Writing Advice


The Centre for the Book in Cape Town has published a series of booklets on topics like getting started as a writer and understanding publishing contracts. The booklets can be purchased from the Centre.

On Writing by Stephen King

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing by Elmore Leonard


The South African Translators’ Institute has a list of institutions that offer courses and degrees in translation.


Not quite everything you need to know about writing, but close” – Tiah Beautement from Short Story Day Africa

Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully – in Ten Minutes” – Stephen King

Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle” – Elmore Leonard


“Remember to play; remember there’s more than one right way” – Karin Brynard

“The neurosis around whether one’s writing is any good and the struggle to get published are all part of the struggle for clarity, of shaping and discovering yourself as a writer – honour that” – Maren Bodenstein

“Refuse to be discouraged and try to find a reliable reader for feedback” – Geoffrey Haresnape

“Keep a diary” – Finuala Dowling

“Two apparently contradictory acts: 1. gather a good group of fellow writers with whom you can share time, generous reading and one another’s work, and 2. nurture your own stubborn ear. And rest and take solace in reading” – Gabeba Baderoon

“Read, of course, read as much and as widely as you can. Doing a literature course at university introduced me to the nuances of interpreting writing in an academic sense – I took English and majored in African Literature at Wits University. Try and join a good writing group – so that you can get good feedback on your writing. And stay true to your dream and passion. Do whatever it takes – don’t let people discourage you by telling you that it’s hard to make money out of it. Publish when and as you can – it gives you a boost, confidence-wise, and encourages you to write more. Not everything you publish will be brilliant, but that’s part of the journey. Enter competitions. They get you noticed if you win or come somewhere – and they also serve as further encouragement to your writing.

I also read some advice from a writer recently – her name escapes me – but her advice was to have a half day job, or a three-day a week job so that you can still eat and pay the bills and all – but that leaves you time and more importantly energy to write. Of course, that’s not always possible – and you may find yourself with a punishing 5-day a week schedule – but carve out time, whatever it takes. Whether it’s evenings, early mornings, weekends, whatever. That’s how PD James forged ahead – she wrote on the trains going to work. She had a husband in an institution, two children to care for and a demanding job. But she wrote when she could.” – Arja Salafranca

“Read, read, read a lot and then write” – Niq Mhlongo

“Write first, judge later. Put the work away for three months before you look at it again. Persevere.” – Beverly Rycroft

“Don’t write for therapy, financial gain or glory. Write for the beauty of language and the joy of story. The first three things will disappoint you and rob you of the other two.” – Rachel Zadok

“1. Finish the damn book. You don’t know what you have until you’ve finished it. You don’t know how to fix it until it’s all down on the page.
2. There is no magical motivation fairy. Success is 10% talent, 10% luck, and 80% blood, sweat, tears and determination.
3. If you want to write you won’t find the time, you will make the time. I wrote a novel at night when I had a three-month-old daughter and a full-time job.
4. Remember that first drafts are always messy but you can fix them.
5. You learn how to write by writing. I found having a deadline worked well for me when I was studying creative writing at UCT.” – Lauren Beukes

“Write if you have an unreasonable certainty that you need to, and if you can’t stop yourself. And if enough people other than yourself recognise that you have the ability to make it work.” – Ken Barris