Colette Victor Schrijfcoach https://www.colettevictor.be Thu, 20 Sep 2018 12:36:27 +0000 nl hourly 1 What to do when you’ve finished writing your book https://www.colettevictor.be/blog/what-to-do-when-youve-finished-writing-your-book/ https://www.colettevictor.be/blog/what-to-do-when-youve-finished-writing-your-book/#respond Sat, 18 Jul 2015 09:20:42 +0000 http://www.colettevictor.be/?p=594 After what feels like six thousand and twenty-two rewrites, (but is, in actual fact three major rewrites and heaps of minorish-majorish changes) I finally wrote the last word of my novel a week ago. It was ‘eyes’ by the way, … Lees Meer

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After what feels like six thousand and twenty-two rewrites, (but is, in actual fact three major rewrites and heaps of minorish-majorish changes) I finally wrote the last word of my novel a week ago. It was ‘eyes’ by the way, my last word.

It’s on my agent’s Kindle right now, being read by her for a second and, let’s hope, the last time. I dread getting a friendly email back from her saying, “I really enjoyed it but maybe this and this could do with a bit more work.”

I will, in the first place, fall down on the floor in an exasperated faint. I won’t tell my family a word about it and will walk around the house in a sulk for days while they wonder what the hell’s the matter with me. (My family, even after all this time, does not automatically make the jump that bad mood equals bad news in connection with writing. And I’m too proud to tell them, “After three years of slogging away at my novel, it still isn’t good enough.”)

But all of that aside – hope, bad moods, pride and exasperated fainting – what am I supposed to do now that I’ve finished my novel, killed them all off or allowed them a happily-ever-after?

  • I, for one, am not the kind of writer you read about who misses the characters who’ve been inhabiting her head for the last couple of years. Quite frankly, I’m sick of them. Sick of wondering how they’d react in a certain situation, sick of thinking about whether a particular phrase is ‘in character.’ I long to shut them up between the pages of a paperback and find new characters to ponder, wonder and think about.
  • Do I slowly start collecting ideas, thoughts, scenes and images for the next one? Should I make a rough plotline? Start interviewing my new characters? (This is an exercise I always do at the start of a new book, a technique I learned from Lajos Egri’s book, The Art of Creative Writing. And yes, I do already know what the next book’s about and who the characters are. They crashed into my brain about two weeks ago on a drive back from Antwerp listening to a Tom Waits CD.)
  • Do I lay off long-term projects for a while? (And how long is a while? A month, six weeks, ‘til the end of the summer?) Should I try a short story, something I’m always smacking after when I’m busy on a novel but won’t allow myself the indulgence.
  • Do I do absolutely nothing? Just be a person instead of a writer. Maybe dabble on a blog post or two but further nothing else. Empty my head of everything that’s got to do with writing – plot, theme, characters blah, blah, blah – just let it all go. That way I’ll have a nice fresh head when I sit myself down in front if my laptop again in September (alright, I suppose ‘a while’ means ‘til the kids go back to school.)

Do I break the good writing rhythm I’ve built up? Do I ignore these two very interesting women who’ve taken hold in my imagination?

Do I do this? Or don’t I?

 

I expect it will be Life that makes the decision for me and not me: my lack or abundance of free time (now that I don’t have the excuse of a strict writing regime to fob my family off with.) The constant tug-of-war between being an active, participating mum, wife and friend versus a leave-me-alone-I’m-writing author.

Who will I be? What will I choose? What is a writer when she’s not writing?

 

What do you do when you’ve finished a major writing project?Character Building Micro-Figure - Astronauts

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Is there a colour divide in African literature? https://www.colettevictor.be/blog/is-there-a-colour-divide-in-african-literature/ https://www.colettevictor.be/blog/is-there-a-colour-divide-in-african-literature/#respond Fri, 03 Jul 2015 11:22:57 +0000 http://www.colettevictor.be/?p=588 Recently I read an article by Jennifer Malecówna in which she talks about a black South African man, Fort Helepi, who opened a bookshop, African Flavour Books, in the small town of Vanderbijlpark in South Africa. (http://bookslive.co.za/blog/2015/06/11/i-wanted-to-prove-a-black-person-can-open-a-bookshop-not-a-tavern-african-flavour-books-owner-fort-helepi/) Helepi saved for … Lees Meer

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Recently I read an article by Jennifer Malecówna in which she talks about a black South African man, Fort Helepi, who opened a bookshop, African Flavour Books, in the small town of Vanderbijlpark in South Africa. (http://bookslive.co.za/blog/2015/06/11/i-wanted-to-prove-a-black-person-can-open-a-bookshop-not-a-tavern-african-flavour-books-owner-fort-helepi/)

