Author Corner – Michele Rowe

Photo of author Michele RoweMichèle Rowe is a South African scriptwriter who works primarily as a head writer and story originator for television and film. And in June she was able to add ‘published author’ to her hat – What Hidden Lies, her debut crime novel, and winner of the 2011 Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award, was published by Penguin Books. At present she is writing the follow up called Hour of Darkness (to be published by Penguin Random House in 2014). 

Michele Rowe's What Hidden Lies

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

I write and edit, write and edit in an ongoing process of refinement.  It means that I write pretty slowly, but I can’t separate writing from editing. Coming from a screenwriting background I am used to rewriting draft after draft, so I’ve learned not to get attached to the peerless beauty of a sentence. If I do then it probably should be thrown out anyway! I’m less concerned with trying to perfect phrases, and more about building a strong narrative paragraph by paragraph in as clear and lucid a way as possible.

What research do you do for your book?

Research is an ongoing aspect of writing for me. I worked in documentary and actuality television for a long time and enjoy research. At some point though, and preferably early on, I try to dispense with facts and get down to writing otherwise I lose confidence and forget to trust in the mysterious alchemy of the imagination. Imagination has its own truth.

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

I write in bursts. Some days I don’t write a word, other days I write for hours. In order to write I must have nothing else to do, as I am a hopeless multi tasker. If I start counting words, I only end up with a lot of unusable stuff on my hands. There is much to be said for writing x amount of words a day. But it takes good organisational abilities and an iron will. I lack both I’m afraid.

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 usually begin with something that interests me for whatever reason. It could be a character, or a moral question, or something I have seen or heard. Sometimes it’s a relationship issue, or personal dilemma or a particular character. Sometimes it’s a visual thing, an image, or a story someone has told me. It tends to niggle away, usually because there is something about it I don’t understand. Weather and geography also play a large part in the development of a narrative. I sort of mull on all these elements and then I begin to give it a structure. The book I am writing now begins during Earth Hour, and features disappearances that happen when the city turns off its lights and is plunged into darkness.  The story unfolds over autumn, a melancholy time, when people are sombre and inward looking. It’s also a time of introspection and darkness for Persy Jonas, the young detective who drives the story.

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

I find plotting and structuring the most frustrating aspect of writing.  I am a terrible procrastinator. I usually begin by writing key incidents that are in my head and I feel I have to get out. These usually get thrown out eventually or have changed beyond recognition by the final draft.  Because I’m indecisive and so the story is in a state of flux all the time. I keep all my options open until its completely critical. Then I hone in on the central story. It’s laborious and completely impractical and a dreadfully slow way to write a book. I also battle with time lines and multiple plots. I have no idea why I torment myself by writing mysteries and crime fiction as the form increases these challenges a thousand fold.

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

I’m lazy as anything, but that’s laziness rather than a block. Maybe because as a screenwriter I often have to write to deadline, I think of writing as a job like any other. Dentists and accountants have days when they don’t want to work, but they don’t have the luxury of calling it a block.  Having said that I do get stymied by problems that can go on for months. Writing often feels as if I’m navigating a maze, only to find I’m back where I began. It’s a frustrating business and takes a certain calmness and distance not to panic. I try writing short stories, or working on another book, or going for a swim or a walk to clear my head. Sometimes I just have to wait it out.

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

I limited myself to a page of about three paragraphs. I introduced myself in one paragraph, told them what I’d done in the second, and briefly described my book in the third.  It’s probably best to keep it short. People are generally busy, and want to get to the point of a letter as soon as possible. I think that if you waffle in your letter, publishers will tend to assume that your book is going to waffle.

What advice can you give aspirant writers?

I don’t really feel in a position to give professional advice after only one book. As a first time novelist I had the advantage of a certain optimistic naiveté.  I had to work hard at maintaining that buoyancy, as writing can be an altogether disheartening process. I would say what you need most is a stubborn persevering nature. And develop a taste for penury!

Visit Michele’s website to read more about her, and her book What Hidden Lies – www.michelerowe.co.za.

 

 

 

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    Author Corner – Helen Moffett

    Helen Moffett wears many hats. She cut her teeth as an academic editor, and soon came to specialise in what some call development editing. This means acting as much more than a copy-editor:  the role is an amalgam of academic supervisor, agent, mentor, advisor and sounding-board. Increasingly, Helen is focusing on fiction editing, where she has worked with some of Africa’s best and brightest writers.

