It is not enough to just publish novels, writers must also work towards winning laurels, and this is why the Abuja Writers’ Forum (AWF) recently organised a workshop which focused on how writers could pen award-winning books.
DO not be in a rush to be published. Quality is always better than quantity. Editing is critically important. If your story is set in the 80s, make sure your character is not answering GSM phones”.
These words represent part of the lecture, Chinelo Onwualu, a professional editor and guest lecturer, gave in the general class on Saturday, April 13, 2013 at the recently-concluded April Writing Workshop organised by the Abuja Writers Forum (AWF)
Onwualu, a former US-based writer, did not mince words when she urged writers to pay great attention to editing as against rushing to get published in her paper entitled, “The Importance of Editing.”
It was the general opening lecture of the day. “New writers tend to think that editing merely means a brief read-through for typos and spelling errors. That is the very last thing to do. The best writers re-write and re-write. Too many Nigerian authors are going into the world of letters with dreams of instant stardom. For them, it is more important to see their book published than to make sure it is a quality product. They are approaching writing the same way one would approach the selling of second hand shoes with an eye to quick profit and a big launch with a lot of deep pocket donors. They have no desire to go through the pains and hassles of a thorough editorial process. Make sure you are not one of those writers”, Onwualu instructed.
The Editing lecture won the hearts of the local and foreign participants, many of whom are professionals in the arts, behavioural science as well as exact science. They all agreed that the topic was very relevant. As many of them would later also admit to, “getting quality editing for our works has been as problematic as getting funding for publishing.
Midway through Onwualu’s lecture, the Director of the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ) and Coordinator of AWF, Dr Emman Usman Shehu, announced that the workshop would treat the three genres of literature — fiction, poetry and drama — and that when the Editing class was over, participants would spilt into groups accordingly
Upon the commencement of the group sessions, organised noise became palpable with each of the classes engaging in incisive intellectual exercises.
In the Drama class, Anthony Abu, the lecturer, painted a scenario and asked the participants to give it shape and rhythm. Indeed, the responses were not haphazard. They bore the essential ingredients of a good plot — events will build upon a conflict situation, get to crescendo and make resolution expedient. The Drama class also witnessed several comedy tests, some verbal, some written.
Abu identified that the comedy variant of drama could no longer be relegated in literary discourses in Nigeria, as a result of the enviable echelon it now occupies, with the material success contemporary comedians like Ali Baba, AY, Princess, Julius Agwu, Okey Bakassi, Gbenga Adeyinka, Victor Osuagwu, I Go Die, to mention a few, have achieved for themselves.
Almost all the participants in the drama group affirmed that they may develop movie scripts soon with the knowledge they have acquired at the workshop.
The workshop really opened the eyes of participants to the opportunities in the literary sector. Nigeria terribly needs to diversify her economy as a strategy for solving crude oil-induced multifarious socio-cultural problems, reduce unemployment, and boost foreign exchange earnings. In America, entertainment grosses over 600 million dollars annually for the economy. The emerging entertainment industry in Nigeria is a waiting goldmine.
At the poetry class, Dr Shehu demonstrated his brilliance as he took participants through the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’ of the genre. Not one to waste words, he took listeners through a crash programme which many admitted could last them a life time.
“A poet”, he said “must be extra sensitive. For an ordinary passer by, the usual chaotic situation in Oshodi, Lagos is all noise. But for the poet, the seeming endless chaos, the blaring of horns, music from loud speakers, the haggling over prices, the diatribes over ownership of hawking spots may well be sweet music”.
In the poetry class, participants were engaged fully and their works (assignments, tests and published works) used to teach.
The Oshodi example was based on a poem by Olumide Olaniyan, one of the participants.
Apart from the sharpening of the intellect, another high point of the workshop was the announcement that an arts enthusiast is sponsoring an anthology of short stories for participants and members of AWF.
Speaking, the sponsor, Mr. Ogbonwan Nosakhare, a banker said, “I’m doing it in my personal capacity. I am just moved by my interest to contribute to filling the void”.
This announcement drew wide commendation from participants. Lindsey Tulloch, a Canadian, says, “One couldn’t be luckier. I will present my short story when the screening for the anthology commences. This is an opportunity. I would like to be published in Nigeria”.
The fiction writer, who expressed gratitude to AWF, urged the Nigerian government to take advantage of this opportunity( the workshop and the sponsorship) to rally support for writers, adding that, “developing nations need inputs of their creative minds”.
She also said, “I love Nigerian writers. I have read “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe; “Purple Hibiscus” by Chimmamanda Ngozi Adiche and Helon Habila’s books”, adding that the applause which greeted the announcement of the sponsorship underscores the pains which writers in the developing world go through to get their works published.
What does Julie Ebikwo, a civil servant and novelist think? “Creative minds should get more organised so they could make inputs to policies affecting their industry. “No doubt, what I have gained here will enhance my writing. I find the sponsorship highly inspiring. It is an impetus, not just for us, but also for the government”, she enthused.
One of the instructors at the workshop, Mr Bob Majiri Oghene, will join Chinelo Onwualu in editing the anthology.