What Are the Biggest Challenges in Training Writers?

By Miriam Adeney

LittWorld 2012, Kenya. Photo by Eric Gitonga

Great literary skills aren’t required, but writers do need:

  • A passion to communicate to their people
  • A mature Christian worldview
  • Teachability
  • Perseverance
  • An honorable reputation in their community

Here are four challenges that I’ve encountered, and what I’ve learned from them:

(1)Don’t teach too much. Instead, include plenty of time to write. In my week-long workshops, writers may work silently for three hours every morning and two more hours in the afternoon.  Then in the evenings they read aloud from their new works.

At every opportunity I slip in more writing. In 10 spare minutes, I might ask: “Describe a family in the evening. Describe a time you were angry. Describe rice, and all its uses.” These little essays may later find their way into longer works.

(2)Don’t be abstract. Provide sample illustrations and exercises.  Clip newspaper and magazine articles and note blog posts and book sections that illustrate some aspect of good writing. For example, I have a file of articles written from the perspective of a Christian worldview that have been published in secular media. “Show, don’t tell” is a key principle in writing, and also in training. Show them what you mean.

(3)Don’t skimp on feedback.  Schedule time for feedback early in your training, guided by clear criteria. For example, gather four writers in front of the class. Ask each writer to read aloud from his work for 5 to 7 minutes. After each reading, you give immediate feedback, following your criteria. As the whole class listens to four manuscripts critiqued and hears the same criteria repeated, every writer in the class will benefit. Later writings will improve as a result.

(4)Don’t abandon the writers after the training.  Instead, help them join or form structures that encourage ongoing writing—a relationship with a publisher, a writers’ group, a writing partner.  Ideally, you or somebody else can serve as a Barnabas to keep inquiring, empathizing and prodding the writers onward. But be prepared for a long haul. It was 11 years after my training sessions before William Girao (Philippines) wrote a book. Then he went on to write 20 more!

Miriam Adeney, Ph.D., is the author of more than 200 articles and seven books, including:
Kingdom Without Borders:  The Untold Story of  Global Christianity; Wealth, Women, and God  (Women in the Arabian Gulf); Daughters of Islam:  Building Bridges with Muslim Women; Refugee Diaspora; God’s Foreign Policy:  Practical Ways to Help the World’s Poor; A Time for Risking:  Priorities for Women; and How to Write: A Christian Writer’s Guide.

>Read about Miriam Adeney’s journey in training writers, “Every Writer Is a World.”

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