A Way with Words: Tim Wilson

by Tim Wilson / 18 February, 2017

Tim Wilson. Photo/Scott McAulay

Tim Wilson describes his writing day.

How to write? Just do it. Put one word after another, and another, and another. Add some ­adjectives. Hey, not so many adverbs! ­Imagine you’re in a bar, telling a story that your life depends on. Fill a page. Feel thirsty? Hungry? Who cares? Keep going.

It doesn’t matter where. My first novel, Their Faces Were Shining, got born standing up in a windowless room in ­Spanish Harlem, NYC. Worried about my posture, you see. Didn’t want to slump into some couch … for seven years, which is how long the damn thing took. I was 45. I’d always dreamed of writing a novel. There was nothing to lose.

When you write matters. The earlier the better, probably; though 5.30am, I’ve found, isn’t convivial. The head’s still too yolky with dreams and fear. Because I have day jobs in TV and radio, I reserve one day each week for novels. Friday, usually. I’ll aim for 1000 words a day. If I do 400, I’m satisfied. Not happy, but satisfied. Fiction’s about words as well as numbers.

Some insist that concentration’s important. Cloister yourself. Shut the blinds. Pour superglue into your ADSL port. Baloney. Books crystallise beguilement, they slice distraction into digestibility. You’re trying to enchant the reader, right? So do whatever it takes to amuse yourself first.

Tone is important. The music of the words. Find your voice, then ride it the way hairy guys ride horses. That’s what I did with my recent novel, The Straight Banana. It’s a story about books and­ culture disguised as a paranoiac thriller about a terror plot. There are graphics, different fonts, a pie graph, a quiz and a painting in the pages. Rules are for breaking.

I write in bursts. Can you tell? I’ll do a paragraph, or series thereof, then read them back. Then I’ll cross something out, and add something. Then cross that out, too. The most helpful key on your keyboard is “backspace”.

Writing is like cooking: physical as well as emotional and intellectual. I used to like disposable fountain pens (the Pilot Varsity range) and notebooks, intriguing ones with suede covers. Now I just text myself on my Samsung.

Longhand, or typed, or word-processed? Up to you. You’re an instrument. What makes you sound best? I handwrote The Straight Banana’s prequel, News Pigs, on a white couch in an apartment in downtown Auckland’s Dilworth ­Building. My chicken-scratch filled huge black ­notebooks bought in NYC, effervescing. Then I plunked and plinked it into a Word document. Be warned: handwriting lends a certain Victorian energy to the gig, but it is also a giant time-suck.

The view from that couch, by the way, was of dentists in the opposite building, and their victims. People in a chair, their mouths open, trying to think of faraway. People like me.

Currently, I’m working on a novel about domesticity, terrorism and remorse. Oh, plus a kids’ book called The Lonely Little Fart. In writing, as in life itself, ­variety is the spice.

Tim Wilson is a journalist, producer, author and radio personality. His most recent book, The Straight Banana, was published last year by Victoria University Press.

This article was first published in the January 21, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener. Follow the Listener on Twitter, Facebook and sign up to the weekly newsletter.

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage


Those bloody women: Could they shift the vote?
80377 2017-09-22 06:31:52Z Politics

Those bloody women: Could they shift the vote?

by Kim Griggs

A sharp shift to the left in the UK election was down to the young vote - and young women in particular. Could it happen here?

Read more
The Free Man – movie review
80303 2017-09-22 00:00:00Z Movies

The Free Man – movie review

by Russell Baillie

A Kiwi documentary looks at what makes extreme athletes want to take the plunge.

Read more
Where on TV to watch the election results come in
80312 2017-09-22 00:00:00Z Television

Where on TV to watch the election results come in

by Fiona Rae

As the race for the Beehive hots up, TV and radio will have full election-night coverage.

Read more
New study suggests carbohydrates are worse than fats. Do we need to panic?
80307 2017-09-22 00:00:00Z Nutrition

New study suggests carbohydrates are worse than fa…

by Jennifer Bowden

The average Kiwi already eats a low-carb diet, so no, not really.

Read more
A pop-up design market, Diwali and more great Auckland events coming up
80333 2017-09-21 11:46:56Z What's on

A pop-up design market, Diwali and more great Auck…

by India Hendrikse

Your guide to what's on now and later in Auckland

Read more
Leaky homes: 'If you can't afford to pay for it, then tough luck'
80321 2017-09-21 09:46:28Z Property

Leaky homes: 'If you can't afford to pay for it, t…

by Phil Pennington

Leaky home owners are struggling with escalating repair costs that are adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to their debt.

Read more
Ministry of Social Development staff used false names, fearing client attacks
80315 2017-09-21 08:55:49Z Social issues

Ministry of Social Development staff used false na…

by Edward Gay

Ministry of Social Development staff have used false names on legal documents because they say they fear attacks by volatile clients.

Read more
How we vote: talking politics with parents
80249 2017-09-21 00:00:00Z Politics

How we vote: talking politics with parents

by Paperboy

How our parents might influence our political leanings: Five writers explore their parents' voting habits ahead of the election.

Read more