I don’t always subscribe to this theory. I believe that sometimes you have to stretch yourself as a writer and step outside your comfort zone.
But in the case of The First Third, ‘writing what you know’ clearly works.
Author, William Kostakis deftly brings the reader into the chaotic world of his main character, Billy Tsiolkas with genuine understanding, and telling detail that places the reader right there on the spot.
Billy isn’t ready to grow up or for the first third of his life to be over, but when his beloved Yiayia (grandmother) assigns him responsibility for her bucket list, Billy has no choice.
There are only three things on Yiayia’s bucket list. She wants Billy to find his mother a man, she wants him to find a girlfriend for his gay brother Simon and return him to the fold, and she wants Billy to make peace with his hostile younger brother.
It seems she has set Billy three impossible tasks, but he handles each of these challenges with commitment and sensitivity. Supported by his lifelong friend, Sticks and his new friend, Hayley, he sets about trying to achieve the seemingly impossible for his Yiayia.
To complicate things, Billy’s love life is not going according to plan and with his own life seemingly out of control, how is he supposed to fix anyone else’s problems?
I loved the heart and soul of this book. Clearly the author is writing about a world that has evolved from his own personal experiences.
This familiarity with both the setting and the characters who live there gives the book an authenticity that makes it very real for the reader.
A tinge of sadness is offset by gentle humour that maintains the optimism of the story.
I loved the quirky characters and the poignant unhurried rhythm. And I really liked that Billy is not a stereotypical self-absorbed teen. He is sensitive and courageous – more like the teenagers of my own reality.
Readers who like humour, tension, complexity and well developed characters they can get close to, will enjoy The First Third.
Today, Will generously shares his top tips on writing. Hope you find them helpful.
1. Write as if every story is your last — when it came to deciding what my sophomore book would be about, I was always drawn back to the inter-generational relationship I had with my grandmother, and I knew that if I only had one more chance at publication, that was the story I wanted to tell. That passion translates into your work (I hope)
2. Think about arcs — This was the first novel where I really thought clearly about what I wanted each character to achieve by novel’s end, be it growth or another goal, and I think being mindful of each character’s own journey meant I was never writing “filler” characters.
3. Edit — There’s something magical about a fifth draft, when everything just works.
4. Don’t be afraid to have your characters talk about nothing — a brief discussion about something that isn’t important to the plot can end up being an important way to define relationships.
5. At the end of a draft, ask yourself if a scene/character is really necessary. Try plotting out different situations where that scene/character isn’t there – case in point, Sticks’ older brother Damo was originally the 3rd member of their group (it was a trio rather than a duo), but I realised his arc was weighing the story down. I was juggling too many main characters and he worked best as a foil for Sticks- so I limited him to that, and it became so much stronger.
Thanks for dropping in, Will and for sharing your great tips.
You can find out more about Will at his website http://www.williamkostakis.com/