IT’S TELEVISION TUESDAY
With Chris Fox
Week 1: Worldbuilding
You’re a writer; so what’s your story, or what inspired you?
Becoming a writer was a natural progression of my professional life. I have a liberal arts degree majoring in English and Psychology before training as a high school English and Guidance teacher. After that I moved into Adult Education in which I hold a Master’s Degree.
I worked at the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa) teaching academic writing before embarking on a project in the arena of HIV and AIDS, a devastating pandemic affecting many people in Southern Africa.
After a three year period of travelling the country, the UICEF and Department of Social Development initiative ran its course and I was at a crossroads. I was processing experiences of working in semi-rural environments with people who had very different social practices and cultures. I decided these, with a bit of flair and a stretch of the imagination, would make good stories.
I really appreciate your kindness in helping others. Education at necessary at every stage in life. Very unique.
What’s your GOAL in becoming a writer?
I began to write to make sense of aspects of life that affected or concerned me. I had been a social activist and was worried about many issues such as the instability of southern Africa and how this feeds into the exploitation of women and children (sex trafficking). I had witnessed the downward spiral that accompanies drug addiction, and I wanted to write novels that exposed the harsh realities of life to sensitise people towards these conditions and to increase tolerance and understanding. Wrapping them in the guise of fiction in a gripping psychological thriller was one way I thought would make them more palatable.
Writing, for me, is therapeutic and is a way I can release my creativity. It is something my soul demands I do. It gives me tremendous pleasure and, at times, a fair bit of pain too!
Wow. That’s a great way to release your creativity, Sarah. These are harsh realities the world has to deal with, but ‘m glad your muse has found an outlet to tackle them! I have tons of books to read but I’d like to make room for yours as well.
What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects? (CONFLICT)
I have completed all of my projects so far. My debut novel, Tangled Weeds is a stand-alone book and currently I have almost finished The Starlight Tide, the final book in my Sisters of Light trilogy, This follows The Dandelion Clock and The Butterfly Wind.
I have been writing since 2011 and, although I could have written faster, I have not put myself under creative pressure. Life gets in the way of art at times and I have been involved in raising our two daughters and have family responsibilities. At stages I have had a mini crisis of faith but I am doggedly determined and once a book is begun am driven to complete it.
Life does certainly get in the way at times. Much too often in my opinion, but I admire your determination! Once we start something it must be finished. That’s the way it ought to be.
What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream? (DESIRE)
Writing is my life’s purpose at the moment and that passion goes a long way to keeping me motivated. There is nothing better than seeing your book published with your name on the cover.
I have a highly active imagination and a plethora of ideas. Once a setting and a cast of characters invade my mind I am under siege! My characters develop through my stories; they evolve or devolve as the case may be. The moral dilemmas they face are of particular interest to me. I believe that good must triumph over evil and there is always a chance of redemption. I think that this message of hope must be offered to readers in these challenging times.
YES, I love it! Purpose and passion are two big motivators for anyone. I love the imagination of authors! It keeps me turning the pages coming back for more. Can’t wait to read your books.
What’s your ANTAGONIST? What’s in the way?
One can always find excuses that delay or sabotage dreams.
This game can be overwhelming and doubt destructive. I am fortunate that I have a husband who supports me and my work, which is a huge factor. I have also learnt that it is more important to live modestly and do what makes you truly happy.
Your statements rings so true. Excuses, doubt, and lack of support all are formidable opponents.
Why do writers give up, quit or never complete their projects?
There are so many answers to that question. Writers often feel lonely and have no support. They cannot pay the rent by writing. Insecurity about the quality of their work shuts down their imagination and they run out of ideas and cannot finish their stories. They read other people’s books and feel inferior and are rejected too many times by publishers and/or their confidence is eroded by unfavourable reviews. They are overwhelmed by the fact that writing is the easy part of the job and the rest is too great a mountain to even attempt to summit.
This is a great list. An accurate one too! This is one of my favorite responses to this question.
What would you say to a struggling writer who’s given up?
Write for yourself. Write for personal satisfaction and mental gymnastics for your brain. Appreciate that writing is not easy. Some days you strike the keyboard with smug satisfaction and other days you sit tormented and tearful. Try to get into a routine of writing every day – even if it’s just for twenty minutes, The more you practice the better you’ll get.
