Workshops are essential for identifying and training beginning writers. But to develop skill in any discipline, one must practice, then practice some more. Follow-up is indispensable for leading writers to maturity. Follow-up must whet a trainee’s appetite for practice.
Provide practical help
Following are some ways you can help your writers practice and develop skill in their work:
1. Arrange follow-up workshops. Many of the writer training programs sponsored by Step Publishers follow-up previous events. Seminars for follow-up include: discussion of questions and concerns, sharing of published works, and reviews of works in progress since the group last met. Our trainers emphasize that an hour of practice writing is worth more than many hours of lectures.
2. Give writing assignments. Skill development requires practice, so one should assign trainees practical work to do. We have published several assigned articles in our magazines, but one does not always have to publish such work. Our cities are full of publishing opportunities: newspapers, magazines, book publishers, journals. Follow-up involves helping the trainee to get published. Seeing their work in print motivates writers more than a thousand lectures.
3. Press for re-writing. Show a writer that there is no good writing; there is only good re-writing. If you have reviewed a writer’s story, point out the positive things about the story, and suggest ways to strengthen the weak areas.
4. Provide reading material. I have always benefited from handouts, reference books, or articles on writing sent to me by my mentors. Once, I sent copies of Writers’ Digest to a young writer. He said the magazine kept him working at his craft.
5. Write letters. The Bible is full of letters that offer heart-felt instruction as a follow-up to the church planting work Paul had accomplished. You also can offer encouragement through e-mail, letters and short notes. Recently a friend asked me, “Have you had some time to work on your novel?” That simple question in a letter revived my enthusiasm to work on my novel.
6. Nurture by role-modeling. “Action speaks louder than words” in our desire to nurture writers. My writings may encourage another to persevere. I have often met people who say to me, “I read your column in the newspaper,” or “I read your book,” or “I read your article.” A mentor or role-model will seize the opportunity to ask the reader about his or her own writing efforts.
Motivate your writers
All the practical steps outlined above are not enough. You must also remind, enthuse, encourage, and urge your writers.
1. Remind writers about the key issues taught at the workshop or training programs or activities they attended. Preoccupation with other activities often brings forgetfulness. A trainee who wanted to write a book might forget that he even had it as a goal.
2. Enthuse the trainees about the goals and the aspirations that brought them to the training (for example, a clear sense of calling). Perhaps the trainee lacks enthusiasm to write that article or book. Lack of enthusiasm comes with time and procrastination. Your role is to build their excitement again by getting them to talk about their writing. Point out all the great things about the project. A mentor once said to me, “I’m eager to read your story—please get back to it.”
3. Encourage writers not to abandon their goals and aspirations. Too often, discouragement comes with failure or mounting problems. Your writer started the manuscript, but could not complete it because he is stuck on character development, or maybe he needs more ideas. Your writer may be discouraged because of rejection slips. At one of our workshops, I met a writer who would not submit any articles because of the repeated rejections she had experienced. I encouraged her not to take rejection slips personally, since she lost nothing if an article is rejected. I described how she could break into the secular newspaper market by submitting articles with a Christian slant. After our talk, her very first submission was accepted.
4. Urge writers to persevere. Reminding, enthusing, and encouraging are all coaxing. Urging is like pushing the writer a little bit. Once I sent paper, a pen, and a file to an aspiring writer and said, “Here is paper, pen, and a file to hold them. Now get to work and write!” She has published three small books since then. Urge your writers to pursue their writing goals.
Follow-up is time-consuming
Nurturing writers is hard work. Follow-up requires you take time to read their work and make comments, time to talk and offer encouragement, time to look out for opportunities. However, your investment in nurturing a writer can yield exciting rewards for your publishing house, for the writer, and for your readers.
The original article was done for Interlit, David C. Cook (published with permission)