David Hill Spoke to English teachers at the NARATE meeting last week

He said that he enjoys the craft. He referred to it as being a “slow upward creep towards completion”.

Starting – he said that he writes heaps of notes first. “One sentence on the page tends to bring another sentence”

Somerset Maugham’s quote “Seat of trousers in contact with seat of chair!”

He said that he builds up his characters. Names, likes, dislikes, character’s relationships with others.

Then events

This usually takes around five months. Then he is left with a whole lot of notes about characters’ likes and dislikes – how they relate to each other and factual information about their setting, a disease, etc.

Chapter one is planned – using a mixture of events and little facts.

He considered the phrase that he often hears:“I can only write when I’m inspired” and thinks … “YOU’LL NEVER BE A THREAT TO ME, MATE!”

He drafts his chapters.

Starts with plot, character and ideas all at once in a series of notes.

After four chapters it starts to take on a life of its own.

Where does he get his ideas from?

From a lot of wondering “I wonder why?....he/she is looking like this or that?’
“I wonder why their behaviour is such ‘n such” “I wonder why they have changed?”

Wondering how my daughter could handle the death of a friend at year 10. I wonder why that boy had to die? “Seeya Simon”.

“Right where it hurts”. Is a book about self harm. It began with his revulsion. Then his thought “I wonder why I feel revulsion?” and then “I wonder why she would do that to herself?”

“Coming Back” I wonder how they could get over the accident. I wonder why/how a good boy could be led astray/bullying.

“Aim High” – enmity of two boys. “I wonder why they hate each other?” “I wonder what will come of it?”

“Kick Back” – a character reversal.

Ideas for students to use

1. Going back to a moment they would like to go back to ---- either because it was so great or because it was so humiliating and embarrassing that they want to go back and prevent it from happening.

Perhaps it has something to do with a friendship or perhaps a moment in time for their family.

2. How many of you have had a moment when your friend was no longer your friend.

3. A crossing of paths – a significant meeting with: a person, an experience a skill.

“Duet” was a crossing of two cultures.

Cliché situations offer wonderful material for kids to read or write about because the kids are coming across this for the first time.

How do I mould plot and characters
Research and planning – character lists – but book usually ends up going somewhere I was not expecting.

David Hill loves dialogue. Especially teenage dialogue. “Whatever….!’
Getting kids to talk – is the best language technique.
- It reveals character
- It moves the plot
- Dialogue makes the page look physically more interesting that one big block of text.

Encourage kids to skip paragraphs when they are reading, if they are not enjoying them.

“Get rid of the words that are decorative.” Grossly overwritten …Somerset Maugham said “murder your darlings!” Get rid of too many adjectives and adverbs. Show, don’t tell.

Changing the pace
Pause and describe then jump to another time or perspective. This alters the pace.

Own voice
Not an artificial adult voice.
Cadences of the natural voice are interesting. Swearing well used can be a wonderful literary device.

Story told as an exchange of emails
Or texts. This changes the form and makes the page look different and interesting.
The two forms – give two points of view.
Alternates the voices between two or more perspectives.
The voices can be recognised as real teenage characters.
The characters can show change through the course of the novel. We don’t need to “tell” that they have changed.

- Dialogue
- Jumps in time
- Character arcs – changes
- Not too many adverbs and adjectives.

Some quotes from his latest writing:
…past farm houses with the dark pulled up around them
….his parents are gone but will never be gone
“Fat four-eyed and useless” is written about him!

Assembling notes takes 5 to 10 months.

Drafts – one must give themselves completely…

Editing – never stops ‘till it is published.

He likes what Maurice Gee had to say about writing that “you get up at the end of a morning and you have made something completely new.”