Writing in Kenya: One Author’s Experiences

I’ve been chatting with an up-and-coming writer from Kenya for a few weeks named Michael Mburu. I think Michael’s experiences pursuing writing in his home country are similar to what so many writers go through around the world, as we follow our passion. We write, market, reach dead ends, try something new, and don’t give up. I felt close to Michael as I read his article. I think you will too.

For me, writing is a journey that I am taking. My experience in it is still young and is largely informed by the observations that I have been able to make during the few years I have been writing.

I started enjoying writing when I was twelve. Back then I enjoyed going out of my way in creative composition writing at school. I would create stories that were enjoyed by those who cared to read them. It was through this that I realized I wanted to be a writer.

I decide to write a novel when I was sixteen and I did that in a notebook. My first novel was romance fiction. I did not take much action on it as I was still in high school and had no access to a computer where I could have typed my work for further action. I had little access to materials that I could use to advance my writing skills. Most of my writing was therefore informed by the little knowledge I had gathered through reading of the scanty materials available to me.

The experience I have had largely leans on the frustrating side of being a writer. In the extremes, I have wished to forget that writing is all I ever wanted to do and do something else. This is because of the accompanying poor pay for writers in the country, a dying reading culture, limited information on book writing and publishing, and presence of money hungry publishers who are after exploitation of writers.

A slow intake of modern technology in the country has also had the effect that people have little access to e-books thus slowing down the reading culture further and limiting a writer’s revenue from writing.

These issues all make writing not as lucrative in the country as it should be in essence.

While I have had to encounter all these I still enjoy writing.

In 2015 I published my first novel online with Booktango for free. This was largely informed by the fact that I was financially unable to hire editorial, cover design and publishing services. I later learnt of my first big mistake; I needed editorial and cover designing services if I was to have an appealing book!

The first experience was quite frustrating. I had no single sale from my book. Later on Booktango closed shop, I have not figured out how to bring the story down yet for editing. I later published the book on Wattpad where it reached out to about fifteen people before I decided to bring it down.

I have long since given up on traditional printing services due to the frustrations of getting turned down, publishing houses in the country bank mostly on school-based learning materials as opposed to entertainment books; that coupled together by the fact that such houses are few in numbers leave a writer only with the self publishing option.

I started my blog (micliveblog) in 2016 but did little of blogging. I hated the idea at first and secondly, I did not have the guts to publicize my writing actively. I have revived it since January this year and though my progress is slow, it is satisfactorily rewarding compared to the pace I had been moving at before.

I also joined a writers forum dubbed ‘Writers Guild Kenya.’ late last year mainly because it promised to give the support I need as a writer. I had for so long been on the writing journey on my own, without the help of family, friends or anyone in particular that I could have turned to for guidance and support. At writers guild, the support is present at least, and the organization helps in publication of literally works at a subsidized rate.

I am currently finishing up on my second novel which I hope will be a big thing enough to give me a breakthrough in my writing.

Due to the relatively long time I am taking to finalize on a novel, I have ventured into short stories which are easier to compile.

I am also actively trying on marketing tactics because I really don’t want to get published without having a laid out plan on how to sell my book. These include an ongoing thought process on a campaign to cultivate the reading culture for Kenyans.  

–Michael Mburu is a Kenyan based, up and coming Author and a Law student at Kenyatta University. He is a passionate writer and focuses his literally works on personal identity and growth. His inspiration is drawn from the daily life struggles of people around him. His first novel ‘The Escape ‘ was published in 2015. He is currently working on his second novel.  Michael also writes on the micliveblog. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelWaititu2.”

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the upcoming Born in a Treacherous Time. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.


28 thoughts on “Writing in Kenya: One Author’s Experiences

  1. Hi Jacqui – it’s great Michael is here … as he’s connected with a great group and will find support here as well as elsewhere in the blogosphere and internet. He seems to be very determined and will, I’m sure, persevere …I’ll be over to comment on his blog – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Jacqui, it is very interesting to read Michael’s experience of writing – sharing some of the frustration of all writers whilst also some unique of Africa. Reading his words about reading and lack of ebooks, as well as Robbie’s comment, must mean it is especially challenging to launch a book. I wish him the best of luck with his second novel.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Seeing myself on the verge of the abyss, I realize is not the first time I find myself there. I want to take the jump, I want to finish it all, but my writer’s voice tells me to give it one more shot and then, I tear the pages and start all over again; English, Spanish, French…it does not matter any longer… I understand Michael perfectly. Thank you for sharing his path, Jacqui. I am so glad I ran into this page today, looing for ways to help my college students with a Descriptive Essay that could not find the light of day.

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  4. Pingback: Writing in Kenya: One Author’s Experiences — WordDreams… – Site Title

  5. I think launching yourself as a writer is more difficult in Africa, Jacqui. There is a very limited number of people who buy new books – I read in South Africa it is only 40 000, which is really nothing. I have more sales internationally than locally.

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  6. What a great post, Jacqui. Michael’s story is so familiar to so many of us–a good reminder that we are all the same at heart, that we’re all battling the same demons of frustration and self-doubt, and that we’re all motivated to overcome these demons by the same passion for writing. I have no doubt Michael will persevere and go onto great success, but thank you for bringing us (and our stories) together.

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  7. Nice to introduce us to Michael. I’ve gone over and visited him on his blog. He’s a good story-teller. Yes, I agree with Ankur, above. We writers must write first for ourselves. Then we hope others will join in on our stories. To me, success is having readers who enjoy my written word. That’s it. xo

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