Misheck M’hango’s Guidance For Young Writers

Who Is Misheck M’hango?

Misheck M’hango was born on 23 April, 1967 in Kalulushi, Zambia, which also happens to be his current home. A teacher of literature in English by training, his literary journey started early – He always consumed prodigious amounts of written material right from his lower primary school days, attacking everything in his path with voracious appetite. He began creative writing as early as when he was in fourth grade; He has written tons and tons of stuff since, and continue to. These works span across multiple genres – short stories, poems, plays, novels, essays and even music (He is also a composer and active musician). On Amazon he has published two titles so far. It is his great pleasure to share thoughts and insights via these means with you all.

Misheck M’hango with fellow writer and published author, Thandiwe C. Chibale


This Is What He Wants To Tell Young Writers

“So you want to write? By all means go on and do it! What is stopping you? The world needs to read the one, two or hundreds of books stashed away in unique you, go on give us! But… wait a minute. Do you just jump into the writing fray and churn out the volumes? Ah… maybe not. So, where do you start from?

I have a very fond recollection – I wrote my first story when I was in grade 4. What was my motivation for writing? Who were my target audience? What did I expect to earn from my labour? I was not thinking of any readers, and I did not even know one could earn money from writing. Motivation? I just wrote because I wanted to! I was inspired to write. It was something flowing straight from my heart, like the desire to sing.

And that is the first thing. If you are starting from premises of writing for the love of it, you are taking off from a very good place. Something you love you will always do, and have the best chances of doing very well. Your joy is just in writing for its sake, for a start, that means you “have it in you;” it is something you can devote time and all other resources at your disposal to.

Growing up in the 60s/70s, reading was “the thing,” only rivalled by music and sports. Television did not exist for the majority of us (on my street of about 100 houses, less than five sported a TV), instead there was a flood of literature – comic strips, weekly and monthly magazines, and a lot of novels. A natural part of our greeting was “what book are you reading?” Book exchange was very much part of our socialisation.

Additionally, as an individual, I took a trip to the public library and enrolled for membership. Within a month or two, I had devoured every book in the children’s section and began worming my way through everything else on offer. I became such a voracious reader that within two or three days I would return the books I had borrowed and take more – way ahead of the 14 days we were allowed to keep books.

That is the second thing: Reading. Before you think of writing, read, read, and read. This is not only your inspiration, but also your orientation. By reading as many books as possible, you get to have a feel of how “it is done.” After all, the best way to learn, as we have all discovered in our childhood, is via imitation. You start by merely imitating what your heroes and heroines have done. Afterwards, you start developing your own style.

Before I could leave my teens, I had written three books – a novel, a volume of poetry and a collection of short stories. I had had the satisfaction of getting a number of my short stories and poems published in various national magazines and had even won a prize in a national short story writing competition. My story was among ten short-listed out of 120 for publication in an anthology. This was my first cash earning from writing. Exciting!

None of my books saw the light of day, however. Publishers threw them back in my face. Many years later, I totally agree with them – I would not publish those books myself even if I was bribed! In one way, this may have taken away my appetite for writing books or getting them published – it would be a whole of 32 years later before I would publish my “first” book!

As a very enthusiastic and upbeat teenager, I could not wait to see my name across the face of a well-bound, fresh-smelling book, sitting on a book shelf. My heart pumped with adrenaline just to imagine that. I could not wait! That would be the day! Christmas, birthday, Independence Day would all be wrapped in one! Sadly, this was not to be. Only disappointment!

That is the third thing. Publishing books – or getting books published – is business. It is a game with rules and limitations. Talent or love for the craft alone does not win it for you. There are many issues that need your very special attention. In the midst of millions of book titles already published, why would people want to read what you have written? Besides, several thousand other titles will always be published at the same time as yours, why would anybody skip other books and instead go for yours?

Misheck M’hango with young writers in Kitwe.

This means you have to pack something special in there. Something to not only attract attention, but also persuade your would-be readers to actually purchase your book. If you are using a publisher, the publisher will not commit their resources to your work unless they are convinced they can not only recoup their expenditure but make some profit out of it. They are not in it for sentiment or charity, they need to make their money.

That then, is the biggest challenge. Selling books is just like any other business – you have to sell just to keep afloat, but to thrive you must outsell other writers. What do you have in your writer’s armoury? Identify all your “war weapons” and put them to the best possible use. Deploy them effectively! Think of the plot of your book, your audience, your target market. Quality over quantity. Do not rush. Take your time. Go over every little detail carefully, again and again. If you do not, your book might wind up like my first three – memories archived in your private drawers, only read by you and maybe one or two other people close to you.

In my writing journey, I had early on the personal fortune of going into publishing, something I have done practically all my life. This has taught me very precious lessons about editing and packaging writing for specific audiences. Every writer must pay meticulous attention to that. You must always put yourself in the place of your would-be reader as you develop your script. Is it easy to follow? Is it interesting? Is it clear? Does it flow easily? Can a reader get hooked? Do you leave them yearning for more? Does it speak to them in a direct, intimate manner? Are you carrying them along with you every bit of the way? It makes or breaks books.

Write. Go for it. By all means do! Just remember all these little things we have discussed here. If you do, the world is all yours to conquer. Go for it!”


Know Misheck M’hango



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