You sit on a desk with a black ink pen in your hand

and you free the thoughts stuck in your head;

you exercise the grandest of freedoms in a world

that previously crushed such ambitions.

To be a black and bisexual woman

who jots down words that won’t be judged

by the colour of her skin or proclivities of her heart.

Your words, darling, will be judged only by their strength

and the power they wield for those who read them.

The freedom to paint the white page with black ink

tells of how we can collaborate and

make something great.

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Writing

From manufacturing to healthcare, artificial intelligence has revolutionised many industries. Its impact on writing as a profession has been debated. Some say AI threatens the writing industry, and others say it can improve it. There is no doubt that there are potential threats and opportunities presented by artificial intelligence in writing as a profession.

With apps like ChatGPT gaining popularity, there’s a fear that AI could soon replace writers. These apps are already producing articles, essays, and even novels that are hard to tell apart from human writing. With vast data, AI writing algorithms produce consistent, grammatical, and error-free content. Therefore, AI can write better than humans at a faster pace. AI algorithms can even emulate the writing styles of famous authors, which could reduce the need for writers.

Writing could become less creative if AI takes over. AI can write well, but it lacks that human touch that makes writing engaging and relatable. Because AI algorithms use preprogrammed templates, they can’t develop anything new. Furthermore, AI-generated content doesn’t have the emotional depth that human writers do. As a result, Artificial intelligence might cause a decline in creativity and the emergence of formulaic writing.

AI also presents opportunities in the writing world. AI can help writers produce high-quality content faster and more efficiently. To generate ideas and insights, writers can use AI algorithms to analyse big data, like customer feedback and industry trends. The writers can spend more time refining their ideas and less time researching. In addition, AI can help writers check their work for grammatical errors, ensuring it’s clear and concise.

In addition to helping writers reach a broader audience, AI can make writing easier. By analysing reader behaviour, AI algorithms can determine what type of content works best. This means that writers can use AI to tailor their content to specific audiences, increasing the likelihood of their work being read and shared. Writers can also use AI to optimise their content for search engines so it’s easier to find online.

Even though there are legitimate concerns about AI’s impact on writing, it’s essential to recognise the opportunities it can create. With AI, writers can produce high-quality content more efficiently, reach a wider audience, and tailor their work to specific readers. Remembering that AI can’t replace human creativity and emotional depth is essential. Artificial Intelligence should be viewed as an enhancement, not a replacement, for writing.

Is AI a big threat for writers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Setting Achievable Writing Goals

The process of writing a book can be frustrating, to say the least. There’s the initial stage when you just write and tell everyone you know you’re working on a book, “the next great South African novel” or something. Next comes planning and mulling over how many drafts or even which direction to take the story. It’s often said that discipline is the most important part of writing a novel, and setting writing goals is right up there with discipline. By setting attainable and realistic writing goals, writers can stay motivated to outline, draft, edit, and revise their work daily, monthly, and annually.

Goals can help you identify what you want and make a plan to achieve it. The book you’ve always dreamed of writing could never be finished without goals to keep you focused and on track. To write a novel, you need more than just a plan; you also need to outline the steps you’ll take.  

By setting smart goals, such as daily page and word counts, you will incrementally progress toward completing your novel. This will make big projects easier to handle. As a guide to helping you along your writing journey, we’ve outlined five steps below:


Goals that are unrealistic will be unachievable and overwhelming. If you are passionate about finishing your novel, don’t push yourself too hard and set unrealistic goals. It might not be reasonable to set a goal of writing your novel within one month, for instance. It is not a good idea to set a word-count goal of writing 10 000 words a day if you are also working a full-time job. The sooner you set reasonable goals, the easier it will be for you in the long run.

You can achieve your writing goals one day at a time by setting daily goals. Instead of burning yourself out early with ambitious expectations, create daily habits that will help you achieve your goals. Here are some goals that many writers will set for themselves:

  • Write 1 500 words every day
  • Making use of writing journal
  • Using writing tools or templates


In the absence of clear goals, you will be unable to track your progress. However, if your goals are more specific, you’ll know when you’ve accomplished them. You can check off your accomplishments as you go if you create goals you can track. In addition to helping you develop daily writing habits, this will help you develop smaller goals that will pay off in the long run.

In the absence of clear goals, you will be unable to track your progress. However, if your goals are more specific, you’ll know when you’ve accomplished them. You can check off your accomplishments as you go if you create goals you can track. In addition to helping you develop daily writing habits, this will help you develop smaller goals that will pay off in the long run.

Tracking writing goals is easier when they are defined by numbers or deadlines. A good example is setting a goal of writing at least a certain number of words every day, and then checking in at the end of each month to see how it went. Alternatively, you could plan to have a certain number of pages by a certain date.

Set a deadline for the completion of your project. You might want to finish by the end of the year, or you might want to finish in a specific number of months. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time each day to work on a small piece, and you might be able to finish your manuscript by the end of the year.


