Upcoming courses, community news, a new writing competition and last month’s winners, and ten writing tips for you

 In Newsletters

We’re entering the month of love, and, yes, love may well be a great adventure. But it’s got nothing on the greatest romantic adventure of all – the quest for creativity.

Come with us on the Online Creative Writing Course, and we’ll lead you safely through the dangers and difficulties of writing your own book. You can start immediately and, with a group of fellow creative travellers, learn all the skills you need, while you gain writing confidence.

We told you this last month, but it bears repeating. In the past five years, twenty-nine books have been published by our past participants. That says something.

This is definitely an opportunity: both our face to face courses for February are full. Our Ten Day Writing Workout was … completely full, and hugely successful. But we do still have places available on the February Online Creative Writing Course.

Looking beyond February, we have several offerings to look forward to. We can offer you our Scriptwriting Course, which will run online from March, led by two award-winning writers of screen drama. If you have a yen to write for movies, this is your way in.

In March, we head off for the serene surrounds of Temenos, in McGregor, for our Weekend Retreat. This is your chance to escape the madness of life and spend a couple of days writing – with our support and guidance.

While I’m on the subject of retreats – and romantic adventures – our Venice Writing Retreat is already filling up. Be sure of the room you want by booking early. As usual, we’ll be staying in the Palazzo Albrizzi, which has remained in the same family since the 1600s. Wander its frescoed halls and piano nobile, where Byron once attended soirees. Write overlooking a quiet canal or a residential square where the nuns bring the children out to play. And if you even need more incentive, the Venice Bienale 2017 will still be running while we’re there.

Our Community News this month is filled with news of love. We love Tracy Todd’s memoir, Brave Lotus Flower Rides the Dragon, which we watched over like anxious midwives from birth to independence. Tracy’s book finally launches on February 23 at the Riverside Mall, in Mbombela (Nelspruit).

More than anything, this is a love story – a tale of courage and transcendence, which will have you laughing and shedding a quiet tear. Perfect for February reading.

Is it a love story, or is it a coming of age? Gail Gilbride’s Under the African Sun, published by American publisher, Cactus Rain, launched to a packed Exclusive Books in Cavendish Square on January.

In the same week, it was showcased in-store as the number one bestseller on their Top Ten Fiction list. This is essentially a coming of age story, in which a young woman develops the self-knowledge to understand that the life of a hero is not for everyone. But it is also a story of love struggling to survive in a time of turmoil.

And another story of success for JT Lawrence. After six months at number 1 in dark comedy on Amazon (and 35 000 downloads), a limited run of The Memory of Water is being printed for Exclusive Books, Skoobs, Theatre of Books and Love Books.

Christa Kuljan discussed her book Darwin’s Hunch, on Classic Lifestyle on Classic FM 102.7 on January 27. You can hear her speak on the podcast.

Lastly, I’d like to thank the UCT Summer School for inviting me to give a week-long workshop on writing in the last week of January. It was vibrant and great fun and will hopefully draw a whole new group into the All About Writing community. Welcome to you all.

And the winner is…

Last month we asked you to write a scene which consists of a real or imagined altercation between two people in a public space. Congratulations to:

Colleen Saunders for the story entitled Cup Final, which vividly portrays a time and place through her great eye for detail and humour.

A close runner-up is Jennifer de Klerk with Altercation. We found ourselves empathising strongly with the characters in this scene, which drew us in through its powerfully portrayed emotion.

Second runner-up is Liz Kirsten with All Our Children. We enjoyed the great details and the twist at the end.

Commendations go to Inja Enkulu’s entry, for its clever topicality, Helen Webster’s entry which held us with an all-too recognisable scenario, and to Derryn Fuller and John West, who made us laugh.

Click here to read all of the winning entries.

And this month? Well, what else? Our February Challenge is to write a love story in 140 characters – perfect for tweeting love in a time of global division. Tweet your entry to @allabtwriting by midnight, 28 February.

The best entries will be tweeted from @allabtwriting and, as usual, the winner will receive a book token from the independent bookstore of their choice.

Our Writing Tips this month are all about the writing of love, but many of them are relevant for every kind of writing.

Many people think romance writing is a bit like knitting. There’s a pattern to follow and, even if you’re a bit clumsy at first, you can knock off a finished product in a few afternoons while the kids are out playing.

Ha. Genre fiction is no easier to write than other forms of story-telling. But it’s not a mysterious process. Here are my ten most important tips to make you a successful writer about love.

Tip One: Believe in love – If you write romance, you need to believe in your story – and that true love is possible. You can’t write romance with your tongue in your cheek.

Tip Two: Don’t talk down to your readers. Most romance readers have some college education and many are educated professionals. They read for escapism – and for the emotional intensity.

Tip Three: Create strong characters with depth, quirks and contradictions. Romantic stories are character-based. We need to identify with them if we are to care what happens to them.

Tip Four: Something must hold your characters apart. You can’t just throw in a few arguments and misunderstandings. Although they’re irresistibly drawn to each other, we must wonder how they’ll ever be together.

Tip Five: Write in strong scenes. We want the story told in a series of tangible scenes that show us what’s happening to them.

Tip Six: Show, don’t tell. In other words, don’t include paragraphs of explanation. Show what your characters are like, don’t tell us – through what they say and do, and how other characters relate to them.

Tip Seven: Give them a believable setting. You must know it well in order to write it.

Tip Eight: Every detail has a job to do. Every description, every subsidiary character, every scene, must take the story forward or develop your main characters further.

Tip Nine: Write believable dialogue. This is what people first notice about a book. If the dialogue rings true, it brings pace and energy to a story. It helps you “show”, rather than tell what your characters are like.

Tip Ten: Edit well. You can fix almost anything in the rewrite. Look at every scene, character and detail. Does it take the story forward. Be ruthless.

If you can make these points work for you, you’ll have a publishable Romance, full of love and suspense.

Enjoy the rest of February.

Warm regards,



Click here for a complete list of our 2017 courses

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