What tips would you give to aspiring writers?
Read lots and write lots! Make sure you read different types of stories, and write different types of things too - the only thing that matters about what you write is that you care about it, and enjoy working on it.
Have fun trying out different writing styles. Do you prefer writing in the first person or third? In the present tense or past? Try them all. Even the ones that don’t work, or that you decide not to finish, will teach you something important about how you write.
Get right into your story: feel what your characters are feeling – if they’re sad, think of how you feel when you’re sad. It doesn’t matter if it’s not for the same reason. Play the movie of the story in your head and watch it; see the colors of the scenery, feel the hot air or the cold wind, hear the music or the barking dog – if you live it, your readers will too.
Start with something gripping that will make us want to read more. Don't tell us about the heroine getting out of bed and combing her hair unless that's going to be relevant to the rest of the story.
Remember that the best word may be a simple one; it's fun to use long and exciting words sometimes, but only if they are the right ones. Don't use too many adjectives, for example, "He shouted loudly." Shouting is always loud, so you don't need to say it.
If you get stuck and can't finish it, that's okay: put it aside. You might go back to it later and write a different ending than you'd imagined at first, or you might rewrite it completely - but if you never go back to it, you'll still have learned something from it.
Read your story to yourself when it's finished, and then fix all the bits that you know aren't perfect (never think, "No one will notice that bumpy bit." They will!) Redraft as many times as it takes to get it right. For me that's usually about 12.
Read your story aloud (even better, read it to someone else). If there’s a part that you don’t feel happy reading – maybe it feels a bit boring, or a bit confusing, it might mean you need to rewrite it. If you stumble over some words, maybe they’re not exactly the right words.
When you share it with other people, pay attention to their criticisms, but remember that if someone suggests you change something, they don't always have the right answer either - you're the one who needs to work it out.
Be brave, experiment, and keep on writing!
Do you have any tips for short story writing? We're writing stories about resilience. @YoungInquirers
I haven’t written a lot of short stories, but many of the same principles apply to the genres I write. The shorter the story, the tighter your words have to be: make sure you don’t have two or three words doing what one perfect word could do. All the language should be as fluid as it can be – fluid in the sense of suiting the story; not necessarily lyrical language and beautiful images. Eg, short sharp sentences might work best to give the tone you want; the important thing is that when you read it aloud, it sounds right.
There is no time for irrelevant details – you can have description, of course! But it all needs to be important to the story in some way. And you need to keep it moving quickly.
Congratulations on exploring the theme of resilience. You might even find that you learn a lot about yourselves as you write these stories! That’s always one of the best things about writing.
Where do you get all of your wonderful ideas from?
Ideas come from all around us, everything we see, hear, feel, remember, dream and think. The magical part is why some ideas wiggle themselves into the story-making part of our brain and refuse to leave. I have no idea why that happens.
Hi Wendy! I'm homeschooled and me and my family live near the beach in VIC, AUS and in my house we will take a rare and special day to read and one of the books we read was "NIm's Island." We loved it and enjoyed EVERY word! I'm 14 and i want to be a writer. What is something every writer should do and shouldn't do? What is your favorite kids book? Where do you get your ideas? Thanks every so Much!! Jessica
I'm glad you have a special reading day - I think every day should be a reading day! In fact my advice on writing in general is: read a lot - lots of different types of books and different styles of writing - and write a lot. Write what you care about, not what you think other people will want to read and, then just write that story as well as you can. Read it when you've finished, be very critical, fix it all, read it again... keep on doing that till you know that you've done the very best job you can with that particular story.
Ideas come from everything you see, do, hear, remember, think or dream! The hard part is deciding which ones you should use, and the only person who can decide that is you. Some ideas will simply stick in your brain and let you know they want to be the seed of a story.
