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Voices for The Planet : Nature Writing

We invited our director, Heather McQuillan, to contribute a couple of ideas for aspiring prose writers.

Heather writes novels, short stories and flash fiction. If you enter a piece of prose for Write On Speak Out: Voices for the Planet, you may be lucky enough to have Heather as your mentor!

First up is Nature ( Personal) Writing. Coming soon are ideas for speculative flash fiction, persona stories and biography/reports.


One of the ways that nature writers engage their readers is through personal observation and reflection.

Nature writing is also a way to speak up for the environment by drawing attention to environmental issues.

By sharing your special interest in a place or a creature then you can pass this interest on to your readers. If you have a concern or a solution then your task is to raise that concern, or suggest that solution, to your readers.


  • Select an environment or a creature that you can observe closely. This may be a local park, beach, or wetlands or it could be in your own back garden.

  • Make time to sit quietly ( get comfortable) and taking notice.

  • Have a journal with you to jot down ideas and details. Don’t worry about how you will organise your ideas yet, just let them flow onto the page.

  • Details are the key. Note the big things such as the shape of a mountain or the colours of the sky, and also note the small like the way a leaf curls, a drop of dew clings to a flower or the way a bird tilts its head as it pecks at food.

  • Use multiple senses to draw the reader in. Remember sight, sound, scents and sensations.

  • Please make sure you record what is real and in front of you, even if it isn't perfect. Avoid cliches like “glistening waters and golden sands”. If the water does glisten and the sand is golden then find fresh ways to say these things.

  • As you observe your environment, take time to reflect. What thoughts come to mind? What connections are you making? What concerns you? In nature we can sometimes find metaphors for our own human experiences. What does a river's journey or an insect making its way through obstacles remind you of?


  • Identify your theme or message. Hold on to that idea but don’t lead with this. Readers don’t like being lectured to. Your job is to draw them in so they feel their own connections to the environment or creature you are writing about.

  • Open with your observations and help the reader experience it all through your senses.

  • Your timeframe may be a close up on a moment or it may be more expansive. Whichever you choose, you will lead your reader to some of the same realisations that occured to you.

  • It’s not all about you, but sometimes it is. As you write about this place or creature we will also find out a bit about you as a person. Don't hide.

  • Check that your theme is woven throughout your writing and that you have built to the main idea. If you have done this skilfully it shouldn’t feel like a surprise or a lecture. Your reader will have been persuaded because you helped them make their own connections and feel something too.

  • Leave your reader with a lingering thought. You don't need to sum everything up for them.


Write a first draft of your Nature Writing and enter now.

Entries until July 29th or until all places are full.

(c) Write On School for Young Writers


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