How I started writing: Steve Mwase

Article written by Steve Mwase, Capt Rtd & Author.

Life after a Dictator
Life after a Dictator, by Steve Mwase

Writing is not as simple as I used to imagine. I developed an idea for a book right after I retired from the army in 1992. I started to write in 1995, and by 1998, I had achieved a manuscript. But only 2000 words of the manuscript got published. It was an 8000-word book. The publisher said only that part of the story could sell. But still, editing and translating those 2000 words from English into Dutch, my adopted culture, took well over a year. There is nothing more frustrating than having only part of your story published. I became a published writer all right but my message wasn’t out yet. I waited for the dust to settle and returned to my story. It then occurred to me that my story was not well coordinated. It was some kind of report of what I had gone through; according to a peer who read through it. In order to keep a distance from the story, the reader advised me not to use first person narrative voice. That is why the narrator in my novel: Life After A Dictator, by, is Muna and not I. But this was only the tip of the iceberg. I had to attend many seminars across Europe to interact with many writers from across the globe.

But my real breakthrough was when Moses Isegawa, a Ugandan writer living in the Netherlands got interested in my work. He advised me to read many writers. He even gave me an entire cabinet of books on his departure back to Uganda. It was after reading and rereading these books that I saw my own story begin to take shape. After this, I joined a club of foreign writers and journalists who eventually got interested in publishing my work. But yet again, they couldn’t publish the entire manuscript, which had grown to 150,000 words. It was divided into 6 parts. They offered to publish the first part. It was a stepping stone, and within months, the entire book was published. The journey which had started in March 1995 ended in March 2011, with a 383 page novel.

How is the Book selling?

Selling my novel is proving to be as hard as writing it. It is not easy to sell African literature in Europe. I am calling upon fellow Africans to support not only me but all African writers, by translating their moral support into buying our books. Writers should get rewarded for their hard work. African governments should also devise effective ways of attracting people into reading.

My book is currently available in some bookshops in Holland, and my publisher is working out a deal with I will also be presenting it at the Uganda-London Convention on 27/08/11. In my view, good fiction is what gets readers glued to the story. In my opinion, this can be achieved by carefully weaving facts of life into fiction and the use of other narrative devices such as idioms. It is easier said than done, though, and I hope I achieved it in my own novel.

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