Practical writing tips for veterans and novices

dale mandy_iatefl

In preparation for the MaWSIG strand of talks at the next BESIG conference (click here for full details and registration), we’ve invited each of the speakers to give us a preview of their session. These previews will be appearing here over the next three weeks.

Mandy Welfare and Dale Coulter are speaking on Sunday, 6th November at 10.45am.

Starting off as a materials writer is a winding, rocky road; you have lots to learn and not much time to learn it in. We’ve teamed up to base our talk at the BESIG/MaWSIG Conference in Munich on our experience of what went right, what went wrong and how we managed to get invited back for further writing projects. Many of our tips are based around techniques used in project management which could prove useful to both seasoned authors and rookie writers.

Dale’s bit: Knowing your audience

Why research English language learners before writing your materials? Sure, that’s what the people at the publishing house did before commissioning you, right? It sure beats sitting at your screen trying to conjure up an imaginary learner for your activities. What’s more, having a deeper connection with learners and their needs and challenges is a major time-saver in the long run.

Step one: pick up a notepad and a pen and start asking! Data-collecting in the form of intensive interviewing helps to bring inspiration to the surface, and any learner profiles created out of the process give you someone to design for. No massive budget required. Maybe just enough money to buy someone a coffee while you ask the questions.

Mandy’s bit: The key to co-authoring

Half the workload, free editing, a wall to bounce ideas off. All reasons why working with a co-author can be great. However, on the practical side, co-authoring a book can be a logistical nightmare. Here are some tips take from project management strategies to help you meet your deadlines and avoid unnecessary friction with your co-author.

File names: Name the file according to the date, time, chapter number/name and your initials, e.g. 160923_1523_4_Whatsyourname_mw. It will be clear who has worked on what and when. Also, you can always go back and retrieve that deleted activity from last week.

Share files: Use a platform like Drive where you commonly store all worked-on documents.

Shared overview: Develop a spreadsheet to record the status of the project. Colour-code it with ‘urgent’, ‘to do soon’, ‘in progress’, ‘done’ and ‘checked’. Have a section labelled ‘Last edited 23.9.16 mw’ and keep it up to date.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, so if you are hungry for more we’ll be happy to see you at our talk!

Mandy Welfare is a teacher, teacher trainer and writer who has written materials for coursebooks and digital platforms. She’s particularly interested in ESP and authentic materials.

Dale Coulter is a manager, trainer and writer of print and digital business English materials. His experience is with intensive and extensive courses and workshops for professionals.

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One response to Practical writing tips for veterans and novices

  1. Sherri Williams 27 October 2016 at 3:00 pm #

    Great tips! Sounds like a great talk – looking forward to hearing it at BESIG in Munich in just a little over a week!

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