The other page

When writing 50,000 to 60,000 words (the length of a young adult novel for New Zealand and Australian publishers) things can go strangely wrong.  Characters’ hair can change colour, even their names can change, continuity problems crop up everywhere.  You simply can’t keep all that small stuff in your head along with the plot so what I do is have another word document open when I write that has all that information on it.  As I write I add to it and check it constantly.  Here’s part of it for the book Absorbed which I’m writing at the moment as the children’s writer in residence at the University of Otago:



18, Chocolate, drinks instant coffee and long blacks, likes pasta, nectarine juice

Old fashioned when it comes to the digital age

Rings home every Saturday morning to mum and dad

Has a younger brother Matt – goes sailing, has grown his hair long

James Turner

18, Blond, dark eyes, tall and thin

Was going to study a BCom at Otago then went to Sydney

Works for the Department for the Environment


18, Had gone out with James last year of high school

From Auckland, now studying biochem at Otago

Staying at St Margarets College

Parents divorced last year of school


18, from Auckland, one of Brooklyn’s flatmate

Studying Health Sciences – wanting to get into Med

Has older brother who is third-year Med, worked as a pay-TV technician in the summer holidays

I know it is all brief but it’s important.  I also have on the page a running list of how many words I have written each day to make me feel like I’m getting somewhere.  However, the most important thing on it is a timeline of the action.  There is nothing worse than realising you have your characters going to school and it’s a Sunday or shopping and it’s Good Friday which happened in this novel!


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Filed under The process of writing

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