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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    Chat with Mihlali

    Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself.

    My name is Mihlali Songcaka, I’ll be 25 in September. I was born in Mthatha, Eastern Cape. I speak IsiXhosa as well as English, Sesotho/Setswana and Afrikaans. I used to play rugby and I started writing poetry in 2012.

    What were you like at school?

    I had a mild temper but my kindness overshadowed it. I was always respectful towards fellow students and teachers.

    Since you write in English, were you good at it in school?

    Honestly, I wasn’t good at it and the subject gave me a hard time.

    What are your ambitions for your writing career?

    I would like to have a book published in 2019. I would really like for my poems to be well-known and to build my brand. I would also like to become a good performer and a better writer; and to have my work being used in theatre, film and television series.

    Which writers inspire you and why?

    Honestly, I have not been inspired by any writers and I don’t know many writers but hat inspires me are real-life events and the lives of others.

    What are you working on at the moment?

    I’m working on a few poems that I would like to get published this year.

    Why do you write? As in, what made you sit down and start writing?

    If I could remember, I would tell you but unfortunately, I don’t remember why I started. I do remember that I wrote a long rap verse for a friend and he told me that it rhymed well. What initiated the poetry is something that I’m still trying to figure out and oddly, since I don’t remember why poetry feels so special to me.

    What do you use to write?

    I use my laptop and sometimes I write with pen and paper. Most of the time, I feel that the poem I want to write at that specific moment would be better written by hand than on the laptop and it would come out better.

    Where do your ideas come from?

    Real-life events from people, sometimes from a sog or my own emotions and feelings or just even random words in my head.

    What is the hardest thing about writing?

    Firstly, writer’s block and trying to show others that my style is completely different from the usual stuff they read/hear.

    Do you get writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?

    Yes, I do. I just don’t write or think about a poem in my head. So, I just leave that poem ad do something else.

    Do you read much? If so, who are your favourite authors?

    No, actually I only started reading this year, but so far, the book I’m enjoying is Unf*ck Yourself by Gary John Bishop

    Which celebrated person, living or dead, would you most like to meet and why?

    Well, I have a list but I recently met Sipho Nkosi on Freedom Day. He’s on my list right along with President Cyril Ramaposa and Patrice Motsepe.

    Favourite book.

    Screw It, Let’s Do It by Richard Branson

    Favourite film.

    Transformer sequels

    Favourite song.

    Drake – Look What You’ve Done

    Connect with Mihlali on his Facebook page, Pieces by Mihlali Songcaka



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    On Booze and Being a Writer

    Lord Bryon said that “Man being reasonable must get drunk; The best of life is but intoxication”. The regulars at clubs as well as authors seem to concur, so maybe I lost some memo along the way. Literature is peppered with heavy drinkers. From the Fitzgeralds to the quieter, lonelier drinkers like Charles Bukowski, there has always been a need to intoxicate in order to create. Is it because, as Lord Bryon would have us think, that truth and the best is only attainable when drunk? Being uninhibited and less self-critical sounds wonderful to me. Having some grand confidence and believing my laptop will be the birthplace of the next South African novel is not too shabby either. Should I pick out my poison of choice now? Two glasses, please.

    So, what is it about the writing community and booze. Having read a few articles on the subject I think I have found the truth. Then again I was perfectly sober when writing this so can I be trusted? Writers write for an invisible audience. We create without really knowing who for, and that makes us anxious. We become self-critical and in questioning our talent, we land up questioning a lot more. We curse the human condition and never believe that anything we write will be good enough for the ghosts. Alcohol is that quick fix, it makes us little arrogant creatures that can scale that wall, hook up with Timothy’s brother or prove that there is no human endeavor we cannot overcome. But, I am not convinced that ghosts are the answer.

    Do writers drink because they are so conscious of the human condition that to be away from it, distanced by a foul breath and a hangover makes writing about it easier? Do we have to ‘forget’ in order to write and in that forgetting find ourselves? I recently took a course on writing for children and what took me by surprise the most was the notion that the modern writer is a lawyer, a doctor, a kindergarten teacher with time on her hands. The idea of what ‘a writer’ is is morphing and with it are their drinking habits. I am not suggesting that there are not drunken authors, just that what an author ‘ought’ to be like is changing. Writers can be people who write for 2h a night and then cook and finish their statistics work before bed. Too often do we paint this somewhat glamorized picture in our heads about what it means to be an ‘artist’. We imagine that we, like Hemingway, we must be tortured and drunk in order to write. That the apartment in Paris and the empty gin bottles are welcomed signs of greatness. That in being drunk we are ‘most free’ and what we write will be most fine. I have never written drunk, and there is nothing about the looseness that comes with the state that I enjoy. I am a writer of notebooks, of keeping the margins clean and my water bottle full. Call me prudish but I don’t think that drink is the answer; I think reading is. By reading, we engage with others troubles, their small hopes, and their voice. We can find ourselves in the pages of other books or write ourselves into ones. Drinking may make us more confident, more self-assured but does it make us more talented. I don’t think it does. Confidence should not be in the bottle for if we look hard enough we can find that our confidence is sprinkled across the literature that came before us.

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