You can often find Neema Shah taking part in our monthly Twitter writing competition #WriteCBC (first Thursday of every month), last year she won one of the monthly challenges and was awarded a place on our Edit & Pitch Your Novel 6-week online course. Now she has a two book deal with Picador!
Read on to find out more about Neema’s approach to novel-writing and her love of the Twitter writing community …
You are a #WriteCBC regular, what impact has being part of the writing community on Twitter and taking part in our monthly writing tips and tasks had on your writing?
I took part in the first #WriteCBC and have been hooked ever since. For some reason, I prefer writing pieces that are either super short e.g. flash fiction or long, like my novel I’ve always found the bit in the middle – short stories – more of a challenge. The competition seemed like a good way to keep the creative fires burning whilst editing the drafts of my novel tried their best to put them out. The monthly tasks pushed me put of my comfort zone and focus on things I found challenging (dialogue, I’m talking about you). I also couldn’t have imagined the support amongst the community nor how many new writing friends I’d make. A few got together to create the Virtual Writing Group @virtwriting so we could continue writing micro fiction and supporting each outside of the monthly tasks. We also beta read for each other too. It’s grown to almost a 1000 members now and we’re always looking for new writers to join.
Last year you took our Edit & Pitch Your Novel course. What was your experience of studying online with us?
I actually prefer editing to writing but I find it daunting tackling a whole long list of edits in a 100k word novel. The course taught me new and managable ways to deal with each edit. I once again met some lovely new writers and a few of us have since kept in touch and beta read for each other. Online courses work really well for me as I juggle writing around a full-time job.
Your debut historical novel Kololo Hill will be published by Picador in 2021. What did you do when you found out you were going to be published?
That week is a little bit of a blur, to be honest. It took at least a month for the news to sink in. I grew up reading Picador books and the idea that my name would appear on their list of authors was – and is – surreal. I’ve been a little slack about celebrating but this month I have a few different celebrations planned with friends and family, all involving copious amounts of food and bubbly.
Do you have any writing rituals or routines?
Not really, apart from eating a lot of biscuits and procastinating…
Seriously though, I knew that if I was ever going to the novel finished, I just had to get the words down, however I could, so the last thing I needed was to impose further restrictions on myself. I wrote a lot of the novel on my commute (thumb and finger typing on my phone), sometimes jotting down a line or thought when it came to me in the evening, the rest at weekends. I do believe in not looking back on a first draft though. If I’d kept reading over the last set of words I’d written and tinkering with them, I’d probably still be writing that first draft now.
What advice would you like to pass on to aspiring authors?
Write something you feel passionate about, a story that truly fires you up because when you’ve finished that first draft, you may well have to do another 10 or 20 drafts before you’re published. It’s a bit like a long marriage: your love is definitely going to be put to the test!
Don’t forget that what’s on show in the book industry is usually the good stuff. As writers, we hear plenty about the deals and the marketing campaigns and prizes. But what we tend to hear less about is the self-doubt, the rejections, the false starts. I think it’s important to stay motivated by seeking out the honest stories too. Find the authors who started later in life or who didn’t win any awards before publishing or who found success with their debut after a lot of rejections. I found it useful to remind myself of those journeys during the challenging times.
What’s next for your writing journey?
I’m busy researching book 2. I can’t say much about it as I’m still exploring the story. I’m in that lovely honeymoon phase where everything seems perfect because I haven’t written anything. I’m going to blog about how it develops in the my shiny new website: Neema Shah Author. I’m also discussing edits for my debut with my editor. And of course, you’ll find me on #WriteCBC each month.
Enrol now on one of our 6-week online novel-writing courses, designed to help you at different stages of your novel-writing journey: Starting to Write Your Novel, Write to the End of Your Novel or Edit & Pitch Your Novel.