Behind the scenes: On creating the right writing space

Note: This is the second of six posts going behind the scenes of my writing process — what inspires me, the way I work, and how I recharge. For links to the rest of the posts, scroll down.

Wanna know a secret?

Computers are wonderful things, but I can’t write on them.

Nope, not even on a typewriter. I’m an old-school pen-and-paper gal when it comes to bursts of creativity.

Organization is a real treat.

Here’s how my writing space looks late in the process, when most of the handwritten notes have been entered into the computer and the editing is underway.

Computers are marvelous tools for editing and research, but nothing beats the satisfaction of hearing words come together in my head and feeling them take shape as I move my pen across the page.

So my writing space is littered with thoughts jotted on notepads and journals small enough to fit in a pocket. The words pour out in waterfalls to soak the pages. Eventually, the pages pool together into a layered sea of story.

Itty-bitty bursts of creativity all gathered in a pile.

Here’s the endless pile of handwritten notes for a couple of dozen books floating around in my head. Someday, I might even have time to finish writing them all.

But if ever I try to start on a computer screen? Nope. It just causes a short. Faulty wiring, I guess. 😉

What’s your favorite way of capturing your thoughts?

Going behind the scenes

See the end result of M.Q.’s pen-and-paper scribbling in the Neighborly Affection series and the Gentleman series. Her next book is An Accidental Gentleman, out August 16, 2016.

M.Q. Barber

M.Q. Barber is the USA Today bestselling author of the Neighborly Affection contemporary romance series. She's also an inveterate, unrepentant scribbler of ideas on whatever's handy.


  1. I did write part of my first novel on paper. That’s because I was at work, with nothing to do, and it made me look busy. But after awhile my hand will cramp up and then my writing becomes atrocious. It was a miracle I was able to read what I wrote! I do so much better on a computer (with an actual keyboard).

    I can’t hand write as fast as I think the words, but I can certainly type as fast (probably faster). Then again, I was a clerk typist and data entry clerk in the Army. It was my goal to be the fastest (and I usually was). 🙂

    • A competitive spirit — that’s a good goad to be the best, Stacy! 😉

      I do a fair bit of typing in my day job, but for me that means I’m often in that day-job headspace when I sit in front of the computer. I’m better at fiction when I’m in more of a daydream headspace, and reaching for paper and a pen doesn’t knock me out of it. 🙂

  2. There are a lot of coloured pages there. Do you use the different colours for different stories, thoughts, then sort through them? Or are you just like me and grab whatever is handy to write on.

    • I go through a lot of scrap paper, so I use whatever I have in the house, Beth. 🙂 Sometimes I buy the multicolored packs of sticky notes, and then I just run through each color until it’s gone. So a book might be mostly one color, but if I have a thought for a different book, I just jot it down and keep going. I keep all of the notes organized in plastic baggies labeled with the working title of each book.

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