Like everything in life, you have to deeply desire the final product and realise that it takes a lot of effort, sweat and tears. Finish what you start. It gives you a great sense of accomplishment. Writing teaches you discipline and courage and these attributes will stand you in great stead throughout your life.
Find a writing group or a mentor. Use social media to link to like-minded readers and writers – there are a gazillion out there. Writers are kind; they form communities and nurture and support each other.
Excellent! Medicine for the weary!
What else do you have coming down the pike?
Once I have completed my trilogy, I plan to write a novel highlighting the plight of rural girls in South Africa.
From the coastal city of Durban, to rural hills outside Ixopo, to smoky Alexandra Township and the posh suburbs of Johannesburg, Veils of Smoke will follow Nonhlanhla Biyela on a dangerous undertaking to try to locate her missing cousin, Sinazo.
Wonderful. Keep us posted on the third installment and the next novel. Would love to see how it pans out.
*Where are you originally from?
I am South African born and bred, hailing from Springs, a small mining town on the apron of Johannesburg, the city of Gold.
Awesome!! I know a few peeps in S. Africa. In Cape Town and Johannesburg.
*What kind of band were you in?
LOL! I was never in a band. I was a dancer. I started in engineering then computers and then did a flip flop and became a dancer. I must have been pretty good at it – I did my first professional show before taking a class! I went on to perform as principal dancer at the Moulin Rouge in Paris – a show with the hottest women on Earth. What a life!
Wow! I’m trying to picture you dancing in my head.
*Introduce us to your main character.
Arnold Dup Preez makes movies – and everyone calls him Dup. He was a dancer when he was younger (funny that), and followed a natural progression into movie production. He has an ex beauty queen wife and two young kids, but his life is a shambles. His business is going to the dogs and he is less than impressed with life in the new South Africa. He is not overly ambitious and his business is floundering. He has reached a cross-roads in his life. He knows the journey ahead will not have a happy ending the way things are going, but does not know how to change. He is pretty desperate and open to suggestions – that could have bad outcomes. But deep down he has character and strength even he never knew he had. And being forced into corners will reveal his true mettle.
Nice. Our true colors shine when we’re under pressure. Way to go Dup!
*You’re a writer; so whats your story, or what inspired you?
Frustration in a world going bonkers? My first book was Seed of Reason – a fantasy. It is about a New Order that was going to right all wrongs – which then goes pear-shaped when the darker attributes of puppet-masters reveal themselves. It is a book that takes a look at people and society and questions a lot of things about life. It took me 7 years to complete and I am very proud of it. After that I decided to have some fun, and Dup was written with a very different intent –basically to press buttons and get pulses racing.
Interesting. At least your persistence paid off after 7 years. At this rate, my first book will be done after 7 years.
*What’s your GOAL in becoming a writer?
I s’pose to be read – and hope some people like my stuff. Writing is a very frightening prospect at times. It is human nature to want people to like you when you are bearing your soul and placing your talents up for scrutiny. But the Goal? Hey: Fame and fortune! Lol!
Hahahhaha!! That’s great. I understand and agree about bearing your soul to the page wondering how it’ll turn out. I”m there right now. I love the simplicity of wanting to be read. That says it all.
*What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects? (CONFLICT)
Three things that hinder? Me, me and me. We can all do what we set our minds to, but sometimes life gets in the way …Or that’s what we tell ourselves. I believe I can write, but sometimes when writing, question this conviction. But always, we have it within us to do. But that doing is sometimes really difficult.
I totally relate to this. Why is it so hard get past our fears? It’s a very subtle feeling.
*What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream? (DESIRE)
Ask that to the worker bee. It is in my nature. I chizel away in my little playground and believe that one day, some of the things I do will be great.
That’s right! If we believe it, it will happen. Plain and simple.
*What’s your ANTAGONIST? What’s in the way?
Family and professional obligations. I once heard that if a guy hasn’t made it by forty, he never will. I don’t think it’s as much an age thing as a family thing. When still single, I could do with my time what I wanted. Now my first responsibility is my family – and that’s not only financial. It’s love, my company, my time. This is a blessing, but with regard to dedication to creation, certainly a challenge – But one well appreciated!
Those are all wonderful things! I’m in the same boat.
*If you have given up your dream, why?
I believe dreams change. What I dreamt for in my twenties are not the same things I dream about now. And it is this fact that brings the dynamics which forge our characters. When you get stuck in a dream, you miss out on the world of opportunities that pass you every day.
