A brave 13 year old girl sends Lauren Beukes an email asking her for writing advice. As you may know, the South African writer is not just an award-winning author but also one of the biggest names in speculative fiction. It’s an understatement to say she leads a very busy life. But she also knows the importance of mentorship, so she replies the aspiring writer with the sweetest how-to-be-a-writer letter.

We have seen the letter. It gives good insight into what it takes to produce good work, which, Beukes insists, has nothing to do with luck, or even talent.

Although Beukes’ advice is addressed to a young girl, we think that anyone curious about what it takes to become a writer will find this immensely useful.



Hi Ruth,

I can recommend two great resources for you! Check out, which is my friend Chuck Wendig’s blog, where he offers brilliant writing and publishing advice, and also has ebook collections of his advice. Be warned, he swears a lot, but the advice is terrific. I’d also highly recommend you look at Stephen King’s wonderful memoir and writing how-to, On Writing, which inspired me when I was your age.

The best advice I can give you is read as much as you can, and all kinds of different books.

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.

Then take a deep breath and put it in a drawer or a folder on your computer with a name like “Story I Finished” and don’t look at it for a few weeks or even a few months.

Let it sit. Let it percolate. Then go back to it with fresh eyes. You’ll see it’s a hot mess, because hey, it’s the first book you wrote, and you’re learning. But you’ll also see how to fix it, what needs to change, where you went wrong, and yes, it seems daunting, but you’ve made a thing. Its yours and you did it.

Now go make it better!

And then, and only then, show it to people whose opinions you trust* — people who read the same kind of stories, or friends and family who love you enough to give you constructive criticism that talks about the stuff that blew them away, and the places where they got lost, or didn’t understand, or where they thought you could make it clearer, and then congratulate you for doing it at all, for being creative, and for being brave.

Good luck! I hope I’ll see your name on the shelves someday.


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About Tiwaladeoluwa Adekunle

View all posts by Tiwaladeoluwa Adekunle
Tiwaladeoluwa Adekunle is a creative writer and a student of International Studies and English. Some of her work has been published by Shale, Limestone, Indiana Review and Brittle Paper. She is passionate about language, stories and Chipotle, and would almost always rather be writing.

4 Responses to “Read Lauren Beukes’s Cute Letter to a 13-Year-Old Aspiring Writer” Subscribe

  1. Fatima 2016/07/01 at 4:27 am #

    Thanks for this Tiwa.

    It’s kind, classic advice that even I will take to heart.

    Lauren is a doll.

  2. Ajiambo 2016/07/01 at 10:02 am #

    Wow! I am blown away by the reality of how to grow as a writer by the steps Lauren outlines.
    Good insight.

  3. Mikeinioluwa 2016/07/01 at 11:41 am #

    This is really inspiring…and not only for thirteen year olds. All writers. Thanks.

  4. Putter 2016/07/03 at 4:02 am #

    What WONDERFUL advice! Thanks so much for posting this!

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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