No matter what kind of writing project you do – be it a fiction novel, a set of short stories, or a non-fiction book – you will write thousands of words and perhaps hundreds of pages. Keep track of your progress. The closer you get to completing your first draft and crossing the finish line, the more likely you are to succeed.

You can easily track your goals by using a calendar. Mark off your goals as you go on each day. Keeping a journal can also help you keep track of your progress. Sometimes, you find that your goals are too ambitious, or not ambitious enough. In some cases, you may find that you don’t have the time to write every day as you thought. In order to meet your needs, you can modify or write new goals along the way.


Making your goals a priority is necessary if you want to achieve them. Unless you do, you’ll find every excuse not to achieve them, and you’ll lose sight of your long-term goals. Finally, you will have the opportunity to learn time-management skills and become an author.

Your schedule should be evaluated to determine where and when you will write each day. To achieve your daily goal, you should be fully focused and time-bound during this planned writing period.


Every author has a different reason for writing. When you’re feeling like you can’t write anymore, tapping into your passion will motivate you. You don’t want to halt your writing career because of writer’s block.

As you work toward your long-term goals, consider incorporating a reward system to motivate yourself. A good example would be to tell yourself that if you write every day for a month, you will buy yourself something nice. Depending on how many words you write, you can also give yourself a day off.

Whenever you feel down or need inspiration to write, listen to a writing podcast, read blogs written by people who are working on their own projects, or watch videos of authors at writing conferences. Seeing how other writers have achieved their writing goals can inspire you to do the same. From good writers, you can learn a lot about setting effective writing goals and becoming a better writer. In addition, you can find local groups of writers who can serve as a support network throughout the writing process.

Check out our shop for some writing tools to get you started on the next great South African story!

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    How many drafts for my fiction writing?

    It’s probably one of the most common email queries we receive, and it’s really like asking anyone how long a piece of string is. Some writers say three, four, eight and even ten! In all honesty, there is no magic number.

    As you develop your process, the best thing is to consider your chosen genre, writing experience, and why you want to write. For example, a sci-fi/fantasy writer will go through more drafts than one writing a memoir as they would use more of their imagination.

    Regardless of the genre, new writers tend to get stuck when writing. They rewrite ad nauseam and ultimately never finish the story and give up, which is sad. Imagine all the plots and stories sitting on millions of shelves and hard drives.

    Which brings us to the first part, what is your motivation for writing: to launch a career or pass the time? Regardless of your intent, there’s no wrong reason to write fiction. However, different intentions require different drafting processes… one may not need the assistance of an editor, while another may require a manuscript assessment.

    As a result, we came up with a foolproof three draft step to writing fiction – each step may require one to go through two separate drafts.


    The most exciting part. It gets you giddy, and you can’t stop telling everyone around you that you’re writing. There are no rules, just write… spill away and don’t look back. No changes are allowed. Let your plot and characters take shape… word salad? That’s ok.

    The point here is to get whatever is in your head onto paper (or the blank word processor screen). Let it all unfold. Whatever you do, do not step away from the manuscript – except maybe for coffee. No research allowed; just make a note for later. It’s not going to be perfect or ready to publish, but all you need to do here is write.

    This part can take a day (if you’re that fast) to a year, depending on how much time you set aside to write, how long your piece of fiction is and how quickly you write. Remember always to check the word count required for your chosen work of fiction… is it a short story? A poem? A novella? A novel? Whichever one, it’s always best to set attainable writing goals to ensure that you succeed.


    This is the part where your piece takes shape, but before you get here, ensure you’ve given yourself a good break from the first draft – no, really. Stretch, step away from the desk, have a good meal, reconnect with those around you, pick up a new hobby, go to the gym, go on holiday… you get the idea. It’s like letting baked goods cool down after taking them out the over. It’s essential. You and your piece need to rest.

    The first draft will obviously need a lot of work, do not despair. It’s absolutely normal, and here’s how to approach this step:

    • Summarise each part/act/scene in one sentence – this helps spot any plot holes and highlight parts that don’t drive the plot. The golden rule of fiction is that everything happens for a reason; what a character says or does needs to drive the story.
    • Print a hard copy and read – it’s an excellent way to spot grammar and spelling errors, tense mix-ups, repetition etc. You do not have to fix every issue. Just ensure it’s easier to read.
    • Read as a reader – focus on each character and their development. Are they boring? Dynamic? Stereotypical?


    The scariest stage… you’re handing your work over to somebody else to scrutinise. It may be a friend, family member (just not your mum) or even a professional editor… anyone who can give constructive feedback.

    You may need to write another draft based on your feedback after this step.

    While there is no strict rule on how many drafts to write for fiction; however, the above three draft process is a great place to start.

    Remember that you may need to write two or three drafts in-between each step. The whole process takes time, but you will notice the results in the quality of your manuscript if you put in the effort.

    Happy writing!

    Check out our shop for some writing tools to get you started on the next great South African story!