    Some authors Helen has worked with: Diane Awerbuck, Lauren Beukes, Andrew Brown, Mike Cope, Nadia Davids, Richard de Nooy, Tom Eaton, Liesl Jobson, Sarah Lotz, Sindiwe Magona, Siphiwo Mahala, Amina Mama, Zakes Mda, Thando Mgqolozana, S. A. Partridge, Jamala Safari, Elinor Sisulu, Jane Taylor, Ivan Vladislavic, Terry Westby-Nunn, Makhosazana Xaba.

     

    Under Helen’s poet hat, her first collection of poems, Strange Fruit, was published by Mojadji Books.

     

    On the 15th of this month, Helen’s choose-your-own-adventure erotic novel, A Girl Walks into a Bar, will be released (as an e.book) under the pseudonym Helena S. Paige.  This book is co-written with Paige Nick and Sarah Lotz. Hard copies of this book will be released in November 2013.

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

    I only stop editing when the deadline intervenes and the MS is torn from my twitching hands. I agree with whoever said “Writing is rewriting”.

    2.       What research do you do for your book?

    I write such different stuff, it depends. When I write academic pieces, research has to be very deep, and takes far more time than the writing. When I’m writing or editing anything else, I mostly just fact-check everything. My Google search history ranges from boring to bizarre: on the same day, it once included EU trade agreements and sea-urchin gonads. Occasionally, research is pure pleasure: for A Girl Walks into a Wedding (the second in the erotica series by Helena S. Paige, which Sarah Lotz, Paige Nick and I are writing), I spent a few days visiting wedding venues and chatting to wedding planners – in the Cotswolds, in the prettiest spring weather.

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

    It depends entirely on what I’m writing. If it’s a poem, it can be as little as 50 words. If it’s something academic or serious non-fiction, I rarely go past a thousand words a day. But for lighter stuff, I can go at a gallop, and have been known to produce 5 000 words in a day. But then a lot are chaff.

    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?

    Poems fly in the window and flap at me until I write them down (corny, but true). My academic writing is a bit like constructing a case, using building blocks of research/evidence and cementing them together with logic. For fiction, sometimes the entire thing is clear before I start writing. Or I can see a particular scene or character in my head, so I write it all down, and hope the next scene will form in my head. But I’m not sure that this is good writing practice: I recommend outlines, also collecting bits and pieces and putting them into some sort of order first.

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

    I was once commissioned to write a paper on child rape. Towards the end, my mind’s eye was so flooded with horrors, I got into my car and drove it straight into a highly visible tree. I find that when I have to write something important but difficult, it helps if I get really angry. Once I hit a certain flashpoint of rage, it all comes boiling out.

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

    Ah, trade secrets. As an editor, I sometimes work with authors who are blocked, and find that Louis Greenberg’s words apply: “Editing is therapy at a cheaper hourly rate”. Intractable writer’s block is often rooted in some personal anxiety or issue. When I get writer’s block (in my case, the sense that my brain has been scraped bare), I’m lucky in that a long walk almost always solves the problem. There’s something about repetitive movement or action that shakes thing loose.

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

    Before I do that, I research the publisher carefully. Every day, publishers get manuscripts that simply do not match the kinds of books they publish. I encourage writers to read local writing and study catalogues carefully to pick a good fit between their MS and a publisher. Once I submit, I keep the cover letter short and practical. I include a brief bio and list of writing I’ve already published, a short but juicy synopsis, and a paragraph about the market it’s aimed at. The latter is critical, along with a description of how it might fit into the local publishing scene: something like “set in the world of teenage skateboard gangs on the Cape Flats, this book has the gritty humour of Sally Partridge’s YA novels, along with the moral dilemmas of Sifiso Mzobe’s Young Blood”.

    8.       What advice can you give aspirant writers?

    Nothing earth-shatteringly new: remember that writing may start as a gift, but it survives as a craft. So the more you do it, the more talented you’ll get. And that old chestnut also applies: the harder you work, the luckier you’ll get.

    But one thing doesn’t get stressed enough: befriend, support and share your work and experiences, good and bad, with other writers – you’ll learn so much from each other. And be happy for them when they get published. It’s a combination of common sense and good karma. If you’re lucky (see point about hard work above), one day it will be your turn.

