David Robertson writes everything! I recently read an opinion piece he’d written for the CBC. Several weeks ago I attended a workshop where he explained how he writes his graphic novels. David is the author of a biography of Helen Betty Osborne and in 2017 his children’s picture book When We Were Alone won a Governor General’s Literary Award. The latest novel in his young adult trilogy The Reckoners just hit bookstands and in 2014 he released an adult novel called The Evolution of Alice. Listening to writer David Robertson talk about the projects he’s completed and the current projects he has in the works at the recent CANSCAIP Saskatchewan Horizons conference was a little overwhelming. How does he do it all? And don’t forget he has five children. Then there are all the speaking engagements and school visits and ……… he still has a full-time job besides all of that. And did I mention I recently started following Dave on social media where he has a prolific presence?
We learned a lot about Dave and his family, during those sessions but he also gave us some great advice to help us with our writing. I’ve pulled out things he said in his various presentations at the conference and compiled them into my own top ten list.
1. Serious writers work on their writing regularly. It’s a habit. They schedule a time to write into every day. They put it on their calendar like it’s an important meeting they must attend.
2. Writing new stuff should take up about 20% of your time. Editing, revising, going through your works in progress line by line will take about 80% of your time. Your first draft is just a big blob of clay that you will constantly shape and reshape. You will never think you have edited and revised enough, but eventually, the book will have to go to publication.
3. It can be helpful to establish a quota for yourself. You might set a goal to write 1250 words a day on a new project and edit two chapters a day of a work in progress.
4. Read widely. The more kinds of books you read the easier it will be for you to find your own voice. You can integrate the style of the writers you read into your own work.
5. When you are determining what you want to write ask yourself …..What’s been done? What hasn’t been done? What gaps are there in writing for children that I might fill?
6. Write across the genres. Writing different kinds of children’s literature- picture books, graphic novels, middle-grade novels, early reader books, autobiographies, poetry- helps you develop all kinds of new skills as a writer. It gets you out of your comfort zone.
7. Give thought to what you want to accomplish with your work. Always write from a place of passion. What is it you want to do to change the world?
8. Don’t forget to be good to yourself. Writing can be mentally and physically exhausting.
9. Although you may have to write in all kinds of places to get your work done, have a familiar home base for your writing. You might want to pick certain music to play, set the mood with a certain kind of lighting, or even wear certain clothes to write.
10. Stories never die. They come to life as soon as they leave our mouths. The stories you write should encourage kids to tell their own stories. Stories are our life!
This is just my list- but hearing Dave tell the stories that illustrated each of the points he made was so engaging and interesting. You can order a video that shows him doing that here.