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    If 2020 were a book…

    …it would definitely be Charles Dicken’s 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities, particularly the opening line (re very long sentence) as it creates awareness and explores the societal conditions that lead to collapse, havoc and people fighting against forces bigger than themselves. He writes:

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

    Charles DickensA Tale of Two Cities (1859)

    In no attempt to recap the past year’s events, it was evidently a turbulent time that forced us to adapt to the sudden changes leaving us with no chance to step back and take it all in. Dickens was aware that we all tend to claim that our current epoch is riddled with duality, the most difficult, the most uncertain, the most unprecedented. However, his novel points out that the Victorians nor we are the first to think that way.

    The phrase “the period was so far like the present period” maintains this mindset very well in that every new generation thinks their struggles are uniquely tricky. 2020 is a good example. It is an unprecedented time, and we even acknowledge the fact that there have long been pandemics and political turmoil and there will still be after us, however, to read about them is very different as to living through them, it is unsettling and overwhelming leading us to proclaim “it was the worst of times”.

    Let us know in the comments below which book you’d choose!

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    There’s no greater feeling than finally putting down a really thick book and thinking “Yep, I read all that!”

    Bearing in mind that the average word count for a novel is 250 – 300 words, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite long books:

    ACID ALEX – AL LOVEJOY (400 pages)

    Stuck at his first 9-5 and seeking a more exciting experience before his next music festival holiday, Try picked this raw and deeply moving autobiography set in 1970’s South Africa and two weeks later we found him in a corner weeping. A must-read.


    Back when Coin was working in a bookshop, getting through her French studies and reading up on existentialism. She discovered Proust and set out to read his chef d’oevure, which focuses on the nature of art and memory and how a work of art can attempt to recapture the past and save it from destruction, at least in our minds. Needless to say, she loved it and we’ll never hear the end of it.


    Try enjoys reading authors chronologically. So, just as he was done with The Virgin Suicides, we gifted him Eugenides’s second offering, a sublime novel about a Greek-American family, identity and mutated genes.


    Thanks to Sofia Coppola’s “Lost In Translation’, Ava would not have known who Evelyn Waugh was and when she finally discovered his works, she was gifted a copy of his diaries – which he kept from age seven until his death. This honest, sharp and menacing view of life is a must-read for devout fans looking for insight into the process behind his greatest works.


    Teeny-bopper Coin stumbled Doris Lessing in the community library when she’d read almost all the books in the teen section. She was looking for another famous diary (Anne Frank) but she was distracted by a whole shelf dedicated to Ms Lessing. She admired her courage to publish a novel under a pseudonym at the height f her career but the relationship between Jane and Maudie, especially Maudie’s life. kept her reading way past bedtime.

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    ABOUT: Nic

    Nic is a retired photographer who leads a relatilively private life. Nic has has worked mainly in Asia and returned to South Africa in 2010 to live his truth.

    The excerpt submitted is from his unpublished book,  Becoming Nic, which documents the many changes in his life and is loosely based on the journals he kept from when his parents died in a fatal accident until his coming out as transgender.

    Nic is undergoing a gender re-assignment surgery and will be publishing the full novel with COINAGE on digital download and limited number of signed copies.

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    It’s a new year and you’ve made some resolutions, one of them being “read more” and you’ve joined a reading challenge but now what? It’s easy to say “just pick up a book and read” but that only works if you’re a seasoned reader.

    Reading is a fun and numinous habit with many benefits and like any habit, it’s a process. Whether you like ebooks, audiobooks or the good ol’ paperback, here are some tips to help you get started:


    So you’ve read that billionaires and many other successful people read x books a day or year and in order to “be successful” you need to read that many as well? Well, you wouldn’t start with a marathon just to get into running right?

    Reading requires setting realistic goals that you can achieve slowly, start with a book a month or every two months until you get used to this new reading habit.


    What kind of books do you want to read? Classics? Contemporary fiction? YA or a mix with South African writers or some bestsellers or even books by women? Making a list of books creates order and creates a sense of accountability.


    Look at your daily and weekly schedule and set some time aside dedicated to reading, this can be early in the morning, in the afternoon or just after you’ve tucked the kids into bed. This allows you to look forward to diving right into your book.


    It’s important that you set a target of how much reading you want to get done during your “reading time”. It can be anything from a page to a chapter or even more, but again, be realistic about how much you want to get done to allow the information to sink in and for you to truly enjoy the book.


    Probably the most important part of reading is to ensure that your mind doesn’t wander. Find a space where you are calm and comfortable and won’t end up doing something else (or sleeping). Complete all nagging tasks beforehand and ditch the technology.


    If you’re still unsure on what to read:


    In the current economic climate, it’s almost impossible to buy books, so if you “just want to read” rather than own the book, here are some ideas:

    • visit your community library
    • legal sites where you can download books to your device
    • second-hand book shops (they have so many gems and some even buy back books that you brought from them for a third of the next purchase)
    • join book-swap sites

    Happy reading!

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