AWT Professional Feedback Restored My Confidence in Writing

By Aliker P’ Ocitti

In 2009, I worked for a non for profit (NGO) as a Project Coordinator. One of my most valued competences then was fundraising. As a gifted orator, I travelled on behalf of my organisation for numerous speaking engagements to America and Canada; to use my public speaking skills to fundraise for the organization.This gave me a great indispensable sense of self-importance.

As a fundraiser, writing concepts and proposals was one of my core responsibilities. While I spoke outstanding good English, and passed all my English exams in school, and had written rewarding fundraising concepts, no one had ever told me I didn’t know how to write.

One day in a weekly office meeting, after I had presented my fundraising plan to my immediate supervisor, he said: “I wish you could write as well as you speak.” These 10 words were the first professional feedback I had received on my writings. It hit me hard like a brick on the head. It tore through my ego to its core, and I realized how dispensable I was. Since then, I had lost my confidence and painfully accepted my vulnerability.

It is more than a decade. I have attended expensive writing workshops; watched more than 200 short writing videos on YouTube, and invested in more than 50 books and other reading literature. I published my first book; A memoir; written numerous articles in Uganda’s leading mainstream media. But I had never regained my confidence.

In 2020, I completed my first novel manuscript of more than 50,000 words written in more than four years.

When African Writers Trust (AWT) sent out a call for book manuscript appraisals, it was another chance to risk being heartbroken. I was convinced I needed this professional feedback if my love for writing was ever to have a future. I submitted my work. To my shock, the feedback I got was like the treasured feedback every young man looks forward to after “launching a love manifesto” to his dream lady.

“I will think about it,” when said with certain eye contact; and a shy, facial Expression presents a great sense of promise to the man. This promise guarantees hope for greatness that lies ahead. This is how I felt about reading my two-page professional feedback. It felt like a love letter I had anticipated.

While my two pages of feedback were not like an acceptance letter, it carried a message of promise and hope for a great future.

In my feedback notes, I learnt that I had not mastered character development as much as I thought I did. It tasked me to do more to build my main characters.

I also learnt I had mixed up the grammar from first person singular to third-person singular, making it hard to trace a flashback in the story.

I learnt that my book pacing looks rushed and that I needed to add more details to some aspects of the book content.

While I finally learnt how to write descriptively, some of my sentences were overtly inflated and required that I review them. I also learnt that I had mastered the art of writing dialogue and developing my plot in my writing.

After writing 50,000 words for my first novel manuscript, this feedback to me on a subject I am exceedingly passionate about was a clear success story to my writing efforts.

A keen look will tell you that the specific nature of this feedback and how it is delivered to me as a writer is very empowering because, while YouTube and Writing Workshops will address generic concerns about good grammar and character development; this was tailor-made feedback for my personal growth as a writer.

 I could have paid $1,000 for this assessment with other writing agencies, yet it was offered for free by AWT. I cannot thank AWT enough for living up to its core mission of developing the potential of African writers.

Finally, and most importantly, AWT has restored my confidence in writing that I had lost from the feedback I received in 2009 from my immediate supervisor.

The AWT editorial feedback has not only restored my confidence in my writing but also exponentially increased how I value my work as a writer. I feel like I am now ready to write more and more books.

The Writer is a Gulu – based Blogger, Poet, and Author of a memoir: “My Mayor: The Political Campaign Story of a Poor Elite and Rich Illiterate”.  

NB: Aliker submitted his second manuscript for a poetry collection for the second edition of the Manuscript Assessment programme and paid the submission fee of $300.

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