Also, although many people will tell you to write what you know, I believe that the world would be full of very boring literature (and films) if everyone followed that advice as far as plots. What you need to know is the emotion that you might feel in a particular situation - you don't need to have won a lottery to know that you would be happy to know, or have seen a ghost to know that you'd be terrified. However the other thing that's important is to think about how your characters feel - really get inside their skin, and describe the feeling of terror, or describe an action that shows how happy they are: in other words, show, don't tell.
Finally - be careful of adverbs. It's almost always better to find a verb that says exactly what you want instead of using lots of adverbs.
What’s the best bit about writing stories?
Finding out what happens and getting to live another life - just like reading, except it takes longer.
What was your first book published?
Who are your favourite book characters? Noah
My favourite character (of my own books) is usually the one I'm writing about at the moment - so right now it's a girl called Aissa. Of the books that are already published, it's probably Nim (though that feels mean to all my other characters!)
It's even harder to choose from books I've read, but probably Will from The Dark is Rising; Lyra from The Northern Lights, and Winnie the Pooh.
What drives you to write 'Peeling the Onion'? This book is absolutely amazing, I even have a copy of it instead of borrowing it from the library - I couldn't describe it any other way. It's very deeply written, it's interesting and inspirational that one can face a trauma all of a sudden and then embark a journey to recovery (although you must have get this a lot from readers but I can't help saying so!). Di
Thanks for the comments. This book was inspired by my own car accident and recovery. I had the same injuries as Anna; the difference was that I was twenty years older, had a husband, two kids and a career – (actually two careers: occupational therapist and writer). I wanted to explore more about what it means to have your life turned upside down by trauma, and I knew I’d learn a lot more about it if I wrote about someone who was quite different from me. I made Anna nearly 18 because that’s the age of legal adulthood, and so in some ways, the worst time of all to have your independence taken away from you.
I heard Roald Dahl once said that you've either got it in you to be a writer or you haven't. He made sound like something you can't learn. You're good at it, or you're not. Do you agree? Michael
I think Roald Dahl liked making controversial statements!
We're all better at some things than others - but no matter how good we are, we can always learn and improve. I think the part that's born in us is whether we want to write, and people who don't like creating, telling or writing stories will probably never learn to be good at it!
Even if he were right, how could we decide who was born to be a writer? if you want to write, the only way to find out if you have it in you is to learn more about doing it. It's like anything else - you have have to practise, and go on practising. And when you've practised enough, you'll probably find you have it in you!
(And you might be surprised to know how many writers, even those of us who earn our living writing, often wonder if we're 'real' writers who really do have it in them...)
Do you write the title of your books or does someone else do it? and who chooses the picture on the cover? Sarah,
That's a very good question Sarah - most people think that the author always chooses the title and cover, but that's not true.
The publisher has the final decision on both the title and the cover, because those are the first things people see when they're deciding if they want to buy the book, and it's the publishers job to sell books!
I always try to come up with a title, and the publisher is often happy with it. However the illustrator, agent and editor sometimes come up with better ideas - eg. Kerry Millard, the illustrator, suggested the title of Ark in the Park. I love that title, but I hadn't thought of it!
I usually don't suggest anything for the cover, but the editor often discusses the design idea with me, and of course with the illustrator, and usually I see it to comment on before it's printed.
What is your number one best seller - corionna
I think Nim's Island has now passed Peeling the Onion.
We are looking for books to suggest to our twelve year old daughter. We have just finished watching Nim's Island and she enjoyed it. So I'm hoping that maybe she would like reading similar stories. Right now all she wants to read are Harry Potter and other books about vampires and such. I know they are popular with her peers but we would like her to have more variety in subject matter. Which of your books would be suitable for that age group. Thank you. - David
Nim's Island would be an easy read for her, but she should enjoy it if she enjoyed the movie, and also Nim at Sea (which is quite a bit longer). If you're in Australia she might also enjoy Spook's Shack, which does at least have a ghost if you want to wean her off vampires gradually! Leaving it to You is her age group but is realistic fiction (also only available in Australia).
