To support writers through the process of developing and submitting manuscripts for this new literary prize, Kwani Trust commissioned a series of articles by today’s leading African writers on writing craft and practice. Including contributions from Aminatta Forna, Leila Aboulela, Ellen Banda-Aaku and Helon Habila, the articles offer advice and inspiration for developing your novel manuscript.

Conflict and Form: Giving Shape to Your Writing Helon Habila
Part 1: Giving Shape to One’s Universe
I wrote most of my first novel, Waiting for an Angel, in Lagos, Nigeria, and if you have been to Lagos the fractured, discontinuous style of the narration would make sense to you immediately. Lagos in the 1990s, under the military dictatorship, was a large, sprawling suburb of hell – this is not an exaggeration. Read More.

Part 2: Creating Conflict
How then do we impose a suitable form on a novel? How do we hold a story together, not so rigidly that it feels like a block of ice, not too loosely that it lacks form, but fluidly, pulling and pushing, rather like a balloon filled with water? The first thing to note is that everything, almost everything that goes into a novel can contribute to its final form. Read More.

Planning Your Writing and Editing Time Ellen Banda-Aaku
Kwani Trust’s literary prize for African writing is a great incentive to start writing that story that has been growing in your head for years now or to pull out that work in progress novel. Bear in mind that a manuscript submitted to a literary prize actually gets read – in order to select a winner - whereas there is no guarantee that a manuscript sent to a publisher will be read. So start writing! . Read More.

The Spark of Life: Where Novels Come From Aminatta Forna
For every writer the idea for a novel starts in a different place.  Some writers like to begin with a concept, a conundrum or a situation, a what if? Some with a story or plot line. Yet others begin with a character. When people who want to write ask me, as they often do, where my ideas come from I generally say that I start with a character, because I see myself as a character-led writer. That remains largely true, but then you might equally ask where does that character come from? Where does it all begin? Read more

Ten Pieces of Advice for the Writing Life Leila Aboulela
Read to become a better writer. This sounds like “eat to become stronger” and in a way reading is the food of the creative process. Read for all the reasons a reader reads but also read for inspiration, read to be influenced, read in order to pick up tricks and techniques, read in order to answer the questions, “How on earth did the author pull this off? How on earth did he/she get away with this?” Writing is an extension of reading and the quality of your reading will be reflected into your writing. Read More.

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