A word from Wiz (part 1)
On 24th August this year, Wiz Wharton, a South London girl (like myself), announced to the world that her debut novel, 'Ghost Girl, Banana' had been snapped up by Hodder as it's 'major launch debut' in summer of 2023. Rights to the book have been sold worldwide.
Editorial Director at Hodder, Sara Adams said: “It’s so rare that a book captures me from the very first page, but Wiz Wharton’s Ghost Girl, Banana did just that."
If you're part of the fabulous Writing Community on Twitter, you will have seen Wiz's announcement and congratulated her yourself. But who is Wiz, how does she write, and what is the secret to achieving the ultimate dream?
I asked and she told me:
WHO IS WIZ?
With the exception of a few brief stints, I grew up in Brixton, South London, in a single-parent, solidly working class environment. My mum came to London in the early sixties from Hong Kong as part of the UK's employment drive from the colonies and I owe a massive debt to her unstinting resilience and determination to succeed despite some pretty awful conditions. At seventeen, I turned down the offer of a place at Oxford to read medicine in favour of English, Classics and Art History at Reading and then, post-graduate, studied screenwriting at the National Film and Television School on a full scholarship. After a few - largely unfruitful - years in the film and TV industry I finally made the move to long-form fiction. It's been a while but I am so excited to say that my debut novel Ghost Girl, Banana will be published as a super-lead for Hodder in Summer 2023 and in the US, Italy and Germany.
PLOTTER OR PANTSTER?
I'm probably more of a PLANTSTER these days. I tend to spend a lot of time carrying an idea around in my head initially, interrogating it in order to see whether it's something I want to spend two years working on. Once I settle on something, however, I do quite an intensive few weeks of planning. I like to know where the story might be headed and most importantly, where I see my characters at the end and how they've transformed (or not). I try not to be too rigid, though, and once I settle into a first draft, I allow a more organic process to take place and not worry too much about how I'm going to get there. I think it's important to occasionally surprise yourself, and usually that's when your reader will be surprised too.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO FIND YOUR OWN VOICE WHEN WRITING? HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU FIND IT?
I know a lot of writers who don't read when they're in the throes of writing, because they're afraid of adopting someone else's voice. For me it's the complete opposite. I love analysing novels as a writer and seeing what works/doesn't work and, also, how I would say it differently. That's good training in finding your own voice, I think, because as much as we might admire other writers, if you were to copy and paste excerpts into your own work you'd see immediately that it jarred. Finding your own voice takes confidence and also practice. The vital thing is not to censor yourself or have some preconceived notion of what seems "writerly". Also, to know that your voice and your characters' voices are not the same thing. Voice, to me at least, is more to do with the types of stories you want to tell, the experiences you want to capture or the themes you tend to explore throughout your career. It's also the way that you tell them: the structure of sentences, the viewpoint and the rhythm and cadence of your prose. Voice develops as you mature because it's the sum total of who you are in your life at any moment, but whatever stage you're at you should always try reading your work aloud. Does it flow, does it sound natural and, most importantly, authentic? If you're honest with yourself, you'll know if it sounds stilted or flowery, or if your characters are simply chess pieces that you're moving around to service the plot (I will die on the hill of plot is character). For me, voice is by far the hardest skill to master in storytelling because rather than being something that can be taught it's experiential. The good thing is, we all have a voice because we've all lived, so it's not something to panic about if it doesn't come straight away. One of the biggest hurdles to get over as a writer is a fear of being vulnerable on the page. Once you can overcome that, you'll be halfway there!
I'm grateful to Wiz, for sparing time to write her replies and give us all an insight into her literary life. Best of all, this is only Part I. Look out for Part II in my next blog.