When I wrote Silk Threads, I had no preconceived ideas about the setting, because I mostly wanted to write about a person with Aspergers Syndrome. Obviously the book had to be set somewhere and since hardly anyone knows where Bulawayo is…
However, that in itself creates a problem. Things that are obvious to me, views I see every day, are not so to a foreigner. Take the blue skies! Most days, here in Bulawayo, we have blue skies. Did I mention that, even once, in any of my books? I know I mentioned the heat in October, because even residents notice that!
Another thing I didn’t consider and now, (reading books about ‘how to write books!’) I’m told is crucial, is my ‘Target Audience!’ Am I trying to sell Silk Threads worldwide, or to people who come from Southern Africa? (I sure don’t have to tell THEM about the sunny skies.) Several people have mentioned that I avoid descriptions and its true, I’d rather the reader created their own imagery. Who cares what the inside of the Academy of Music looks like?All the reader need know, is that it was private!
Below is a picture taken in the Matopos.
Anyone who has lived in Matabeleland has been there. I’m guessing, if they had to wade through me trying to describe the Matopos they would certainly put the book down. But how do I describe to a foreigner what the Matopos is like? How do I describe the massive domes, the balancing rocks and that amazing ‘feel,’ the almost magical atmosphere? But I must, because most foreigners have never even heard of the place. At the same time, I must not lose my local audience too!
A picture saves a thousand words! I wish I could add photographs into my books. I’ve tried to come up with similies to describe Matopos! “Rocks split by a giant cleaver…” “Giant boulders strewn by an angry god…” Whatever the descriptive words, they include giant, huge, boulders…But how giant?
I’ve left the vehicle and person in this photo because it gives some idea how big (and these are relatively small, as Matopos goes) the boulders are.
This is the same ‘kopjie,’ without the vehicle.
I’m guessing people in cities judge sizes by the buildings around them! Take this photograph below:
How many fifty story buildings would fit into this one? Could I possibly fit a building into such a rural setting, surely the mental image just doesn’t fit? If I said it’s twenty square miles around would that mean anything? Perhaps I should say, this boulder would fit into the lower part of Manhattan from such and such a street…
Another thing I learned from reading books about how to write books, is this ‘genre’ issue…did you know, a ‘Romance’ has to fit a certain formula! It has to have a ‘happy-ever-after’ ending! I guess in our modern world, it can be about a gay couple….so where does Silk Threads fit? Without an obvious ‘hero’ and the ‘romance’ probably unresolved, where does it fit? I thought it was what I call drama until I discovered that drama refers to plays! How about Saga? Well its long enough!
This morning I noticed a review of Silk Threads on Amazon! (It was posted ages ago. Ooops!!!) I don’t visit the site very often since I hardly sell any books there. Strangely, Amazon allowed me to reply to his comment! (Last time I tried, I was refused entry as I didn’t have an account??? Duh – so writing a book and putting it on Amazon doesn’t warrant an account?)
Anyway, this is what he said:
I haven’t finished reading the book. From the portion I’ve read so far I think the author is an excellent writer. I have no problem at all with the sex. I’ve read very good erotic literature that is far more explicit than this. I have a minor problem with the plot premise. It’s about a search for a person that has spanned the globe for many many years and now the search has decided to concentrate on the area from which the person originated. Really? Did I miss something? You’re looking for a person and look everywhere on the planet but ‘home’ and now decide to look there? I don’t get it. Not at all logical to me.
Why can’t I finish the book? For me as a guy, ultimately, the book strikes me as a romance novel and for my own personal tastes I have zero interest in romance novels. That is my preference and not a fault with the author. I tried to read one other ‘new author’s’ book and had the same experience. (Though I didn’t think that other book was well written.) I’m sure some can argue this book is different but the periods of Svengali/Pygmalion transformation seemed too long and slow and didn’t appeal to me.
I encourage the author to keep writing. There is a huge audience for this type of good work IMO. I am just not that audience.
It didn’t occur to me, that a foreigner wouldn’t know, that people who left Zimbabwe, in the 1980’s didn’t return! For me, it was obvious Lisa wasn’t in Zimbabwe. She left in 1988 and why would she return, with the country going downhill fast? Inflation of the currency, corruption at high levels of government, currency controls! With European parents and plenty of money to spend, why would she remain in a dump like Bulawayo? And anyway, if she did, someone would know her, Bulawayo is a small place!
Now, with the immediacy of the internet, I not only get to identify that a United States reader doesn’t know that many whites were unprepared to remain in a post-Independent Zimbabwe, but that all my editing of the first part was still inadequate! (For the male readers!)
Of course, with e-books, I can easily change it! Tweek it with a few well chosen words and re-publish. It will only take a minute or two! I won’t change ‘Jack and Jill’ – I’m terrified of losing the anger I felt when I wrote it – maybe one day Il get round to editing it!
What is great, nowadays, are the discussions you can have with your audience. I love it when someone contacts me and we exchange emails about my characters or my plot! And how nice is this guy who hasn’t even finished the book to write such a nice review… AND give me four stars! Its horrid when you see a two star rating pop up with no reasons why the writer didn’t like it. Was it shallow? Confusing? Boring?
As for his last sentence. I’ve decided that I have to get on with my life – writing is an all-consuming occupation. I get totally involved, to the exclusion of all else, and that isn’t really fair to family and clients! And anyway, I’m going to need all the spare time I have to continue with my studies! I have nearly finished with ‘African Cuckoo,’ its only the editing that is required and then I will pack in my pencil, (maybe just keep my hand in with short stories or funny things that occur to me.)
Click here, to download Silk Threads from Amazon
Click here to download A Pale
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