#WriteTips: The Filmmaker and The Memoirist

With the theme for the 2017 Short Story Day Africa Prize announced, we thought it would be a perfect time to share with you, some of the latest #WriteTips we've gathered. These two writers come from different literary backgrounds but all their tips really get to the heart of writing your perfect piece - whatever it may be.


Umar Turaki

  1.  A story is a living thing. There is a way it desires to be. Listen closely and it will tell you. The art of hearing what a story wants to be could be called instinct.
  2. Do you remember the scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indy is faced with a great chasm and the only way to cross it is to step out in faith into thin air? That’s writing. Sometimes you don’t need all the answers. Most times, it’s enough to grope your way through the dark until you reach your destination.
  3. Second-guess everything you put down. And never stop. It keeps you grounded and alert.



Susan Newham-Blake

1. I find the only way I can keep on writing is if I remind myself I’m simply telling a story. I focus on getting it down on paper. You can always go back and create the perfect sentence, bring in elements to help with characterisation. So I try not to worry about perfection until after the story is down.

2. Don’t write for anybody or anyone but yourself. Write to get your unique story down on paper, not because you want to get published, be famous, impress your friends. In other words, do it for yourself and no one else and this might alleviate some of the self doubt.

3. If you want to be a better writer, you need to put in the hours. Don’t think about writing the perfect novel or short story. Think of every word you put down on paper as practice. I often think of Malcolm Gladwell’s concept of putting in the 10 000 hours. You need to write for 10 000 hours before you’re going to write that masterpiece!


#WriteTips: The 2016 Short Story Day Africa Prize Winners

Here are some writing tips from three of writers who stories stole the show in the collection. Migrations is available now in all good bookstores in South Africa. They will be happy to order it for you if they don't have it on the shelves. It will be published in the US and UK in September, and will be available as an eBook in all African territories in April.


Sibongile Fisher

Well, I wouldn’t call them writing tips (I’m no expert) but these things sure work for me:

  • Write. Get over the blank page and write
  • Before you write, read something
  • After writing, edit at least three times (here take your time. Your feelings might change about certain parts of your story)
  • Have someone go through your work and give you honest feedback
  • Proofread, it is important.






TJ Benson

  1. Embrace doubt. It is a good thing to feel too small for a work at first. If you are able to conquer it you will be rewarded with a feeling of victory bigger than any prize or acknowledgement. You will know in your heart that you are a true artist.
  2. If your work does is not interesting enough for you it won’t be interesting enough for readers.
  3. To help your work soar over any rejection hurdles and remain re-readable be merciless with tired sentences and clichés. Always seek to invent or pick on a unique way of seeing things.
  4. Mean every sentence. Mean every omission
  5. Listen to how people actually talk to sharpen your dialogue writing skills. I chase after my little cousins with my jotter and pen to capture their thought process.
  6. Always write. In your head. On the bus. Before you go out to start the day. When you wake up from a nightmare. When you are angry with a friend. When you feel guilty in the throes of a moment because you know you will eventually write it. Rehearsal is one sure formula for success.


Megan Ross

Write. Build a body of work. Submit to as many publications as possible, enter competitions, and work with the feedback and criticism you are given. It doesn’t happen overnight but if you are writing consistently, even for an hour or half an hour before bedtime, or before you get up in the morning, you will hone your craft and start to see some motion. Also, make the time to write. People constantly complain about not having the time to write but something has to give; you have to sacrifice somewhere. Friday nights, Saturday mornings, an hour before work, two hours after dinner.

Watch interesting films, listen to music, listen to people!, walk as far as you possibly can – if it’s safe, explore your surrounds by foot if you can’t afford to travel. Moving the body is as important as focusing the mind.

And, most importantly, read. Read as much and as widely as you can. Read authors that you don’t like, that you do like; follow writers on social media. As much as you possibly can, squeeze reading time into your days and nights. And when you read, you will invariably want to write, so have a notebook and pen ready.

Oh and another thing: always carry a notebook and pen. Record every idea, no matter how small. It could work itself into a bestseller someday.  

