Writing advice from Lauren Beukes

More local writing advice!

Lauren Beukes is an award-winning South African author, and comics writer, screenwriter, journalist and documentary maker. Her books have been sold all around the world with huge acclaim.

Her most recent novel is a dystopian post-pandemic piece of fiction set in the USA. Afterland (listen to her talk about it on the Book Lounge podcast, here) explores what the world might look like shortly after (almost all) of the men die from a virus.

Lauren came to speak to our class when I was doing my creative writing Masters at UCT. One of the things I remember her saying was how hard it is to make things up in South Africa, because the truth always seems stranger than fiction. She encouraged us to look for the strange in the day to day. That advice was really useful to me.

So when I checked to see if she had any other similarly useful advice, I found a piece she’d written in 2016, giving writing advice to a 13 year old girl. Read the whole piece, here.

Here’s some of that advice.

Be curious about the world. Make notes, observe, colors and smells and feelings, textures, and sounds, the way car exhaust smokes more in winter, the fallen leaves like puddles, eavesdrop on people speaking, and listen to how they speak and how they express themselves. 

And then write as much as you can. 

And then finish the things you write. 

It’s easy to start a dozen different stories. Pick one, the one that speaks to you and moves you, that kicks in your gut and your heart, that makes you excited and makes you scared and makes you doubt whether you can do this. 

And then write it anyway. 

And finish it. 

It’ll be a mess, you’ll make mistakes. The most important thing is to get it all down. 

Then reward yourself with something awesome. You finished a story. Not a lot of people manage to do that. 

Lauren Beukes – Writing advice to a 13 year old

Hope your writing goes well today!