Author Corner – Fiona Snyckers

Fiona Snyckers lives in Johannesburg with her husband, three children and four cats. She has published three books – Trinity Rising, Trinity On Air and Team Trinity, as well as numerous short stories.

Since her debut in 2009, Trinity Luhabe (the main character from the Trinity series) has appealed to an unprecedentedly wide cross-section of South African readers.  Her character is genuinely loved by fans of all backgrounds and affiliations.

1.       From first draft, to published book, how much editing do you do? 

I tend to read over and correct the previous day’s work before continuing.  Then when the whole book is written I will read through it and make changes three times over before submitting it to a publisher.  So far I have been extremely fortunate to work with three exceptional editors during the production process.  They have all been meticulous, thorough, and sensitive to the narrative.

2.       What research do you do for your books? 

We are lucky to live in the age of the internet, where virtually all information is just a mouse-click away.  Occasionally, though, I have felt the need to immerse myself in a particular situation.  My research has taken me to such diverse locations as a talk-radio station, a strip club, a bakery, a billionaire’s private house, and a boarding school.

3.       How many words do you write, on average, per day? 

800 words is a pretty good day for me.

4.       Explain your writing process – do you write an outline and fill in the story, or do you write from Chapter 1 and let the story and characters lead you? 

I’ve tried letting the story lead me, but that didn’t work out too well.  I work better if I write a brief, chapter-by-chapter outline of the whole book before starting.

5.       Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing, and if so, how do you overcome it? 

Social media (and the internet in general) is a huge distraction to me.  I need to be really disciplined to resist that siren song.  The only way to stay focused is to give myself a mental kick in the pants.

6.       What do you do when you have writer’s block? 

I have plenty of days when I am lazy, distracted and unproductive, but I don’t think I have ever suffered from classic writer’s block.  I’m always able to put words on the page, even if I delete them all the next day.

7.       When you submit your manuscript to a publisher, what information do you include in your proposal? 

I try to do my homework and give a particular publisher or agent exactly what they ask for.  If they want the first 3 chapters plus a one-page plot synopsis, that’s what I’ll give them.  In the letter itself, I follow the advice of Stephen King in his brilliant ‘On Writing’.  He gives great advice on how to write a brief and to-the-point letter of introduction, including a list of previous publications, short-listings or awards you might have garnered over the years.

8.       What advice can you give aspirant writers?

If you keep getting rejected for publication, it is probably not because the world is in a conspiracy against you. The likelihood is that your writing is just not good enough … yet.  Pick yourself up off the ground and write another story – a better one this time.  I have been rejected more times than I can count, and each time the story simply wasn’t good enough.  The last time I got a letter of rejection was a couple of months ago.  I’m working on making that story better.

Click HERE to visit Fiona’s website, and follow her on Twitter on @FionaSnyckers.

 

 

Author Corner – Shubnum Khan

Shubnum Khan is an author, freelance journalist, university lecturer and artist. In 2011 her first book, Onion Tears, was published by Penguin Books – a novel about three generations of Indian Muslim South African women. It is a tale of love, loss and life.

The manuscript was shortlisted for the Penguin Prize for African Writing and then published by Penguin Books. It was selected for the 2011 Exclusive Books Homebru Campaign, long-listed for the 2012 Sunday Times Fiction Prize and shortlisted for the University of Johannesburg’s Debut Fiction Prize.

Currently she lives by the sea in Durban, teaching Media Studies, freelancing articles, drawing cartoons, completing her second novel, Paper Flowers, and watching as many different series as possible.

1.       From first draft, to published book, how much editing do you do? 

An incredible amount – the majority of the writing took one year but it took just over another year to edit the manuscript. There’s a saying that writing is rewriting. You can always make your writing more concise, sharper and stronger. I used to teach creative writing and it surprised me that so many people thought their first work was their best work. The editing changes the whole shape of a book – even the plot and character can change. So I’m not exactly sure how much editing I did, except that it felt like I was editing all the time, from beginning to finish and even after publication. I look at the text and think I could have changed more to make it better. It’s partly why I try not to look at my published book anymore. The thing is, unless you’re some kind of genius, there is always room for improvement and editing shows you that.

2.       What research do you do for your book? 

My first novel had to do with a community I am intimately familiar with – Indian Muslim women. I have 3 older sisters and my mother has 6 older sisters so I was already in a space that was rich with information – so technically content-wise all I had to do was observe my surroundings. In terms of my style and learning how to describe a story I read many different types of novels from Arundhati Roy‘s detailed God of Small Things to Cormac McCarthy‘s stark The Road. Learning about different forms of writing is a crucial but underemphasised part of research. For my second novel I’ve had to do research about Durban in the 1920s and that has been quite interesting because I’ve lived in Durban all my life but I’m only beginning to understand it now that I understand something of its past. I feel the same applies to people too.

3.       How many words do you write, on average, per day? 

When I was writing at my most productive I was averaging about 1 500 – 2000 words five days a week. Those moments come in dips and peaks though and it is always changing – at the moment it is very slow. My ideal would be about 2000 – 3000 words everyday but it really depends on many variable factors (which part of the story you’re in, the mood you’re in and so on).

4.       Explain your writing process – do you write an outline and fill in the story, or do you write from Chapter 1 and let the story and characters lead you? 

It’s a bit of both but the main thing is that I don’t have the details. I have a vague outline of beginning and end which grows every day in my head and as I write I fill in the details, so a lot of the time the character or plot can take me to places I never planned – but as long as I’m within my (vague) outline then I let the story take me where it wants to.

5.       Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing, and if so, how do you overcome it? 

