Sorting out the vast amount of paper that regularly accumulates in my writing room can be a very time-consuming task, not least because I do like to re-read what I’m about to throw away (well, you never know, do you?) During one epic clearance I came across this little missive.
It was delivered at the end of a creative writing retreat run by the Arvon Foundation, which I attended a long time ago, at the beginning of my writing journey. The course’s tutors, Jenny Colgan and Mike Gayle, both established and respected authors in the commercial fiction genre, read the opening chapters of the first novel I had attempted and were unstinting in their encouragement.
All novice writers, probably all writers, need encouragement. This is defined as the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope. Everyone needs to feel that their actions have some value and writers are no exception. We need reassurance like we need sustenance and a little ego massage can boost our confidence and inspire us to continue.
In my writing group we try to deliver our reviews in a generous and supportive manner. A balanced evaluation is what we are aiming for. Sandwiching a forthright, possibly negative, appraisal between a couple of slices of praise and approbation, and seasoned with some stimulating guidance is our favoured approach. There’s no point telling someone where they’re going wrong if you can’t offer some advice about how to put it right.
Approval by one’s peers is something all writers welcome and a generous critique from professionals already at the summit while we are still toiling around in the foothills can only be a good thing, can’t it?
A very special letter. Encouragement and constructive criticism is so important in the early days of a writing career.
I had a lovely letter from Judy Piatkus in response to my first completed novel. I ran upstairs with it, full of joy and excitement. My husband, still in bed, took it from me and read it, then looked at me puzzled. “You do know this is a rejection letter?” Of course I knew, but it was so personal and encouraging and positive. “You will make it as a writer,” Judy told me, and the seal was set on my future.
In fact I found another publisher for that very manuscript, after editing and rewriting it.
Thanks for sharing your lovely moment Gilli. It was so nice finding the note from Jenny and Mike after all this time, especially as I’m going through a disastrous publication process at the moment!