     

     

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      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.

       

       

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        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.

         

         

         

         

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          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.

           

           

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            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.

             

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              Author Corner – Emma van der Vliet

              Emma van der VlietEmma van der Vliet was born in Grahamstown and spent most of her childhood there. After graduating from UCT and Rhodes, she accidentally spent ten years working in film production. She later returned to UCT, where she taught film and media, got her MA in creative writing, her PhD in Film and Media Studies, and produced several children. She lives in Observatory with her family and other animals.

              Her first novel, Past Imperfect, was published by Penguin in 2007.  And earlier this year Emma’s second novel, Thirty Second World, was published.

              Past Imperfect - Emma van der VlietThirty Second World Emma van der Vliet

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

              I hadn’t realised this until quite recently, but I actually work quite slowly, editing myself as I go along. This means that I take a really long time to write something, but it’s often more finished than a first draft written by someone who likes to throw it all out onto the page and then start to work with it from there. It may just be because I’m a lazy self-editor, but I think it’s also a question of one’s working style. I think things through in my head a lot before I actually get around to putting them down on the page, and once they’re down I’m not that keen on constant reworking.

              2. What research do you do for your book?

              Well it depends on the book. For Past Imperfect I researched Paris, French and the French (among other things), and for Thirty Second World I researched game capture and swingers’ clubs! It depends on where your story takes you. That’s one of the great joys of writing fiction – an excuse to “research” things you might otherwise never get to know about, and the excuse to call sitting nursing a cup of hot chocolate on a Parisian pavement “work”.

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

              When I was in full flight with Thirty Second World I was aiming for 1000 a day. I tended to find that on days that I knew I wasn’t going to get much done – if there was a school outing or another work obligation, for example – and my day was going to be eaten up and bitty, I would rather look over other sections or write up notes from the little piles of scrappy paper on the backs of shopping lists or envelopes or restaurant serviettes. I need to get into the flow to be able to get any decent chunk of writing done, so if that wasn’t going to happen I did bits of “maintenance” instead.

              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 do a bit of both. For Past Imperfect I started with the second chapter, which was a kind of mini version of the book as a whole, a story within a story or what the French call a “mise en abyme”, because it was all about a homecoming and so was the whole novel itself. I then backtracked to the lead-up to that initial homecoming, and then let the characters lead me from there. With Thirty Second World, I had the skeleton of the film shoot itself – eventually I split the book into three sections, pre-production, production and post-production, after the phases of a film job – and the characters, starting with Beth and Alison, were already strongly present in my mind. Another of my favourite things about writing is when the characters come to life and take over, and I hear voices and conversations between them in my head. I think that’s the part I love the most – that (mostly benign) possession.

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

              Mostly it’s just finding the time to write. And my own lack of confidence. It can be an extremely lonesome task, and while I relish my time alone, I do sometimes start to question whether what I’m writing is any good and what on earth the point is of locking myself away and spending hours staring at a screen. It’s such an undertaking, and novels are so damn long!

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

              Push through and keep writing if I possibly can, preferably on a section which is fairly “mechanical”. Or I get one of the zillion other things on my plate done. Or if I feel I deserve it I’ll go for a walk or phone a friend or read something for the pleasure of it, and to remind me of why I’m trying to write in the first place. Writing time, where there are enough hours in a row really to get into the flow, is so precious that writer’s block is not really an option!

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

              For Past Imperfect I had the unheard of good fortune of having an extract from the novel “discovered” by a commissioning editor at Penguin who just happened to be reading the obscure literary journal I’d published the piece in. So she then approached me and asked whether I’d written anything else, and I could then produce the rest of the manuscript. With Thirty Second World, I approached Penguin, again, with a sort of descriptive “tagline” – the equivalent of what you see on a movie poster but a little less telegraphic! – and a brief story synopsis. But since they’d published my first one that made things a lot easier. I think the norm would be to provide a very brief story synopsis, perhaps an idea of what kind of target market the book would be aimed at, and a first chapter.

              8. What advice can you give aspirant writers?

              Firstly, I’d ask whether they were sure they wanted to write, and why. Not everyone is cut out for hours and hours of solitary work with little, if any, feedback. But if that doesn’t put them off, then congratulations and commiserations to them! They should go out and live life and observe other people living their lives, and try to put themselves into those people’s shoes. And take notes all the while. Eavesdropping is one of my favourite pass-times. Listen to people’s dialogues, think about what makes them tick. And just imagine.

