Writing Help: Pay It Forward with These 6 Gems

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You can pay forward the writing help you received and continue on the road to excellence at the same time.

I pay forward the coaching I received in my writing journey with the same gems that molded me most.

         contest feedback 



                                    writing retreats

                                             blog posts

                                                      books on writing

Here are thoughts and pointers on each.

1.  Be a judge for contests. If we give quality feedback with the right attitude, entrants will less likely feel under attack. 



  • Don’t sign up to be a judge, if you’re not able to give the entries the time they need.
  • Find something the entrant did well and build from there.
  • Include examples in your feedback. Some of us need applications to get it.

2.  Lead a workshop. Participants arrive eager. Strive to assure they leave with at least one ah-ha they can’t wait to try.



  • Don’t assume, because you gave the instructions, participants have gotten the principles. Give the instructions in an alternate way.
  • Give many examples.
  • The more workshops you lead on the subject, the more pitfalls in understanding you’ll observe and be able to address.
  • More tips. And more.

3.  Join a critique group. Because the rest of the group will voice the obvious problems, try listening for a subtle problem. For example, the writer may use vague words throughout the scene. Give suggestions for specific words that will get the writer’s juices flowing.


  • For online or email groups, limit the number of people. If you’re writing, marketing, and working on your platform, you won’t have time to do a good job on six submissions each week.
  • Learn the level of “tell-it-like-it-is” each member can handle, but always give feedback in a non-threatening manner.

4.  Hold a small retreat. Ask each participant to share one writing principle or technique. Nothing like having to teach something to learn something.



  • Give an exercise that participants can apply to their work in progress and provide time for participants to creep away and work on it.
  • Schedule time for participants to do what they like best – talk about writing.

5.  Write blog posts. Give tips on your blog as a post or an inset on each post.



  • Do the research.
  • Write posts on the writing activity you’re doing that week, e.g. softening an unlikeable protagonist.
  • Read magazines like Writer’s Digest.

6.  Write a pamphlet or book on writing. This is an undertaking. One that I know. I’ll tell you about Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days soon.



I’ve found that every time I pay forward the help I’ve received, my own work moves toward my goal for excellence.

Pay forward the writing help you’ve received with these 6 activities.  Click to tweet.

How do you pay forward the help you have received so far?

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American Christian Fiction Writers

American Christian Fiction Writers

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  1. Kim Larson

    Thank you for all you do to pay it forward to others. I enjoyed the online ACFW class you recently taught. Although I didn’t participate with examples, I learned so much from your comments to those who did submit. I especially appreciated that you taught using examples and showed how others could improve their work. Well done good and faithful servant!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Kim, thank you for your kind words. They touched me deeply.

  2. Bonnie Winters

    So True Zoe – Paying it forward by passing on what you have learned is a win-win situation. I started an online critique group with another writer over 10 years ago. We were a small group and the other writer wanted to become a publisher so she started an e-zine. All of the group members wrote pieces for the e-zine each month and we critiqued each others’ pieces. I ended up doing a majority of the critiquing, passing on what i had learned from workshops and writing classes. But I ultimately learned that by paying it forward, my own writing improved so much! I would definitely encourage writers to help other writers.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Hi Bonnie, Yours is a great example of how we receive from our paying our help forward. Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. Jocelyn

    Thank you for paying it forward. I would love to be a part of a group that could help with writing. There are no Christian groups in my area. I was involved with ACFW for a couple of years but was a little overwhelmed and became discouraged. I do read a lot and have gleaned from some wonderful authors.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Hi Jocelyn, look into Word Weavers. It has online critique groups as well as physical groups.

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