#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.