              Join Emma’s Facebook AUTHOR page – click HERE

               

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                Author Corner – Susan Newham-Blake

                Susan Newham-Blake is a writer based in Cape Town. For the past fourteen years she has worked as a magazine journalist and editor, editing a number of customer magazines including the Clicks ClubCard magazine.

                Susan has been published in a variety of women’s magazines including Marie Claire, Femina and Women’s Health. She has also been published in the anthology Just Keep Breathing (Jacana), a collection of short stories.

                In 2013 Penguin Books published Susan’s first book, Making Finn.

                Making FinnAbout Making Finn – Susan’s childhood dream of becoming a mother has not diminished with the revelation, alarming both to herself and her bewildered family, that she does, in fact, ‘bat for the other team’. Having made peace with her identity and having finally found a beloved partner, she is now faced with a daunting problem: with no penis around, how the hell do you make babies?

                Time is of the essence: at 34 years old, Susan cannot afford to waste another moment. And so begins an unconventional journey to parenthood with some agonising decisions along the way. Should she accept help from a close and willing friend or go the anonymous sperm donor route? What are the legal and psychological implications of her options? How will her child be affected?

                Told with disarming honesty, Making Finn is a warm, witty and moving first-person account of two women’s quest to create a family.

                Click HERE to visit Susan Newham-Blake’s website.

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

                While I was writing Making Finn I would start the day by reading through what I’d written the day before and give it a quick polish before proceeding. After the manuscript was finished I went through the first draft again. I did not do a huge amount of editing, but did elaborate on certain elements I felt were a bit thin, or delete any repetition. Once I was done I gave the manuscript to a trusted acquaintance who also gave me pointers on how she experienced the book. For instance, she felt I hadn’t included enough description of a particular character. I incorporated some of her suggestions before sending it off to Penguin. There were no editing requests from Penguin.

                2. What research did you do for your book?

                Because Making Finn is largely a memoir there was not a whole lot of research to do. However, I did refer back to emails, documents I’d kept as well as to my personal diary to check facts and order of events. I did a bit of research on the medical aspects of the book – the process of the actual fertility treatment. I also had a clinic sister check that my medical information was accurate.

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

                When I am in the writing phase of a book I set myself a goal of at least 500 words a day. I can write this amount of words in about an hour so the goal feels manageable. If I write more than this it’s a bonus. I do on occasion write up to 2 000 words in a day but this is not usual for me given the time constraints of my full-time job and young children. I would say that on average I write about 5 000 words a week.

                4. Explain your writing process – do you write an outline and then compile the chapters, or do you just start writing from Chapter 1 and let the story lead you?

                I usually start writing from the beginning and let the story lead me. While I write, I make notes on characters, which I’ll refer to later on in the book to make sure I’ve got the character’s details correct. I also get loads of ideas on plot development, so I’ll make a note of this too. Sometimes I change my mind about including the idea but at least I’ve kept it. Once the story is written down I go back and I might need to change details depending on how the story has ultimately turned out.

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

                My two biggest challenges to writing are time and self-doubt. I am not able to financially afford to make writing my career (it is unfortunately not well paid) so I really battle to create the time to sit down and write. But I also know that when I am really motivated to write or believe in what I’m writing I find it easier to create the time. So it’s got a lot to do with overcoming self-doubt. While writing Making Finn, I often had the thought: Who the hell would want to read this? And of course this is not conducive to keep writing. So I told myself I was writing the book for my sons which gave me a diversion from the worry that nobody would want to read it.

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

                When I have writer’s block I find myself on social media platforms following Twitter and Facebook like my life depends on it. Sometimes I write blogs. This makes me feel like I am at least writing, which helps. I’m like those exercise junkies. If I don’t write anything for a while I start feeling grumpy and miserable. But ultimately I really believe that you have to just keep writing. Whether you think what you are writing is good or not, it’s in the discipline of consistently putting words onto a page that keeps the story going to the end.

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

                When Making Finn was finally finished I emailed a one-page proposal letter, a three-page synopsis and the first three chapters of the book to a publisher. I had gotten tips on how to write these online. Penguin replied quite quickly requesting to see the full manuscript.

