Meet Allyson Koekhoven
1. Why did you decide to start writing a book after years as a business-to-business content creator?
It was something I’ve been wanting to do for many years but, like many authors, I was plagued by self-doubt. Add to that a fair amount of procrastination and an infinite supply of excuses, and it’s the perfect storm for not writing.
2. So what was your motivation, finally, to put pen to paper?
After attending two really good courses on novel writing way back in 2009 and buying many books on good writing practice, I spent the next nine years brewing an idea for my debut novel, Under Construction.
A random Facebook post by a friend on NaNoWriMo 2018 caught my attention. I signed up for the challenge to write 50 000 words in November 2018.
3. Was writing Under Construction easy?
The first couple of days of the challenge were pretty unproductive for me as I had absolutely no plan in mind. During the writing process, I discovered that I was what is referred to as a ‘pantser’ – a writer who has no definite plot or system in mind for writing their book. Amazingly, this technique got me all the way through the month.
Most evenings, after a full day of writing press releases and website content for industrial clients, I would secret myself in my office and bash out anywhere between one thousand and four thousand words, depending on how the muse grabbed me that day.
On 29 November, I surprised myself by racking up 51 253 words. I was exhausted but exhilarated. I managed to write a couple of thousand more words the following month, then the proverbial wheels came off. I found that the adrenalin that powered me through November was not enough to not only write more words but more importantly, to finish strong.
Surprisingly, 2020 not only brought the earth-shifting Covid-19 lockdown, but also impelled me to revisit my NaNoWriMo efforts. While they say that ‘you never forget how to ride a bike’, I realised that ‘pantsing’ wouldn’t get the book to the finish line. Months of planning, plotting and revising ensued and in mid-2021 I had a draft to send to beta readers who were tasked with critically and objectively reading my draft to look for plot holes and determine whether it had appeal to other readers.
4. Was the feedback useful?
It’s difficult handing your ‘baby’ over to other people to criticise, but it’s a vital part of the process. Of course, you are going to take some of the feedback personally, but in general, it’s very useful to have honest input on what jars with readers, what parts tickle their funnybone and what makes them cry (whether from relating to your story, or from absolute despair).
After some reshuffling of chapters, and hacking almost 9 000 words off my original word count, Under Construction was ready to be subjected to the red pen (blue on-screen text tracking, actually) corrections and editing by my editor, Cathy Dippnall.
5. What happens to a book once an editor is finished with it?
Fellow author, Anna Jensen, who spends much of her non-writing time making the manuscripts of other authors publication-ready, was the next valuable link in my supply chain. She made my book attractive to readers by applying her special layout and formatting talents and was instrumental in getting my website up and running.
The final step in the pre-publishing process was to call on my trusted advanced reader copy (ARC) readers who have kindly provided feedback on Under Construction that will help readers to decide why they need to read the book.
3. So, what’s next for you?
I’m working on a few plot ideas for a series of cosy mysteries which will star the main character in Under Construction – Adine du Toit, along with some of her fellow characters.