Kay-Dee’s five tips for aspiring authors

By Kay-Dee Mashile

From our very own books editor, here are a few tips to help you become the author you want to be. All under the acronym WRITE – write, read, invest, test and enjoy!

Write! Practice makes perfect

Whenever someone asks me for writing advice, the first thing I tell them is that they must start writing. When an aspiring author asks about the publishing process, my first question is often “what have you written thus far?” because, writers write!

How do you start writing? Pour out your ideas onto a pen and paper or a digital version thereof. Start with the first idea and allow that to guide you. If your topic is research based, do the necessary work and continue to write. Another thing I also tell my authors is don’t try to make sense of the story too soon. Let it flow, your first draft is basically a brainstorming session. If you are one to plan, draw a mind map to guide you. I could never succeed in pre-planning my writing as my ideas are triggered in the process of writing. If you are writing a novel, or a true-life story, however, I have found that recording your story on your phone may also be quite helpful. Simply sit and record each chapter as it comes to you. This is also a great tool to combat writer’s block. Should you get stuck, you can easily revert back to the recording for inspiration.

Read: Good writers are good readers

We learn who we are as writers and find our voices through reading the work of others. Many people have testified that reading expands their language and their imaginations. You can only produce if you consume. Don’t approach it as studying for a test. It’s not that deep, just read as often as you can and see how that equips and empowers you as a writer.

Invest: Get to know your craft and your audience

In this day and age, there are so many free resources at your fingertips. Use them! Some of these are writing blogs, YouTube workshop videos and various webinars. If and when you have the privilege to, invest in writing workshops and master classes. Another thing you can do is read book reviews for books that are in the genre that your writing falls under.

Test YOUR story

Put your writing to the test, get someone to read your work and give you constructive criticism. This can grow gradually. You can start with a close friend and, as you feel comfortable, get someone well versed in writing and language to give you advice. The trick is not to let the guidance discourage you, it can only be constructive if you have the necessary building blocks. Take the advice with a pinch of salt and spit out the bones. Don’t be defensive, allow yourself to assess the criticism and choose what to take and what you simply do not agree with.

Remember that it is YOUR story. Unfortunately, your writing will not appeal to everyone and that is something you need to make peace with. However, you must know your target audience and take the necessary advice and guidance to best communicate with them through your writing – allow your own research investment to also guide you in this.

Enjoy! “writing is an act of love”

It may take you years to finish one book and only a few weeks to finish another, that’s okay. Embrace and enjoy the process. One way to ensure this is to write what you enjoy reading. This is also a good place to start as enjoying the writing process may also increase your creativity. Also, write for yourself. Tell your story and let your voice be heard. Make it worthwhile for you, even if no one else gets to read it.

Contributors

Kay-Dee Mashile

Khotso Dineo (Kay-Dee) Mashile was born in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga. She grew up in many parts of the country, to which she attributes her cultural diversity. Her most steady home is a beautiful village called Nkwinyamahembhe (Lillydale). Kay-Dee’s graduated with a Bachelor in Social Work (with honours) and is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Africa […]

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