4 writing tips I learnt from Witi Ihimaera

Today I had the amazing oppurtunity to take a writing workshop with Witi Ihimaera, the award-winning author of Whale Rider. Witi is an amazing, funny and cool guy and I learnt a lot from the workshop. We did a lot of writing exercises and short pieces and he also  talked about his writing process and techniques he uses. Here are the top 4 things I learnt about writing at the workshop.

Warm up before writing anything


Writing should be a flow of words, and to do this you must be in the right mindset. Some games to start the brain juices include saying a word and then a friend saying the first word that pops into their mind because of that word, getting faster and fatser every time. Another is similar but instead of a related word you add a word onto the sentence creating a story by alternating words, again getting fatser and faster. Both of these are great fun and I find work well.

Start from the end

Starting from conclusion, resolution or climax gives you a goal to work towards. It doesn't mater if this goal, the ending, changes over the course of your writing. My analogy would be a boat. The process of writing the story is the distance from the middle of the ocean to safe, dry land and the ending you have is a boat and compass. Without it you are going slower, you don't know where you are headed and you may not survive. It may not be the best boat but it'll do for now. If you come across a better boat along the way then great, jump on it and continue your journey in that better boat, leaving the old boat/ending behind. Below is a short dialogue I wrote in at the workshop with the end prompt "I will never forgive you."

How could you Matt?
I'm sorry Sandra, I... I... I just couldn't help myself.
You said you would always be faithful to me Matt!
I know... Temptation got the better of me and I'm so ashamed.
You lied to me. You stole all I ever loved!
It was so tasty... the chocolate... it looked so good. How can I ever repay you Sandra?
Matt! I will never forgive you.

Just because it has been published, doesn't mean it can't be revised

You should always go back and look back at finished works of your own. Witi has published many second and third editions of novels he has already published. He tells us that he has a different perspective now than he did 30 years ago, when he wrote whale rider, and has changes in mind of his own.

The "seasons" technique

The seasons technique is one used by Witi to write Whale Rider.

Here's a simplified version of it;

Everything is fine and dandy

Autumn                                                                                                                                            Leaves/problems start falling and things are going wrong.

Winter                                                                                                                                             Everything is bad and worrying, this is the climax

Spring                                                                                                                                          New flowers bloom and conflicts are resolved, this is resolution and/or epilogue.