This is another Training Tracks blog post from the No Train, No Gain archive. It originally posted March 29, 2005. Any updates from me are in bold. It includes links to a couple of my favorite stories and some outstanding narratives by other writers.
When a reporter asks for help, a writing coach needs to respond with helpful advice right away.
When I was writing coach at the Des Moines Register, a reporter asked me to take a look at a draft of a story he was working on. I said I’d take a look and get back to him. But I was busy. I can’t remember what I was busy with, but a day slipped by, then a couple of days, then a week or two. Then I found out I would need surgery and I was off work for a little more than a month. As I was sifting through the mound of stuff that accumulated while I was gone, I found the reporter’s story. It was an enterprise story that hadn’t run yet, so I responded with some advice and an apology. The reporter was understanding, probably giving me a pass because of the surgery. But he never asked for my help again.
The best training opportunity is when someone wants to learn. Ever since I blew off that reporter, I try to drop what I’m doing and respond right away when someone asks me for help. Pride of authorship keeps too many reporters from asking for help. When one does request help, that is an excellent opportunity for a writing coach or editor to have an impact and teach a new skill. (more…)