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What to do when you become a spontaneous grant writer

Susan wants to know:

I am being told that I must become a “grant writer” for my law enforcement agency within a month or so. There is not enough time to apprentice so they want me to learn everything I need to know in a 2 day workshop!!! Any suggestions?

Suggestions! I’m filled with ’em. Especially for someone who has transformed, like one of the X-Men, into a grant-writing superhero. Again like the X-Men, I replied via e-mail:

The self-serving but accurate answer to your quandary is “hire us.” Note that we also edit proposals, although about 60 – 70% of the organizations that hire us to edit their proposal would have been better off simply hiring us for the full monty. If that’s not going to happen, I’d say this:

1) Read all of Grant Writing Confidential; I should turn it into an ebook, but I haven’t had time, and making this blog into a cohesive book will probably never be worth it from a pure cost/benefit analysis. Still, I want to anyway—especially after reading “Practical Tips on Writing a Book from 23 Brilliant Authors.” What I wrote in “Why You’re Unlikely to see ‘Seliger and Associates Presents Grant Writing Confidential: The Book and Musical’ Anytime Soon” is still accurate, but the possibilities opened up by self-publishing have exploded in the last year.

2) Does your agency have a particular program to which it wants to apply? If so, which one? Assuming the agency does have a specific program in mind, write as much as you can of the proposal draft before you go to the workshop. Take the draft with you and try to discuss it with whoever is teaching it. Then you’ll basically be turning that person into an editor / professor; it’s much easier to discuss writing, or almost any other “making thing” discipline, in the concrete than in the abstract.

Taking an infinite number of workshops is not going to make the blank page any easier. Having something, anything, on the blank page is better than having nothing. Isaac likes to say, “Something can be edited. Write something.”

3) If you have anyone you know who’s a decent writer and can be pressed into service as an editor, warn and beg them in advance that you need their help. Every writer needs an editor.

4) Start writing as soon as you can. Leave blanks. Get to the end. I’m repeating what I said in number four, but something cannot be edited if it hasn’t been written. I suspect this fundamental fact scuppers as many would-be grant writers as any other.

5) Good luck.

6) GWC readers: you have any other advice for Susan?

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