Novelistas Ink)

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