Celebrating East African Writing!

Dude! Why didn’t I think of that?!

Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals. (Don DeLillo)

As a writer, and one who earns her living from writing, I am always on the lookout for resources that can help me get better at what I do. I came across Holly Lisle’s website for writers when I was caught deep inside a hole that I just could not climb out of. One minute, I was chewing my head off and cursing the day I agreed to take up a ghost writing contract, the next minute I was looking at and thinking, Dude! Why didn’t I think of that?!


Yep, my alter ego is a dude, and I was so broke that I abandoned my writer’s ego and took up ghost writing. That’s not quite point.

The point is that when you go out there (whether in books, online or at workshops and events for writers) looking for information, you’ll find so many perspectives, some of them really good and eye opening. Of course, you’ll have to learn how to sift through all the stuff published out there, and keep the nuggets that will make you a much better writer. Here’s one from

What is a chapter and how do you know when you’ve finished one?

The big secret about chapters is that they’re not much of anything but a convenience for the writer, and secondarily for the reader. There are days when you simply aren’t getting the pages done that you want and you desperately want to say you’ve finished a chapter because your brain needs to focus on something fresh. So you come to the end of a sentence, make the next one a cliffhanger, and break. Chapter Two appears and you can tell your significant other that you did an entire chapter in one day. You feel better, the book doesn’t suffer, and the next day you get to work on a new character or a different location or whatever.

Technically, a chapter needs two things. It should consist of one or more complete scenes, and something ought to change. (Lawrence Block did some chapters that were only one sentence long, and that constituted the entire chapter. The one that comes to mind is “Chip, I’m pregnant,” from one of his Chip Harrison books.) Beyond that whatever you decide constitutes a chapter (and your editor will let you get away with) pretty much does. I was anal about chapters for a while, insisting that each needed to consist of three scenes of ten pages apiece. This was totally unnecessary from an artistic standpoint, but the Procrustean bed I made for myself while I was doing that taught me some important things. First, a writer can fit just about any amount of information into just about any amount of space. Second, that writer will develop a real feel after a while for the pace of the writing — if you must accomplish a certain amount of action in ten pages, then you will, and sooner or later you’ll almost know your length to the exact word count. Third, anyone that anal needs to be smacked upside the head a few times.

I got over that stage eventually. (And you’re wondering why I ever got into it in the first place? I was writing ten pages a day and wanted to finish a chapter every three days in order to meet a couple of deadlines. Obvious, huh?)


Before I usher you into this week’s Kenyan Conversations Entries, I would like to inform you that Picture 19 and 20, were our last Kenyan Conversations Picture Prompts. After you have voted on this week’s entries, I will be forwarding the weekly winning stories to the judges. While the judges go through the winning entries to decide who gets the final prize, we will also allow you readers to vote for your favourite stories. Voting will begin on Monday 20th at 8.30 am and close on Sunday 26th at 4.30pm.

A comparison will then be made, after which we will announce the winners on Monday 27th of September to give you time to pick up your tickets and prizes from our offices.

Please remember that although only the winners will receive cash prizes and books from the Storymoja collection, all members of the Storymoja Community who have contributed to the blog by submitting stories will stand a chance to be chosen in a draw to receive day passes to the Storymoja Hay Festival. This will be our thank you for your support and participation in the Writer’s blog over the past 12 months. To register for the draw, send us an email with your name and the title of at least one of your submissions that was published on the Writers’ Blog. Send this to

To find out more about the Storymoja Hay Festival Schedules and Tickets Purchases, please visit Connect with us for updates on twitter or following the #shfk stream. You can also Join us on Facebook.

Here are this week’s Kenyan Conversations:

The Bridesmaids’ Men: Joseph and Stevo are always fighting. Stevo has three blackboards and plent of contacts of houses to let. Doris bought all the wedding shoes in Mumbai India.

A Sunny Saturday: Saturday. The weather was sunny and sweet. With that feeling of walking the length and breath of Kenya. The couple felt it should not be wasted. They were paying a visit to a family friend nearby.

Tell or not tell?: ‘Iza bana, sasa unataka wajue tunamjua?’Jay said hoping to terminate the conversation.

This is Nairobi: “You mean to the City Council is not aware of a man-hole existing in a residential estate and had been put up for rent as an ‘open-sourced’ toilet?” the mukorino man asked his friend, Joshua.

Click on image to buy tickets online



This entry was posted on September 13, 2010 by in Writing.
%d bloggers like this: