Troubletwisters, by Garth Nix and Sean Williams
2011 was the first time the Auckland Readers and Writers Festival held a “Wordy Day Out” – a day of young adult authors speaking, aimed at students. Despite being a bit of a risk, there was a fantastic turnout, and the whole day was amazing.
I heard a number of authors speak, Garth Nix among them. He spoke with Sean Williams to a good sized audience. Both Garth and Sean have a number of books under their belt. They have co-written the newly released “Troubletwisters”, and are working together on the series. Both were very interesting to listen to (and their back and forth bantering had the audience laughing the whole way through), but, since Garth seemed to steal all the good lines, and since I’ll be posting on Sean’s workshop later, the below is some snippets of advice and general writerly thoughts from Garth Nix.
Garth explained that he started slow as an author, writing two books before his third was first to be published, but he kept going “because I was too dumb to give up.” With a ton of books now published, I can only hope that the rest of us aspiring writings can be that dumb too!
So, other than being dumb, and stubborn (or driven), what is the secret to Garth’s success? “Writing what you love is very good advice,” he says. That is, don’t pander to the “what’s hot” lists, and focus instead on writing something that you love. That way, even if what you’ve written isn’t “hot”, your love of what you have written about should have shown through in your writing, creating a stronger piece of work.
Every author seems to have a different opinion on how to get started when writing. Some are planners, some a pantsers (those who write by the seat of their pants), and most are a strange combination of both. Garth Nix says, “books begin with lots of ideas that snowball.” He is a fan of “passive research”, where the idea is to read everything you come across and absorb it all naturally “and who knows what will come.”
When it comes to planning, he writes with the end in mind, but generally doesn’t know how to get there. “If we knew all the detail, it [writing] would be no fun.” He explains that while outlines can be useful, it’s “great fun to divert from them… It’s a zen thing – you have to write the outline to be able to divert from it.”
Garth has written many novels for children and young adults, including “Troubletwisters”. When asked about writing for children (as opposed to adults), he explains that all books have layers, and children’s books even more so. When you read a children’s book at twelve, or twenty-five, or forty-five, you discover the different layers, and learn new things about the book each time. Children’s books may have an entry level (eg nine years and up), but Garth claims that they shouldn’t have an upper age limit.
If you ever get the chance to listen to Garth speak (or Sean for that matter), I highly recommend it!
I'm JJ and I write MG and YA fantasy. For more about me, try here.