Celebrating East African Writing!

Pay Attention, Serious Writer – Kenyan Conversations

You are done with your novel. You are excited, and anticipate seeing your book in print. After all the hard work, you just can’t wait!

So where should you submit your novel, the work of your hands, this creation that you sweated blood over? Go through the list of publishers… Hm, Storymoja looks like a good bet. Send in the novel. No, your work is a short story for a magazine or an annual anthology? Send it in to your magazine or publisher of choice! You should be published by next month, right?

Whoa. Hold up. If you are a serious writer, it’s time to sit up and pay attention: editors will not read your work if you have not followed the guidelines. There is no, “the rules don’t apply to me.”

Small publications average 300 + pieces of mail a week. Larger publications can sometimes reach into the thousands. Editors simply don’t have time to think twice about your work if you have not bothered to follow guidelines they so carefully set up.

The first thing an editor will look at is word count – if you have even bothered to include it. Anyone who has been at this a long time can tell immediately by weight whether it’s too long or not, so dodging or omitting the word count will not earn you friends. It will certainly influence editors, just not the way you wanted.

If you’ve managed to keep within their word count, they will then look at the manuscript. If it is single-spaced or handwritten, that’s as far as you’ll ever get. It goes immediately into the slush pile to receive the standard, “Not for us” form letter or email.

Thank goodness. You’ve passed both of those. The editor will then proceed to read your work. If you have ignored the publisher’s guidelines, your baby is going out. Oh yeah, the dreaded rejection letter.

Example: Your work is a cozy mystery but the magazine you send it to prints only hardboiled crime fiction. Or it is a sci-fi thriller and you sent to a publisher that publishes fantasies. This one is quite a common – your short story contains graphic sexual and violent content, and you send it to a family magazine.

All of the above applies to contests as well. Guidelines get ignored; writer is disqualified. If you are a serious writer, and you want to see your work in print, then don’t ignore a magazine or publishing house’s guidelines. Editors look at it this way: you’re not serious about following guidelines, you are playing at being a writer and there are hundreds of manuscripts by serious writers who pay attention and do it right waiting in the mailbox on a daily basis. Those writers will get the publication that should have been yours had you simply followed the rules.

Stop spinning your wheels and wasting editors’ time (not to mention your own) and follow the guidelines to the smallest detail. When you do that, you can rest assured the editor will read your submission and your acceptance letters may surpass your rejection letters. That is unless you are aiming at getting Guinness book record rejections.

The Stories below were entered into the Storymoja/Generation Kenya – Kenyan Conversations Contest last week. Please read them, and vote on them to choose the story that will be entered into the Kenyan Conversations Final Judging Round.

Feelers by Mwangi Ichungwa: After crushing the large cockroach underfoot, he stepped outside his shack to take a gander at the evening light, radiance he could not get inside his smoky, dingy dwelling and looked…

If the Wind could Tell by Elizabeth Ombati: Shhh; don’t answer darling. Such a nuisance Mama Nyaguthii is. She doesn’t know you go to school? By the way, how is Form 1?

Carlos the Jackal: The advert had asked for energetic, graduates to serve as messengers. Having tarmacked unsuccessfully, he had applied and funny enough, was called for an interview and clinched the job.

Learning by Claire Githu: I should be in class. I should be out there trying to grab the world by the balls. Try to better myself. Be better than these conniving leeches who thrive on the sweat of their…

Suicide Note by Julius Muriungi: He had met her three years back when she was sweet sixteen, and with a few nice shoes and niceties he had won her cheap love. With his tender care she blossomed into a beaut…

Remember, when you see the photos up, you can comment on the blog under the picture on the Storymoja Blog or Send in a story or dialogue that is not more than 500 words long to Clearly mark in the subject Contemporary/Kenyan Conversations (Insert Number indicated)

The prize details are as follows:

1st Prize: 2000/-, 2 Storymoja books and 1 complimentary day pass to the Storymoja Hay Festival

2nd Prize: 1500/-, 1 Storymoja book, and 1 Complimentary day pass to the Storymoja Hay Festival

3rd Prize: 1000/-, and 1 complimentary Day Pass to the Storymoja Hay Festival

3 complimentary day passes for best comments on the pictures.

Be Part of the Kenyan Conversation! For more details, write to

Click on this banner to see the Generation Kenya Website


2 comments on “Pay Attention, Serious Writer – Kenyan Conversations

  1. jinomoja
    July 18, 2010

    is there a way we could get your submission guidelines?


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This entry was posted on July 18, 2010 by in Writing.
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