I work with adults and gifted teen students who want to write a book. Our work is part planning, part accountability, part immediate feedback and guidance. No matter what kind of project or genre, it's pretty exciting and our work is always modeled to the needs of my student/client. I've worked with an eleven year old who wrote a full novel draft of a YA dystopian novel, using a sticker chart to mark progress through the final exciting chapters. I’m still working with my first adult-student who was twenty at the time we started. We’re now polishing his final draft of a massive book one in an epic sword and sorcery high fantasy series.
Yet after Covid, six of my teens became itchy to get out into the writing world. They want peer interactions, they want to know how the professional publishing world works, and what a writing career is like out in the big, bad world.
My first instinct is protective. Also, you really need to learn how to finish novels before publishing is highly relevant. I feel protective because writing novels is a slog, and you must do it for love. When you find out how scant fame and money are for the majority of writers, it's a bit of a blow. So I eventually developed a group workshop for them as a kind of vaccination--something that will keep them creatively healthy, despite whatever toxic overwhelm they might encounter later, once they're out in the 'real' publishing world.
This workshop is a free bonus I offer to the teen students who have finished a draft of a novel under my guidance.
We met last Wednesday for the third time. I like to lead a very craft based writing workshop full of analysis and discussion of craft. It's like working on a car. Is this a fuel pump? Yes. How do fuel pumps work? They work this way. Is this particular fuel pump working? No. Okay, so how can the mechanic fix it?
I was simply rapturous after this workshop. The students were demonstrating excellent workshop etiquette under my guidance. They are beginning to ignite enthusiasm in each other while sharing opening novel chapters and getting to know each other’s writing. They will be craft ninjas by the time I'm through with them.
Our agreement is that in exchange for learning excellent workshop manners and how to give stellar responses to authors--a nice balance of supportive and analytical--I will outline for the group how publishing works. As a friend once put it: there are many strange paths through the forest of publishing. The trick is how to discuss it in a realistic way—for instance acknowledging right off the bat it's not a fair process--without having the learner feel overwhelmed and depressed as a result.
In my next blog post I’ll discuss the journey towards querying an agent that I will share with the group. I'll also provide a fat fistful of helpful links for you at the end.
Even more importantly, I plan to address emotional management issues that can come up in this process--because for your creative-sensitive-flower types, how to be resilient in the face of ever-changing publishing world reality is key.
Feel free to leave comments or questions below. As always, if you or someone you’re raising is interested in writing a novel, a non-fiction book, a memoir, or if you are straining to complete a thesis or dissertation, you can let me know in the contact form and we can chat about you/your learner to see if I can help.