Helepi saved for three years before opening his bookshop. It’s his passion, his legacy in progress, you could say, and he had 3 reasons for starting it:

  1. Like most people who run independent bookshops, he’s passionate about books, about literature (and African literature in particular.)
  2. He would also like to dispel the misconception that exists in South Africa that whites run bookshops and blacks run shebeens (taverns). This stereotype is deeply entrenched in our country – if it’s got to do with culture, with reading, with pursuits of the mind then, by default, there’s a white person behind it, and if it’s a shebeen, a hairdresser or a car wash then the initiator will probably be black. (Yes, it’s hard to believe, but twenty-one years after democracy, we’re still a nation clinging desperately to our stereotypes.)
  3. The majority of the books Helepi stocks in his shop are by black authors. This too is to dissipate a misconception: the assumption that black authors are somehow second best to white authors.

 

Helepi’s venture is a brave one in a world where independent bookshops are being wiped out by chain stores like cherry blossoms in a hail storm. And he’s doing it without any help from government or the cooperation of the distributors. I, for one, wish him the best of luck with his undertaking and hope that it goes from strength to strength.

But this article also got me thinking about my own reading habits. I am also a huge consumer of African literature, at least half the books on my sagging bookshelves are by African authors. But do I, as a white South African, subconsciously also hold the view that black authors are second best to white authors? I improvised a little test to check this.

Armed with pen and notebook, I drew up two columns: White and Black. I went to my bookshelf and noted the names of the various authors in a particular column according to the colour of their skin. Under the White column I listed the usual suspects; Alan Paton, Nadine Gordimer, J.M. Coetzee, Andre P. Brink, Donald Woods, Laurens van de Post, Eugene Marais, Athol Fugard… Under the Black column I wrote down names like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Zakes Mda, Vusamazulu Credo Mutua, Moeletsi Mbeki, Chinua Achebe and Chris Van Wijk (though strictly speaking, Van Wijk is a coloured author, a term we use for people of mixed race, not deemed insult like it is in some other countries.) The two columns were equal in length, but does this, in itself, prove anything?

So I asked myself the next most obvious question: Which of these African authors is my favourite?

Alan Paton, without a doubt. I read his Cry the Beloved Country as a teenager and for the first time in my sheltered white life I saw a side of my country I hadn’t known existed. It made a huge impression on me and sparked my lifelong love for African literature. But does that necessarily go on to mean that I think white authors are somehow superior to black authors because Alan Paton is white?

Looking at my list of authors, I asked myself another question: Which of these books made a lasting impression on me? The answer: Too many to mention here, or, perhaps I should say, all of them in one way or another. These authors have made me taste the red dust of Africa on my tongue, made me feel the relentless sun on the back of my neck, smell a stew being prepared on a paraffin burner or take a bite of the injustice of racism. These authors are black, white, coloured, Zulu, Sesotho, Xhosa, South African, Nigerian, Botswanan and Kenyan, none of them second best to any other, all of them, in their own unique way, telling our continent’s story.

It could be that on the international literary scene more white authors have walked away with the prestigious prizes than black authors, but this possibly says more about the international literary scene than it does about the quality of African writing. I, for what it’s worth, believe the voices of Africa’s most creative minds goes beyond colour. I think the continent can and should be proud of the authors it’s produced and that they are by no means second best to anyone.

Africa by Jack Zallum

Is this something you’ve thought about? Do you subconsciously believe black authors to be second best to white authors? What’s your favourite African book? Which African books have made a lasting impression on you?

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Solitary confinement https://www.colettevictor.be/blog/solitary-confinement/ https://www.colettevictor.be/blog/solitary-confinement/#respond Tue, 16 Jun 2015 19:31:11 +0000 http://www.colettevictor.be/?p=582 Last week I was listening to the radio and heard the story of the prisoner, Albert Woodfox, who spent forty-three years in solitary confinement in a Louisiana jail. Forty-three years! Just think about that. Besides what it says about the … Lees Meer

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Last week I was listening to the radio and heard the story of the prisoner, Albert Woodfox, who spent forty-three years in solitary confinement in a Louisiana jail.

Forty-three years! Just think about that.

Besides what it says about the American justice system, I am simply astounded by the fact that this man didn’t kill himself or just plain go mad. I have no doubt that one, if not both of these fates would have overcome me if I’d been caged by myself like that for so long. Regardless of his crimes, it speaks of a huge reserve of internal strength for Albert Woodfox to be able to walk out of that cell a thinking person. It got me wondering:

If you could only do one thing for forty-three years to stop yourself going insane, what would it be?