                8. What advice can you give aspirant writers?

                In Stephen King‘s book, On Writing, he says: “Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction can be a difficult, lonely job; it’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt.” The trick is to quieten the doubt and keep writing. Write, not to get published, but because it’s a thrill – you love it and it makes you happier than doing any other kind of work. I also write quickly and get that first draft down before I have time to give into the doubt.

                Click HERE to like Susan on Facebook, and you can follow her on Twitter – @bbugged

                 

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                  Secrets to designing your eBook cover

                  Are you self-publishing your own eBook?  If so click HERE to read a good article (written by Kristen Eckstein for The Future of Ink’s website) on what to take into consideration when you are designing your e.book cover.

                  This is what Kristen starts out with …

                  When it comes to your eBook cover, I cannot stress enough how important it is to look professional.

                  If your cover looks like it was created in Microsoft Word, your book sales will be directly affected and even your credibility may be at stake.

                  Most people, especially those who spend hours online, are visual creatures. When we’re searching the web, an interesting thing happens. Pay attention to your own browsing habits.

                  When you browse through eBooks on Amazon, how many times do you click on the picture of the book cover image versus just the title that usually appears next to it?

                  We almost always gravitate towards clicking the picture because that’s what we’re looking at. Our eyes are drawn to the image. If they can’t see the image clearly in that tiny little thumbnail in an Amazon search, then potential buyers are going to pass right over it.

                  So if your cover, especially as a thumbnail image, is so important, what are the secrets to making it stand out from your competition?

                  Continue reading the article (HERE) for Kristen’s secrets to a great eBook cover, covering these five key elements:

                  Secret #1: Title Design

                  Secret #2: Art and Photos

                  Secret #3: Branding

                  Secret #4: Study what Works

                  Secret #5: Beware the Template

                   

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                    Author Corner – Paige Nick

                    Paige Nick is an author, a Sunday Times columnist and an advertising copywriter. Her debut novel, A Million Miles From Normal, was released in April 2010, and in May 2011 her second book, This Way Up, was published (both by Penguin Books).

                    In July 2013, Paige’s choose-your-own-adventure erotic novel, A Girl Walks into a Bar, will be released under the pseudonym Helena S Paige.  This book is co-written with Helen Moffett and Sarah Lotz.

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

                    I do zero editing when I’m writing the first draft of anything. In fact I try to read back as little as possible. There’s that thing where you hear your own recorded voice played back to you, and it sounds awful and you hate it. Well I have the same feeling when I read back something I’ve just written. The trick with a first draft is to get the story out of my head and down onto the page as fast as possible, and then I spend ages crafting and rewriting and editing at a later stage.

                    2. What research do you do for your books?

                    That depends entirely on the book. Some bits will need tons of research, and others will pop straight out of my head fully formed. I recently wrote a scene set in a photographic dark room, and since I’d never actually developed photographs myself, I had to do a ton of research on the process to get it right and make it sound authentic. But then the next scene was set in a bar, and it turns out I have already done a fair amount of research on that.

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

                    Every day is different. It’s incredibly hard to put a number to it. It also depends where I’m at in the process. If I’m in a manic writing phase of a manuscript, I’ll get down anything from 2 000 words to an absolute maximum of 10 000 on a monstrous, killer day. But then my brain will be porridge after that. If however I’m in an editing phase, then it’s less about the writing of words and more about the unpicking and reknitting of previously written words.

                    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’m not one of those writers who can let the story and characters lead me. I like to have a plot and an outline very well prepared before I start writing the actual draft.

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

                    The naming of body parts and actions in sex scenes is a continual challenge. One of the authors I’m writing this new series of Choose-your-own-adventure erotic novels with, suggested we need a sexual Thesaurus. It’s a great idea. There are only so many things you can call the groin area, without sounding uncouth, pornographic, repetitive, or just plain silly.

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

                    If I’m struggling with a tricky plot point, or a line of dialogue that doesn’t want to come, a walk or a run will usually knock it out of my brain. Or watching mindless TV, baking, or having a sleep often works for me too. Either that or I simply keep going and write absolute crap until the good stuff comes.

                    7. What advice can you give aspirant writers?

                    It’s the most boring advice in the world. But in my experience, all you can do is keep writing every day. Write books and blog posts, and doodles and scrawls and pitches and ideas and nonsense and poetry and prose.

                    And then in between all that, read.

                    Click HERE to visit Paige’s website.

                     

                     

                     

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