Her debut novel, The Goblet Club, won the SABC/YOU Magazine ‘I am a writer Competition’ in 2007, as well as the MER Prize for Best Youth Novel at the M-Net Via Afrika Awards in 2008.
Her second novel Fuse was short-listed for the Percy Fitzpatrick Prize for Youth Fiction awarded by the SA English Academy and was an IBBY Honour Book in 2012.
Dark Poppy’s Demise was awarded the MER Prize for Best Youth Novel, at the Media24 Literary Awards (previously the Via Afrika Awards).
Her fourth novel for the young adult reader is Sharp Edges and this book will be released at the end of August ’13.
1. From first draft, to published book, how much editing do you do?
A considerable amount. A story is never quite finished till it’s finished. Once I’ve completed a first draft, I print out the entire book and go through each line with a red pen, making notes where I think I can add more in or take out scenes that don’t work, pick up spelling mistakes and cliches and fix as many continuity errors as I can. (This is a trick acclaimed editor Helen Moffet taught me as well as quite a few more useful tricks). I then rewrite the manuscript and apply the changes, then repeat the process until I’m one hundred percent comfortable submitting the book to a publisher. If there are long lead times between deadlines I’ll ask a friend to read the novel and make changes according to their feedback. Sometimes a publisher will ask me to rewrite based on feedback they received from a reader’s report, other times the major rewriting work comes in once an editor has been through the manuscript. A novel only really starts to shine once it’s passed through several stages of editing.
2. What research do you do for your book?
I love the process of taking out reference books and making copious notes, which I constantly refer to during the writing process. I think it’s having a hundred pieces of paper orbiting around my desk that makes me feel like I’m well and truly knee-deep in a book. If I just want to check up a small fact, a quick Google search is usually fine. I love visiting places I intend using as settings and interviewing people. You can never really do enough research, especially if you’re writing about a subject you’re not completely familiar with. A trick with research is to never copy and paste from a source. I always make notes in my own words, and then ensure it forms part of the manuscript naturally, rather than just inserting it in.
3. How many words do you write, on average, per day?
It depends. I work full time, so the majority of what I write is written in the evenings and on the weekends or any break I can get. If I’m busy writing a story and it’s really flowing I can usually write about three to five thousand words in one sitting or more. Some days I write nothing. I find that I can’t force it. If I’m not feeling the story then I’ll produce next to nothing. It’s those wonderful good writing days when I achieve output and find it hard to stop.
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 start from the beginning and continue all the way to the end. Sometimes I’ll write an outline, other times I write in scenes. It depends on the particular story I’m writing at the time. I don’t have one concrete method that I stick to. I prefer the writing process to be natural and to dictate where it wants to go. Other times I’ll envision the entire story, lay it out, then write.
5. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing, and if so, how do you overcome it?
I find intimate bedroom scenes quite challenging. I tried to write one in Dark Poppy’s Demise, and then eventually rewrote the scene so that it didn’t happen. I’ll master this though. I think it’s more to do with shyness than anything else.
6. What do you do when you have writer’s block?
I let it be. The story will continue when it wants to. Personally, I’d rather not force myself to write and to produce output for the sake of producing output.
7. When you submit your manuscript to a publisher, what information do you include in your proposal?
A synopsis of the story, what genre and target audience it falls under, and the full manuscript attached as a Word document. But then again, that’s just me. I’m sure it works differently for everyone.
8. What advice can you give aspirant writers?
Write the story you want to write, not the story you think you’re supposed to write. Finish the manuscript no matter how frustrated you become half way and always, always produce at least a second draft.
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