  • As a big fan of radio, I think it’s a good option. It’s always there, human voices, radio ads, music, news… It would keep me connected to the world, even in the middle of the night when everyone is sleeping and I imagine loneliness is at its peak.
  • But then again, TV would do more or less the same thing except you’d have the extra bonus of seeing people’s faces, knowing what they’re wearing, what cars they’re driving and other technological developments. You wouldn’t only be aurally connected to the world, but visually as well.
  • There’s also the option of a correspondence university course. Over the forty-three year stretch you’d definitely be the most overqualified prisoner in the entire United States penitentiary system. Besides that, education lifts people up, it inspires them, gives them aspirations. But wouldn’t it be cruel to give someone dreams they could never realistically attain? Or would education make you so creative you’d find a way to put it to use? Become your own lawyer, perhaps, or develop a literacy program for other prisoners?
  • As a writer, I would also want the option of a pen and a limitless supply of paper (a laptop would do the same trick.) Think of all the books you could write over forty-three years without having to drop kids off at school, make supper and do the ironing. But wouldn’t you run out of things to write about of you weren’t dropping kids off at school, making supper and ironing? Don’t we need to be amongst people, feeding off them continually, to have material to write about in the first place? Don’t we need to be an active citizen of the world to comment on it?
  • Paints, pencils, paper, canvas – that would be another option. I just wonder if you could really make pictures for forty years while sitting in the same cell. The problem with visual art is that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to sketch or paint from memory. With creative writing, memory is one of our most important sources of material. Sitting down behind your laptop, you need to think back to what your mother looked like when she was cross with you to write about an angry older woman. You remember the cadence of someone’s speech and then try to capture it in writing. In visual art you’re dependent on that visible stimulus to be able to create.
  • A musical instrument, a guitar perhaps or a saxophone. Maybe a couple of music books, a CD-player and some CDs with great guitar or saxophone music. Can you imagine the musician you’d be with all that practise when you walked out the other side? You’d be sure of a job in a band or orchestra the minute you walked out of there.
  • The last option is also perhaps the most obvious. Give me something to read for forty-three years and I’m a sane person. Give me newspapers, give me books, give me an E-reader and not only will I escape the cell every day to visit countries and cultures all over the world, I will get to know new people. I will travel into their minds, experience what they think, what they feel. I will cry when they lose someone, be afraid when their life is threatened and laugh with them in the end when everything turns out alright. I will deepen my understanding of humanity, I will learn to empathise and I will walk out of my cell at the end of my sentence a richer person than when I went in.

 

Luckily for us, books are also available to people who aren’t stuck in solitary confinement.

 

Which single pastime would you choose to stop yourself going insane?Prison cell by decade_null

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Why do we write? https://www.colettevictor.be/blog/why-do-we-write/ https://www.colettevictor.be/blog/why-do-we-write/#respond Tue, 09 Jun 2015 11:26:37 +0000 http://www.colettevictor.be/?p=579 Last weekend I was away on a writers’ retreat with thirteen other writers in the Flemish countryside. Amongst the range of writerly topics we discussed was the question, Why do we write? One of the writers possessed a huge load … Lees Meer

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Last weekend I was away on a writers’ retreat with thirteen other writers in the Flemish countryside. Amongst the range of writerly topics we discussed was the question, Why do we write?

One of the writers possessed a huge load of academic knowledge about our brains, our psychology, what makes us tick. According to her all our actions are driven by two primal urges:

  1. To belong to a social group
  2. To gain recognition, appreciation from that group

 

If this is true then I suppose our compulsion to write stems from the desire to satisfy the second primal urge – to be recognised, to be appreciated. A quest for the gentle massaging of our vanity.

Yes, if I look at it this way I can see some truth in that. As any writer knows (except perhaps Rowling, Stephen King, John Green and the likes), writing is a very unprofitable business. Possibly even the most unprofitable of all. How many countless hours do we pour into our novels, memoirs, poems or short stories with only the vaguest possibility of ever being published? How many subsequent hours do we spend drafting and sending off query letters to the entire alphabet of agents in the Artists and Writers handbook? Or maintaining our Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and Goggle + accounts because no serious writer can afford not to have a presence on social media? How many hours do we spend feeling guilty because we’re not sitting down behind our laptops, writing?

If I count up all these hours I end up in the tens of thousands. And what is my financial reward at the end of all of this? Probably around 50p an hour! I’d earn at least ten times that if I was washing dishes somewhere in a greasy restaurant. I’d be a rich woman if I’d applied myself to the art of dishwashing instead of the art of creative writing.

So why do I do it?

