A couple of weeks ago, our school was lucky enough to have author Kate de Goldi in to talk to us! Kate de Goldi is a New Zealand author, who has written a huge variety of books, including the 10pm Question. She has won a ridiculously huge amount of awards, including the NZ Children’s Book Award, and the Kate Mansfield Award. Like us, she’s also a book reviewer; except, on the radio, not on her blog…
When she came and talked to our class, she told us what she believes are the most important things about being a writer. Her two most important tips were:
- Be a reader. Inspiration comes from what we’re reading. Subconsciously, we realise what makes a good book, what makes a good character, what plot lines are way too overused, etc. So to write, you need to read. Like we need more an excuse!
- Be curious. The world around us is full of amazing things. Bring a notebook with you wherever you go, and write down what you see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. Kate has notebooks full of little words or sentences. And one day, she puts them into a book
- Discover plans as you go. You’re not expected to know absolutely everything that’s going to happen in your book! It’s okay to make it up as you go along
- Practice, practice, practice! I’m sure you’ve all heard this one before. But it’s true; if you stop writing, you’ll lose your great ideas. De Goldi said it was like running. If you practice enough, after you take a long break, you’ll know what you’re doing. You know what you’re doing, because you’ve done it a million times before
- It’s not all about you. Try stepping into someone else’s shoes. Explore a world aren’t a part of. I could write a thousand stories about a teenager in high school, but that’s when you start to get bored. Try something really different. Just like we did in the writing exercise I’ll talk about later…
- Use other writer’s. Their characters, structure, plot, setting. Okay, yeah, it’s plagiarism. But once you start writing, they’ll become individual and unique to you. Use them like a springboard
- Keep it secret. I don’t follow this rule AT ALL. I always want to tell people about my latest project. But according to De Goldi, as soon as you say it out loud, your story loses it’s power. Maybe tell one or two people, people who you can bounce ideas off. But keep it to a minimum!
- Give yourself limits. Say your short story won’t be more than three pages of your notebook, or your poem won’t be more than 100 words. Or something more obscure – the protagonist’s sister won’t have more than 6 conversations. A culturally diverse character must feature more than twice. Whatever it is, set yourself a limit, AND STICK TO IT
And what was that writing challenge I was telling you about, you ask?
The author read us a chunk of the book The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Have a look at the blurb here. The book is written in a really interesting way; sort of like poetry, and with none of those “extra words” Ivan talks about. So our challenge was to write something based off the chapter names of Applegate’s book, using the same sort of format. We were told to get inside the head of “someone who has lost something important”.
As expected, our class had a variety of different responses to that.There were the people who got straight into it, and wrote without a second thought. There were people who only wrote one sentence the entire time, too busy either daydreaming or brainstorming. There were people like me, who flicked back through the excerpt of the book we’d been given, to get some ideas. To the people with writer’s block, De Goldi said to write without thinking. If you free write for five minutes, an idea will come to you. So yes, some people did that.
And by the end of it, everyone had something sitting in front of them.
Thanks again to Kate de Goldi for giving us this amazing opportunity to learn from her. And I hope all of you learned something too!