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Short Story Day Africa

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

#WriterWednesday #Writetips

You may have noticed we’ve been featuring African writers in our #WriterWednesday slot. We’ve been collecting their editing and writing tips for you, too. Here’s a round up of editing tips from the writers we interviewed in May and June. Click on their names to read the full interviews on the Short Story Day Africa website.


Tendai Huchu

1. Leave completed manuscript in the fridge-freezer for as long as possible.
2. Procrastinate – it helps.
3. Get a beta reader you trust.
4. Retrieve hacksaw and scalpel from toolbox, collect manuscript from fridge and proceed to hack away.
5. Call Batman.


Henrietta Rose-Innes

1. I write exclusively on screen, but towards the later stages of a piece I find it helps to print it out. I like to print work in different formats for reading over – recently I’ve been setting pages so as to mimic the size, font and layout of a printed book spread. It helps me to see the little mistakes or problems, which leap out at me differently when things are rearranged.

2. Also, I quite often print out a section of a work in progress, physically cut it up and rearrange the bits on my floor. This helps me to visualise the architecture of the piece and to solve bigger structural problems. This is useful if, like me, you can struggle with overarching structure, or if you are a visual thinker.


Iain S Thomas

1. There’s a saying in the legal system, a man who represents himself has a fool for a client. The same is true for editing – get someone else to edit your work. Even if you disagree with what they’ve done, seeing their changes will make you sure of what you’ve done.

2. There is a natural music to language, read your work out aloud constantly.

3. Grammar is the science and art of knowing when and how to breathe. Use your poetic license and any punctuation you want to make the most beautiful sentences possible, without ever making them jarring and horrible to the eye. But never use an ellipses. Ever…

4. Writing and editing are two completely different acts, never edit as your write and don’t write as you edit. First, write crazy, whatever you want, like a maniac. But then always edit like a cold-hearted serial killer. As Mark Twain said, “Kill all your darlings.”


 Lauri Kubuitsile

1. The best editing tip I have is read your work out loud.  It really helps. I even read entire novels out loud.

2.  I’m sure we’ve all heard this before, don’t be precious. Slash what must be slashed. If it is very painful, cut and paste that wonderful bit of writing somewhere else. Maybe someday it will find a new home. It likely won’t, but it helps the heart to save it somewhere.


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