- Writer Unboxed - https://writerunboxed.com -

The Hack’s Guide to Paying it Forward

Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

Think of all the writers who have helped you out over the years: Your high school English teacher who saw promise in you when everyone else only saw the weird marginalia you drew in your notebooks. The published author who took the time to critique your early short stories. Your secret high-school crush who pretended they didn’t know about your notebook full of embarrassing love poems you wrote about them. All of these individuals made a positive impact in your writing career. Did they ever ask anything in return? Being a self-absorbed writer-type, you probably wouldn’t have noticed if they did. But now you’re the one in the position of power—maybe you’ve sold a short story or two; or perhaps you own more than one “Be nice to me or I’ll write you into my novel!” coffee mug. You couldn’t have achieved these successes without help along the way, and it’s your turn to pass that wisdom to the next generation of writers. Here are a few ideas:

Critique their Manuscript

We all need a helping hand with that first (or second, or third!) book. Look for a promising newbie writer in your circle and offer a thorough critique of their manuscript. Impart to them the lessons you’ve learned over the years—for example, if your protagonist visits a swimming pool in Act I, someone must get pushed into it during a party in Act III. When the newbie writer’s eyes go wide in astonishment that they never learned this in college, simply shrug and say you learned this at the School of Hard Knocks, which is famous for its pool parties.

Host Authors on Your Blog

Let other authors write guest posts on your blog to promote their books. This isn’t just a way to get free content for your blog. It’s also—oh, wow, I had you at “free content for your blog,” didn’t I? Well, that’s good enough for me. And hey, look who’s signed up to write an article? It’s your mentee whose manuscript you critiqued. Wow, paying it forward is paying off already!

pay it forward [1]
photo by Bill Smith

Go to their Launch Party

Isn’t it exciting when younger writers start getting published? Be a supportive elder statesman and go to their book launch. Ignore the fact that only half as many people came to your own launch party [2]. Remember that getting into a fistfight over the last available folding chair is a sign of respect for the author. Your mentee will thank you for this later, even if they’re cursing you for causing a scene today.

Offer Encouragement

Can you believe your former pupil is about to go on the morning-TV circuit to talk about their book? It’s a good thing you’re here to offer them guidance. They’re probably nervous, so tell them about the time your buddy who does a podcast mispronounced your name that one time. That humorous and totally equivalent anecdote will have them feeling relaxed as they go on live television in front of millions of people.

Send Them Fan Mail

Getting a fan letter from their mentor will be such a fun ego boost for them! For bonus points, you can ask them for some tips on characterization. And maybe inquire if their editor would be willing to take a look at your manuscript? People love to be asked for recommendations, so you’re doing them a favor, really.

Buy Their Next Book

Make sure to get it signed. As proof that a mentor’s work is never done, you may have to remind them how to spell your name.

What are some ways you pay it forward to up-and-coming writers? Leave a comment and brag about how helpful you are!

About Bill Ferris [3]

After college, Bill Ferris [4] left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.