In the book titled "Peeling The Onions", You say it was about a recovery from an accident that you were involved in, what was the accident?
The accident was the same as described in the book except that I was the driver, and the other car hit the driver's side of the car.
I am from Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. I started writing for kids some years ago and coincidentally one of my books is about an island, too. The name of the book is 'The lizard and the island'. It's a tale about love, affection and friendship. I have shown it to a few writers and publishers and, thou' I got lots of compliments on this, I could never everpublish it because my country gives no support to new writers. I wish you could say me what I could do to have my book published overseas, since it seems to be impossible in my own country. Thanks. -Nilton
That is a big coincidence! It's funny how often people around the world are playing with similar ideas at the same time. I'm sorry you're having no luck with publishing - it is tough everywhere in the world. One thing I'd suggest is joining SCBWI: the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. It's an international group - I don't know if there's a chapter in Brasil but it's worth looking into: www.scbwi.org. You could also look into writers' associations in your country.
Apart from that the best thing you can do is go on practising and trying – and don't despair. Very few authors get their first work published; the important thing is to start a new project and try again. Nothing you write is ever wasted, it all teaches you something and is part of the apprenticeship of becoming an author. Good luck!
What genre do you tend to write in with all of you novels? are you writting a book at the moment? - Hannah
I write in different genres, just whatever suits the story I want to tell. I'm always writing a book!
Do you do school visits? Would you do a video conference hook up? - Dorothy
I do school visits, and also via skype talks. I charge standard fees set by the Australian Society of AUthors. Check the Contact Me page
how do you write a book do you write it then get a illastrator then get an editor then get a publisher - Keely
You write the book to be just as good as you can make it, then send it to a publisher. The editors who work there read it and think about it, and If they decide it's a book they'd like to publish they choose which editor will work with you, and then the editor will choose an illustrator. Good luck!
What has changed your life the most from becoming a writer? - Natalie
I get to spend my whole time thinking about stories!
what sort of audience do you write to?? - Kate
Although most writing guides say you you should visualise your audience, I don't really do that. Obviously my audience is different depending on whether I'm writing a picture book or an adult novel. When I'm writing, I feel as if I'm writing for the character in the story, so I guess my audience is whoever identifies with that character.
FAQ: About Nim's Island
Please also see the Nim's Island book page for more answers.
What gave you the the idea to write about Nim, her Island, Selkie and Fred?
WhenI was nine I wanted to live on a tiny island that I saw from the ferry on the way to visit my grandparents on Vancouver Island. However when I wrote the book it seemed better to make it a tropical island, as it would have been very difficult to live on the one I saw. Nim just grew out of feeling how it would be to live there. Selkie was based on letters my mother wrote to me about the sea lions playing around my parents’ boat when they were sailing near the Galapagos Islands, but also on a dog - and maybe a bit of Nana in Peter Pan. Fred was very much based on my dachshund Max, mixed with bits of facts about marine iguanas.
How did you come up with the name "Nim?"
I wanted an unusual name for such an unusual girl, and while I was looking up interesting facts about coconuts I discovered that the Hawaiian world for coconut was niu. That didn't sound quite right for a name, but I played with it and decided on Nim.
Who is your favorite character in Nim's Island ?
It's hard to choose... but today it's Fred.
Dear Mrs. Orr, I just wanted you to know that your books, "Nim's Island" and "Nim at Sea", are the best books I've read, and I read a LOT of books! Thank you for writing those stories. Love (as much as Fred loves Selkie), Courtney K.
Thanks very much! It's always wonderful to hear from people who love the books.
Why is it that chika is in the book more than the movie? -Claudia
Sea turtles are endangered and so people are not allowed to bother them - so they couldn't use a real sea turtle in the film. Also, a film can never fit in all the things in a book into an hour and a half.
Did you get to meet any of the people from Nims Island in real life? Ashleigh
I made up all the people in Nim's Island, but I did meet the actors who played them in the film.