I like the spin on this. Very true.
*Why do writers give up, quit or never complete their projects?
I don’t think it’s only writers that give up. People give up in all careers and situations – the same as there are success stories everywhere in life. Giving up is not a milestone, it is a state of mind. We can achieve whatever we want so long as we believe it can be done, we believe we personally can do it; we start and then keep going, and resolve never to give up until it’s done. This is the mindset of success.
I love that statement!! Lovely. The mindset means a lot. Our state of mind throughout the process has a lot to do with it. Thanks for sharing.
*What would you say to a struggling writer who’s given up?
Don’t be so dumb. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and looking to blame someone or something. And stop being so precious about whether it is a success or not. Set a date, stick to the date and get down to it. Keep going ‘til the end, and whether it is a best seller or spaghetti, pat yourself on the back for writing a book – because not everyone can do that…
Amen to that brother! I love the bluntness to this one. In other words, get ‘er done! Totally needed to hear that one.
BONUS: What else do you have coming down the pike?
I’ve got three other stories swimming around in my head. I have started on two of them. One is a prequel to Dup. A somewhat darkly humorous love story. Should be interesting…Beside that, life, life and more life – warm in the love of my family.
Story Genius is a foolproof program that saves writers from penning hundreds of pages only to realize that something’s not working and they have to start again. Informed by story consultant Lisa Cron’s science-based insights into how story structure is built into the architecture of the brain, this guide shows writers how to plumb the nitty-gritty details of their raw idea to organically generate a story scene by scene. Once writers reach the end of Cron’s program, they will have both a blueprint that works and plenty of compelling writing suitable for their finished novel–allowing them to write forward with confidence.
Lisa Cron starts off by asking “What’s the biggest mistake writers make?…The answer is easy: they don’t know what a story is.” What an epic statement!
This is one writing craft book that’ll really keep you thinking on your toes. What am I really writing about? How does this affect my protagonists inner journey? Time after time, again and again, Lisa brings us through a case study of a real manuscript by writer Jenny Nash. Skillfully causing us to ask ourselves what is it that I’m actually writing about? What is my story? How does this affect my story?
Put this one on your TBR list to read and reread. High fives to Lisa Cron for pulling this one out of the hat.
WELCOME TO THE WRITING TRAIN FOLKS!
Get in. It’s time for a ride. I’m glad you could join us.
This is a very historical moment ladies and gents, for it’s the first post of many to come. I’m hoping to keep the ink wet with words flowing smoothly from the heart to the page. But this blog isn’t just about me. It’s you and I intertwined as part of the writing community. Awesome right? Writers are the most intriguing people on Earth. Hands down and second to none. That means your awesome.
Question. What if the whole world was in your hands? What would you do with it? If you could feel the breadth, width of the entire earth in the grip of your palm?
As writers we may have many fears that ultimately slaughter our dreams of being successful. Maybe it’s the grim reaper, the killer of dreams. But okay, so let’s not blame the grim reaper for now. How about us? We’re our own worst critic. Doubt. Fear. Dismay. There’s seems to be an invisible tape recorder playing nonstop in the background. And boy, do we know that tune. We fall for it every time. Hook, line, and sinker. “You’ll never make it, you’re simply not good enough. You’ll never be a writer”. Or I suppose it could be a fierce zombie crazed energizer bunny, running around demonizing all the would be authors. Is that what we really fear? Is success that scary?
Well, I’m no different than the next. Fears abound. But hey, let’s turn the tables on ol’ grim. Embrace the fear, gaze sternly back in it’s fickle eye and welcome him with open arms. In other words, it’s an opportunity to learn something. It’s called writing. I’m discovering that writing is largely a learning process. A marvelous lifelong learning marathon versus an all out weekend sprint. A craft that can be learned with training, practice, hiccups, coffee and mistakes. Yup. Mistakes. Lots of them. How else can one learn anything? I’m certain that no bestselling author hasn’t taken this road. It’s a long rugged road. How far will you go? Don’t travel alone and definitely don’t quit. It’s a long way back. Join the train instead.
I’m all in. How about you?
The world is in your hands, open your eyes and make it yours. Why not give it a story?
Join the writing train by following this blog directly or by email. Find me on twitter @thewritingtrain or on tumblr at The Writing Train.
Well, until the next time…
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