Because I love reading, really and truly love reading and would possibly choose this activity over almost anything else in the world when I get a couple of rare hours to myself. I am bowled over by the magic storytellers weave over us, the Steinbecks and Salingers and Zusaks out there. And this awe for their talent, their genius, makes me want to emulate them in some small way. Makes me want to write and become one of that most admired of all species – a writer.

And maybe, just maybe, I can become good at it along the way.

So yes, the desire for recognition and admiration does drive me to write but I wonder, is it only this?

What about all those millions of people out there who feel compelled to write yet don’t chase dreams of being published? What about me? Would I give up writing tomorrow if some all-powerful person were to come up to me and assure me I’d never publish another word for the rest of my life?

You know what, I think not. I don’t believe I’d be able to walk away from writing. So what is the driving force behind this compulsion to create? Be it writing, painting, photography or making music?

Is it similar to the compulsion some people have to carve their names on tree trunks or graffiti the side of a train? Is it that? A primitive human need to state, “I was here. I lived. This is me.”

I don’t know. Possibly. Could be.

Tell me, why do you write?

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The Reluctant Blogger https://www.colettevictor.be/blog/the-reluctant-blogger/ https://www.colettevictor.be/blog/the-reluctant-blogger/#comments Sat, 23 May 2015 16:01:56 +0000 http://www.colettevictor.be/?p=481 It is with a lot of trepidation that I put pen to paper (you would imagine in 2015 I’d be putting cursor to screen but I still write everything out first in longhand), for this, my first ever blog post. … Lees Meer

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It is with a lot of trepidation that I put pen to paper (you would imagine in 2015 I’d be putting cursor to screen but I still write everything out first in longhand), for this, my first ever blog post. Is this something I want to commit to with my already overcrowded life?

“No!” I shout at myself. “As it is you can’t even find the time to go for a walk or plant those pumpkin seedlings into the garden. Where on earth are you going to find time to write a weekly blog?”

“Yes,” the other side of me shouts back, the Conquering-all side (just between us, she can sometimes irritate the heel out of me with all her enthusiasm and misplaced ambition.) “How can any serious author afford not to have an internet presence in 2015?”

OK, OK, Conquering-all-Colette, you’ve got a point there. I am a serious author. I’ve had two novels published by different mainstream publishers in less than a year, both of which were shortlisted for unpublished debut novelist prizes. I am a serious writer.

So then it must surely follow that I have to create an internet presence which means… I know… I must, I am, becoming a blogger.

And as for that little issue of a lack of time, well, you should see the size of my carpet under which I can sweep it. Besides being a serious writer, I’m also a very serious sweeper.

What am I going to blog about? Well, I don’t know really. About the journey I took to get here, about the daunting journey that still lies ahead of me.

You see, all I’ve ever wanted was to be a published author, ever since I was a nine-year-old girl in Miss Damant’s class in Dundee Primary School, Dundee, South Africa. We’d been given the exercise to write an alternative ending for Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. My teacher liked my version so much she sent it to the Dundee Chronicle where it was subsequently published. I could not believe that something that was so much fun – making up stories, climbing into someone else’s head – could be taken so seriously by grown-ups. It was then and there that I decided this was the path for me.

After just twenty-three short years my second fiction publishing success rolled around – my YA novel, Head over heart, Chicken House, 3 July 2014. I’d been published! I’d achieved my goal.

I could stop now. Find a new hobby, stamp-collecting, watch loads of TV, become a couch-potato. Sounded great to me. But no, Conquering-all-Colette was having none of this easy retirement business. My next publishing success had to follow and, fortunately for me, it had been brewing away in the agent-publisher cauldron for months and a second publishing deal was produced. What to do with lobsters in a place like Klippiesfontein was published by Cargo Publishing on 1 May 2015. Whew!

But now that cauldron’s dry and I’m faced with new questions:

  1. What can I do to get exposure for the two novels I already have out there?
  2. Do I have what it takes to write a third good novel or did I only have two flashes-in-the-pan in me?
  3. Does it really take four to six published novels to become and established name, like many more experienced authors are telling me? And how long are the next two to four novels going to take me to write?
  4. Am I going to have the patience and perseverance to stick it out?
  5. Where, of where am I supposed to find the time to write these two to four novels? (I work part-time, have three children still living at home, teach creative writing and various other workshops, run a writers’ group…)
  6. And possibly the most crucial question of all: When I do manage to squeeze two hours out of my day to devote solely to writing, how do I stop myself answering emails, popping in a load of washing or making that phone call?

 

These are the questions I will try to answer in this blog. I suspect these are questions other (semi-professional) writers also bump into. I hope they’re the ones, you’re the ones, who will be subscribing to my blog. I hope some of your answers to these questions can also become my answers.

 

See you next week,

The reluctant blogger

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