#WomenCrushWednesday #WriteTips

A publisher, a poet and a writer dispense advice today. And it turned out to be a #WCW to boot. We hope you are inspired by their diverse viewpoints to get writing, to refine your style and share your work with the world.  



Nyana Kakoma

A good editor is on your side. I have met a lot of writers that get defensive when the word “editor” is mentioned. They tend to think that editors are there to just change and destroy everything they have written. But a good editor acts as a writer’s best reader and knowing that they are on your side as a writer eases the process of bringing out the best out of your writing.









Juliane Okot Bitek

Ha, ha, ha. That I should have any writing/editing tips for anyone to follow. I can share what works for me that I have emulated from others.

1. To write well, you must read and read widely.

2. Good work takes time. It might emerge in spurts or even pour out all at once, but even that is the product of time. Be patient.

3. Edit your work. Or have someone else look at it with keen eyes.

4. Not your parents, though. That could go many ways. They might be: oh my god, you’re the best writer in the whole world! (That’s no good). They might go: ya, it’s okay. But when are you going to get a real job? Maybe you can write when you’re retired. (That’s no good, either). Or maybe they’ll go: why don’t you write like xyz who has made movies out of their novels and are now famous? What are you planning to do with this poem/short story/chapter… (That’s no good). Or maybe they’ll go: I don’t know what to make of it. Or, I’m busy. Or, show it to your sister. They understand you better. (Also no good). Your parents might not be the best critics even though they might claim to love you the best and want the best for you. Same with lovers.

5. There are no words so sublime that they cannot be edited out or re-written. Words are tools, not God. Even though we have been taught that in the beginning was the word and the word was God… Ya. (I write this with the humility that any good work requires an excellent editor. Mine was Peter Midgley whose light hand made 100 Days shimmer).

6. I believe that words, like food, must not be wasted. The mark of a good writer is that whose work flows seamlessly as if it was easy. The good writer is absent; all that exists is the world created by the reader and the words on the page. I really, really aspire to that and I recognize that it is a goal not an achievement.

7. Not everything we write must be published. Sometimes words emerge like a prelude to something else. Be patient with your own writing and with yourself.

8. Read some more. Read for content and read for strategy. Note the interesting ways that different artists craft their work. See how you can work your own way out.

9. If you have an inclination towards other works of art, and can, check out other forms of expression. I’m often really inspired and drawn to abstract paintings. What I cannot possibly do on a canvas I try to do in my poetry.

That’s it. That’s everything.


Rahla Xenopoulos

JUST WRITE, WRITE, WRITE, WRITE. Write with love, with friendship, with self-encouragement and abandon. My writing teacher used to say, “if you write with your hand it goes through your heart, if you write with a computer it goes through your head.” So, I’m a believer in hand writing.

Fuck spelling, grammar and most of what you learnt at school, write what’s in your heart. You can correct and edit later.

Also, you can’t write if you don’t read, and if you read trash you will write trash. Read good literature.

#WriterWednesday #WriteTips - The Artist, The Author and The Poet

Our #WriteTips come from a poet, a visual artist and an author so they all approach writing in quite different ways. Each of their views shine light on the writer's journey and the uniqueness of every creative process.


Nikhil Singh

Have the courage to leave the academic world and do some real work. 







Peter Kagayi

I once read this somewhere: erase all your lines until you come to the one you possibly can't live without. That is your beginning.

Write first, think later.

If you know how it ends before it begins, then your beginning is the end.

Do not share first drafts with anyone! At least share the third. (I should follow this rule myself!)



Ifesinachi Okoli-Okapagu

  • Try to do a breakdown of each character before writing. Know your characters so well that s/he/it can easily lead you to the end of their story without too much of your interference. It may seem like a weird idea, but I believe strongly that characters have a way of leading the story. You just need to know who they are and what they want to say.


  • When you’re tired, stop writing and rest. Pushing yourself too hard will only make you have to re-write more in the end than you should. On the flip side, when your emotional level is at its peak, write!


  • Get a friend to look through your work. It helps to get one or two outside comments before publishing, and they may catch one or two things you did not notice.