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Fiona Snyckers

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Bungee Jumping For Writers

Stepping out of my comfort zone is something I really Don’t Enjoy Doing. You won’t catch me standing on top of the Carlton Centre in the cold, grey dawn with a parachute strapped to my back, looking to break some world record for Deeply Asinine Stupidity. I don’t paraglide, skyjump, mountain bike, abseil, scuba dive, rockclimb, or even hike unless I can do it in heels and a frilly dress. The only time I’ll go camping is when they start making tents that come with room service and a minibar.

I’m pretty much the same with my stories. I know what I like writing, I know what I’m good at, and I’m not real keen on stepping outside these comforting parameters. Unfortunately I also have a positively Tracy Engelbrechtian inability to say no to new writing projects.

My first foray into what I like to think of as the extreme sports of writing occurred a couple of months ago when I received a mysterious, anonymous invitation to a party at Melrose Arch, with strict instructions to tell nobody where I was going. I was convinced that I was going to be kidnapped, murdered and have my body tipped into Zoo Lake. I showed the invitation to Louis Greenberg, that font of all online wisdom. He agreed with my assessment of the situation – even going to far as to volunteer to drag Zoo Lake for my lifeless corpse.

But then a blogger that I trust persuade me to attend, and I found myself neither kidnapped nor murdered, although I did get briefly lost in the Kafkaesque sprawl of the Melrose Arch underground parking – nothing new there. The party – well lubricated with wine and girly edibles – turned out to be a recruitment meeting for a new website called Girl Guides. A jaw-dropping array of writing talent was in that room, with some of South Africa’s most prominent women bloggers and tweeters gathered under one roof.

Girl Guides, we were told, was all about women reviewing technology for other women. Because men seem to think that bringing a gadget out in pink is all it takes to appeal to the female market, women tend to trust other women when it comes to choosing new technology to buy. It all made perfect sense to me … although I couldn’t quite understand what I was doing there. Yes, I use technology all the time. Yes, I’m an avid social media addict. But I’m so far from being a tech-geek that if geekdom were the Klingon Empire, I’d be the fourth planet in the Romulan system, with no dilithium crystals to get me there. (See, not geeky at all).

But it turned out that was the whole point. It seems I’m not alone in my total lack of interest in how many giga-pixel-whatsits a gadget has. I’m just interested in how it will complement my life as a stay-at-home mother slash writer person with an interest in fashion and all things girly-cool. So when I’d got over my fear that I was entirely the wrong person for the job, I found that I absolutely LOVE trying out new technology and writing about it as honestly as I know how. You can check out my first review for over here. I must confess to loving the fact that I could use the phrase “this thing attracts sweat like Schwarzenegger’s jockstrap”, without anyone telling me to mind my manners.

No sooner had I gotten comfortable with the role of tech-reviewer than I took on the mantle of mobile phone novelist for the Shuttleworth Foundation. Their Yoza Mobi project is being vastly expanded following the huge success of the Kontax series. I was brought on board to write the teen chick-lit story – which would have been right up my street if not for the extremely short format. The novels are a scant 8,000 words, with each chapter or episode totalling no more than 400 words. I’ve got used to thinking in 100,000 word chunks, which is pretty standard for the kind of popular women’s fiction I write. Bite-sized chapters, each with a cliffhanger ending, seemed like a challenge on a par with base-jumping.

What surprised me was how easily I took to it and how much I enjoyed working a soap opera element into the story. And now that the story has gone live, I get the daily thrill of seeing the comments and feedback streaming in on the website for each chapter. For a novelist who is used to waiting weeks for reviews to appear in the press, this kind of instant gratification is incredibly … well … gratifying. You can check out the first two chapters of Latoya’s Secret here. I had a huge amount of fun writing it, and hope the readers will have just as much fun reading it.

So the upshot of the story is that I’m starting to understand some of the thrill of moving outside one’s comfort zone. All that pumping adrenalin. The throat-closing terror. The rush of endorphins when it’s all over. I really think I’m starting to get it. So next time someone invites me to come whitewater rafting with them … I’ll explain that I already get all the kicks I need right here in front of my laptop.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    August 23rd, 2010 @14:14 #

    Fifi, you HAVE been busy. I'm impressed, and I like yr first GG review (although it took me a while to figure out WHAT you were reviewing). But where oh where were the GG when I was agonising over buying a laptop last year (in spite of endless testing and research, I now have an expensive piece of hardware I never use)? Ah well, you'll be able to help me buy a new phone. Won't you?


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