Well, the fact that I don’t plan my work so much does mean I get stuck often figuring out what should happen next – and this is why sometimes, I do think I need to plot my work out more. But that seems, for me, to go against the grain of what creativity is – although some types of writing with rich plots have to obviously be tightly planned to work. There are numerous problems faced when writing but my most current one is to just sit and be able to make the time for writing. Like most art – it takes a lot of time and effort to see real results and so a lot of the process of writing is about cultivating patience which is frustrating, but also one of the most rewarding parts of the writing process.

6.       What do you do when you have writer’s block? 

I watch a lot of series and have a good cry at the kitchen sink. Jokes. Well about the crying at the kitchen sink part, not the series. The important part of writing is to implement a system, so write at a certain time every day. Even if you have nothing to write, you must sit at your desk at the time. I found that as long as I did that, eventually I would write something – it was just about forming a habit and maintaining it.

7.       What advice can you give aspirant writers? 

I sometimes feel people expect too much too quickly and one of the worst things is the crippling disappointment that entering this field can leave you with. You have to be prepared to work hard – to put in a lot of work which means writing and rewriting, reading a lot, doing research, getting friends to read your work and comment and being able to deal with the criticism that will definitely come. If you can put in the work, real hard work, and believe in your ability then you can definitely succeed.

You can follow Shubnum’s tweets on Twitter @ShubnumKhan and click HERE to visit her website.

 

 

 

 

ANFASA Grants Scheme for Authors (AGSA)

ANFASAAre you an author of general non-fiction work, educational or academic work currently involved in a writing project?  Are you finding to focus on your project an issue? Or maybe running short of funds to complete the needed research for the project?  Then AGSA may be there for you.

This grant scheme owes its existence to the generosity of the Norwegian Non-Fiction Writers and Translators Association, Kopinor (the Norwegian Reproduction Rights Organisation), and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The grants are intended to provide around R20 000 – R25 000 for an author to take leave, for instance, and devote herself or himself to the writing or the preparation of a manuscript, or undertake research for purposes of completing the manuscript.

An independent committee will assess the applications and select the most deserving. There are only two criteria for eligibility: membership of ANFASA and the desire to complete the writing of a general non-fiction, educational or academic work for publication in book or journal form.

The ultimate objective of the scheme is to develop writing and knowledge production in South Africa and to encourage the writing and publishing of high-quality non-fiction works, especially by young authors. The short-term objective is to provide both established and aspiring authors with the means to devote themselves to writing.

The 2013 call for applications has opened (closing date for applications is 30 September 2013 and the winners for this round will be announced in December 2013).

Visit ANFASA’s website HERE to download an application form.

 

 

Author Corner – Rosemund J Handler

Rosemund J Handler lives in Cape Town. She climbs the mountains of her city every weekend and delights in exploring the vast open spaces of Southern Africa.  Us and Them, her fourth and latest novel, was published in 2012.  Madlands, her first novel, was published in 2006, followed by Katy’s Kid in 2007. Tsamma Season, published in 2009, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Africa region) in 2010.

 

 

 

1.       From first draft, to published book, how much editing do you do?

I do a lot. I rethink quite often and I’ve been lucky enough to have a patient and nurturing editor in the wonderful Pam Thornley, who has watched me dig myself out of a few thorny patches over the years!  Editing takes up so much time.  Sometimes I’d love to just steam ahead and finish the damn thing, but that’s not how it works with me.  I’m constantly checking back and rewriting, and I’ve learned to accept that that is my process.

2.       What research do you do for your book?

I’ve written a fair amount about family relationships and mental illness, and the research this has demanded has been substantial and time-consuming, but invaluable.  I’ve learned an immense amount and I’ve found out that vast numbers of people, some celebrities, but many people you’d pass in the street without a second thought, struggle hugely with their imagined demons.

3.       How many words do you write, on average, per day?

It can vary from 200 to 1000 words.  On a good day a bit more.

4.       Explain your writing process – do you write an outline and fill in the story, or do you write from Chapter 1 and let the story and characters lead you?

I have an idea and I usually let it take me with it.  My so-called outlines are notes all over the place, though lately I’ve tried to confine them to a single pad.  (A messy one.)

5.       Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing, and if so, how do you overcome it?

I think being creative is not something you can force and it has to emerge in its own time to do its work.  As useful as a writing course can be, such as an MA in creative writing, it’s about having something you want very much to say and then the discipline to put in the long hours to write it.  All with absolutely no guarantee that anyone will want to read it, let alone publish it.  It’s a lonely business, writing; especially fiction.

6.       What do you do when you have writer’s block?

I don’t often have writer’s block, but on the other hand I have days when I’m unconvinced about my writing, when I have an overwhelming sense that I’m doing it wrong.  I usually take a break in the hope that this will enable new insights and a fresh perspective.  The natural world is a very significant resource for me.  Climbing a mountain is a good way to get rid of cobwebs.

7.       When you submit your manuscript to a publisher, what information do you include in your proposal?

An outline of the story, I think, and the characters.  Why I wrote the manuscript, sometimes.  What I hoped to achieve with it.

8.       What advice can you give aspirant writers?

Being passionate about writing is one thing, discipline quite another.  The best advice I have for aspirant writers is to persevere, to make writing an indispensable part of your life.  Not to give up.  To be strong in the face of criticism and rejection: there will always be those who will shoot you down at the drop of a hat, but there are also people out there who will support and encourage you and, best of all, love what you write!

A writer’s credo:

‘Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.’William Arthur Ward, college administrator, writer (1921-1994)

Click HERE to read Rosemund’s blog.