Writers Talk – Tina Makareti

Posted on Jan 8, 2014 | Comments Off on Writers Talk – Tina Makareti


Kia ora, welcome to Tina Makereti, award-winning short story, novelist and nonfiction writer, who also tutors in Life Writing at Massey University, Wellington.  Tina talks about her writing life…

Story — which comes first — subject, characters, story or place — or other?

If I’m very lucky, I get some fully formed lines. Maybe just a sentence or a phrase. Often an idea for a story comes from something I’ve seen or read, maybe a walk on the beach – it helps to be daydreaming. But the actual voice, and how to start, can take a while. It usually helps me to wait until I have that voice in my head, or on the page. The voice is often character-based so I guess one of the first things is that the characters have to have a quality of realness for me. I can recognise when I’ve got the voice – I’ve tried writing without it and it feels a bit dull. Also, whenever I’ve kept writing without being confident of the voice, it hasn’t worked. I’ve had to rewrite and rewrite and then maybe after I’ve left it alone awhile I’ll finally hear the voice and then I throw it all out and start completely fresh. That final draft is invariably quite quick.

Planning — do you plan your entire book before you write a word?

No, that would deaden the process for me. I don’t like to get bored – writing is an process of discovery. Often I’ll write scenes I know and am interested in, not necessarily in narrative order. It’s like a puzzle or weaving in many ways – I get different pieces and have to figure out how they fit together. How to finish or fill in the gaps can be like a problem or mystery to solve, so it takes faith that if I just keep working on it, the right element will come into play. There’s a great deal of pleasure in discovering what the story is about or how it will end.  Having said that, I did do quite a bit of planning while writing Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings because it was much larger and more complicated than a short story. But it was a continual process of review, and I really didn’t know how it was all going to work out until the last draft, which had a very different narrative order than the one before it.

Rituals — are there any rituals you like to observe before you sit down to write? 

Starting early with a clear space at the desk (and head) is good. I don’t think I can read before writing. I try not to be too stringent so that I can fit in writing around Everything Else, but I do aim for 1000 words a day when I’m working on a project, and I tend to get quite agitated when I don’t achieve that.

Rejection — how do you handle rejection?

The only time I find rejection quite hard is when I’m hoping for financial support for a project and I know that not getting through means not writing. I’ve been momentarily grumpy or sad about rejections in the past but it just doesn’t last, and as I’ve gone on I’ve found various types of rejections more and more useful. Invariably I go over the draft and improve it if it needs improvement, which it often does. Use the rejections to your benefit, I reckon. I know Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings wouldn’t be what it is without the rejections it got when I thought it was ready and it wasn’t.

Success— where were you when you learned your first piece of work had been accepted by editor or publisher?

I remember talking to Brian from Huia Publishers while I was in the Paraparaumu Library.  I don’t think that was the first though, maybe just the largest to that point. Usually I’m looking at my computer screen. When there’s a phone call though, you know it’s big.