All About Writing

FAQ from talk at Kunyung Primary


Sorry for the slowness but I thought I’d post the answers to some of the great questions I received during my talk about ‘Stinky Ferret & the JJs’ at Kunyung Primary. Please feel free to email me if you’ve got any of your own questions, or comment here.

Do you write in different styles?
Yes, what I write and what age group I write for depends on the idea I have. I also like to write non-fiction sometimes – which is, as you know, factual writing rather than imaginative writing.

How long does it take you to write a book?
It varies a lot. ‘Stinky Ferret & the JJs’ took about two months for me to write. The idea for the story takes the longest and the writing part is pretty quick if I have a clear idea of what I want to happen.

How long does it take for a book to be made?
Like I said, it took me two months to write ‘Stinky Ferret & the JJs’ but it took a lot longer for it to become a book. It was seven months before I was told it was accepted, then about another six months for it to be edited three times, a cover design made and it printed. (sometimes this last part can take up to 12 months or even longer.)

Do you have to pay to have your story made into a book?
No, I am paid for my story. I get a percentage for each book sold, which works out to be just over one dollar per book. When my book was first accepted and published I got what is called an advance, which is where the publisher works out how many copies the book will sell and then you are paid that amount. Luckily, my book has sold more than that now.

What do you suggest if I get stuck halfway through writing a story?
Remember that you are the one writing the story, so you are the one who can change things or make the next thing happen. Think about ‘what if’ this happened to my character, or try adding another situation or character and see what happens. Just have fun with it and play around with the story a bit.

What do you like to read?
My favourites when I was a kid were Enid Blyton, CS Lewis, and I loved the Trixie Belden books. So I guess I liked fantasy and adventure stories best of all. The authors for children I’m enjoying at the moment include Cornelia Funke, JK Rowling, Morris Gleitzman, Douglas Macleod, John Marsden, Tim Winton and David Metzenthen. I also like to read young adult and adult fiction.

How long would you write for?
As Iong as I have time for. Usually one to two hours at a time at the moment because my other very special job is looking after my two gorgeous daughters.

How many drafts do you do?
Sometimes only one and sometimes up to five or more. Plus, with Stinky Ferret there were three edits with the publishers. I think it mainly depends how clear I am on the story before I start writing it. The more I think about it in my head first the less drafts I tend to need (but perhaps that’s because I’ve been editing in my mind first, and I’m not sure how you count that!)

Are you writing another story? Would you write a series?
Yes and yes. I’m always writing something, and I also have ideas for series’ but that will take a lot more thinking time yet.

Did you send your story to only one publisher?
Yes, so I was lucky, but it was the second story I sent to that publisher. The editor who read the first one said to me that they had another story with a similar theme but that they liked my writing style, so if I had anything else to send it in. Of course, after that I got very busy writing the next story. But if the publisher hadn’t accepted it I would have kept sending it to other places. Writing is subjective. If you think about it, you might love a book that your best friend hated. We all have different opinions, so it makes sense that while one person may not like your story, another will.

What would you suggest for kids wanting to become authors?
Read and write as much as you can. And read what you write aloud, preferably to other people who you know and trust. You’ll be surprised how much you notice about the flow of your work by reading it out.

If a story is like a mountain what would be happening when you get to the top?
That’s a great analogy for writing a story. On my mountain there would be a plateau on the top and it would be the kind of climax, where things change for the main character. On the way up, everything would lead to that climax, and on the way down things would change and resolve themselves in one way or another as a result of that climax (remembering that it takes a lot longer to climb up a mountain than it does to come back down on the other side).

Where do you get ideas from?
At the moment I have more ideas than I do time to write (though it’s not always that way!). Ideas for me come from personal experiences, things others have experienced, things I’ve read or seen on TV/movies/newspapers etc, the way I feel about things and most importantly, imagination.

Do you type or handwrite?
I type up everything. I love my laptop because I can take it anywhere to write (very handy with two young children). The main reason I type is because it’s quicker for me than handwriting. One of the handiest things I learned at school was touch typing. It’s the only way my writing can keep up with my thoughts. I find handwriting too slow, and because I’m so busy trying to get all my thoughts down it’s often difficult to re-read my handwriting later on. That said, if I only had a pen and paper it wouldn’t stop me from writing it down that way!

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