Hello, Wendy Orr! I very like Your book "Nim's island" !!! And in this book are e-mail adress: email@example.com . Are this is true ..? Can I writing for Nim ..? Radvile :)
Because Jack, Alex and Nim aren't really real people, I just made up their email addresses too, so I'm afraid I don't think it will work!
I can not find the book Nim's Island.I really want to read it do u know were i can get it. I have seen the movie and really like it.Please help me. - Jazmin
Just ask at any bookstore or library. If they don't have it they'll be able to order it for you. You can also order from online booksellers such as amazon.com.
Where you involved in adapting your story into the film? and if so, how closely did you work with the film writers and directors? - Katie
I worked on the first two drafts of the screenplay with Paula Mazur and Joe Kwong, and was a consultant throughout the process.
Dear Wendy:I'm a ten year old girl and I was wondering if Nim Is based on a real persons personality? Are you any thing like Alex Rover? Is she based on a real person?
Nim isn't based on anyone - I just made her up. That probably means she has a bit of me, and little bits from many of my family and friends, but all mixed up together to make a new person. Alex Rover is also a bit like me (the different parts of me from what I gave Nim) mixed up with lots of imagining. I'm glad to hear that you have a good imagination - it's one of the most important things in life. Nim would like playing tag with Laura Ingalls!
how did you come up with the character Nim, I love her character - Rayne
I'm never really sure how I come up with characters; it's more as if I get to know them while I start thinking about the story, and even more when I write the first draft. Probably a lot of Nim comes from thinking about how I'd like to feel if I were in her situation – and of course the way she is with her animals is very much how I am with mine. (Even though I've never had a sea lion or marine iguana!) I think Nim's Island has now passed Peeling the Onion.
dear Mrs.Orr , I have a question is there a boy that visits the island where nim lives like in the movie ? If so could you write a book about him wanting to visit again when he's older and meet nim again ? I think it would be a great love story . I like nim shes awesome . your fan, rebecca
That does sound like a lovely idea!
Dear Wendy, I'm an elementary school teacher in Oregon, USA. I just saw the movie based on Nim's Island, and I have to say--what a wonderful story! Can't wait to get to the book and your others too. As a teacher who's always looking for stories of adventure that aren't a) all about the good guys beating the bad guys or b) full of terrible violence or inappropriate sex, I'm thrilled to find Nim's Island, which makes it into my category of Strong Girl Stories as well! Keep on writing, and I'll be buying your books! Thanks so much. Trisha W., Drinking Gourd School www.dgschool.org
Thank you! Strong Girls just make sense to me....
Is there a Nim's Island 3? How many Nim books will there be? - Elaine
I'm not sure yet whether there'll be a third Nim book - I'd like to spend more time with these characters but am not quite ready to write it yet.
FAQ: About Me
If you couldn’t be an author, what would you be? Sofia
In real life, I’d go back to being an occupational therapist. But if I had to choose another talent, it would be music.
Is Orr your maiden name? The reason I ask is because my maiden name is orr and there are orr relatives of mine in canada from my dad's uncles. Tina Orr-S.
Orr is my married name. But you and my husband could be distant cousins - most of his great grandfather's family went to the US when his great grandfather came to Australia (from Ireland.) So who knows!
Where was your favourite place to live? - Ebony
I've enjoyed all the places I've lived in different ways.
Do you have any animals?
Right now we just have one dog, named Harry. He's a poodle cross.
What school did you go to when you were little?
I went to elementary school in France, and also in Canada: Ottawa (Bayview); Red Deer (Mountview), and USA: Colorado Springs (Mountain View).
Did you have a grest time while writing your books?
Yes, I love writing my books!
Did you enjoy your time in school and did you go onto year 11 and 12?
Yes, I enjoyed school and finished Yr 11 and 12.
Was being authur your dream? - Tara
Yes, being an author was my dream from when I was about 7. So dreams can come true!
What was the first novel you ever wrote?
My first novel was Leaving it to You.
Page © Wendy Orr