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  • Writer's pictureEmily

Trees Trees Trees

When I am writing a first draft, all I am trying to do is get some words down on a page. Through 2020, I worked on the first draft of my new book in the time that I’d usually be cycling to my other job in a library. The library was closed and I was working from home instead, so this gave me a bit of extra time to do writing. I’d write for half an hour, not reading back on the previous day’s writing, inching forwards towards the end. For me, editing is where the real work begins, and it’s impossible to do that without a scrappy anything-goes first draft. I’m now on Draft 5 and I have rewritten the story a lot of times in quite different ways. This is how I figure out what story it is that I am trying to tell.

Because my first draft is a speedy getting-the-words-down sprint, I leave a lot of gaps. In this story, which is mostly set in a wood, I left out a lot of gaps where I should have been writing about trees. Instead, I wrote trees trees trees and left it at that.

In the last couple of months, it’s been time to return to these gaps and describe exactly what the forest looks like. To do this, I had to do research and I wanted to write a bit about what my research looks like.

It looks like me:

  • standing on a tree stump spinning around and getting dizzy

  • stuck halfway up a tree

  • touching the bark of a fir tree and discovering that it really feels like fur

  • gathering up handfuls of ash keys and lichen-covered branches and autumn leaves and bringing them all home

  • tightrope walking across a slippery fallen tree trunk to see if I can make it to the end

  • taking the 10000th photo of an interesting tree root on my phone

  • getting eaten by midges as I scribble down what I can see/hear/smell in an old old forest

  • crouched by decaying logs in a city park, looking at strange black stubs (dead man’s finger mushroom)

Emily is halfway up a tree, sitting on a branch and smiling at the camera.

Basically, it looks like me having fun. I like writing stories because I love discovering new things about the world around me. Research, for me, is taking an interest in the shapes and smells and feels of trees when I go on my daily walk. And as soon as I started paying attention I started noticing so many cool things, and one of these cool things was mushrooms.

Mushrooms are so cool I am going to dedicate a whole blog to them soon. I’ve never taken an interest in them before, but during lockdown, when I was walking the same route most days, I really began to notice them. And they have such good names like Angel’s Wing, Scarlet Elfcup, Inkcap and Jelly Ear!

Emily is sitting on a tree stump writing in a notebook in the middle of a forest which has a green mossy floor.
Emily is crouched in woodland next to a cluster of small red mushrooms. She is in a hat and coat and smiling at the camera.

I think research is discovery. Every time I go out now, it feels like some kind of treasure hunt because I never know what I’ll see.

What have you been noticing on your daily walks? What does research look like for you?

If you’d like me to chat to your school about research, creative writing, outdoor inspiration and more, just get in touch! You can find out more about events (including virtual events) here.


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