Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Writer's Wednesday - Workshops!

Don’t you just love the alliteration of that title? All those W’s draw your attention, don’t they? Pink Heart Society editor Jenna Bayley-Burke learned more than anyone should know about alliteration, editing, and tons more she forgot about last weekend.

It wasn’t until after I’d sold a book that I was told I didn’t know how to write. Not by an editor or a reader – you know, the people who pay us to tell them stories – but by a writer. There are three types of authors – the storytellers, the craft writers, and those that are able to blend the two. Storytellers tend to have one or two books and fade, craft writers put out a book every eighteen-months or so, and those on the New York Times list who have managed to both tell a good story and tell it well.

Ever since that first book, I’ve been trying to improve my writing through workshops. I’m lucky enough to belong to a moderately large local RWA group. This means that there is enough money in the coffers to bring in high level teachers every year. I’ve been able to learn the ropes from Mary Buckham (Break Into Fiction) Deb Dixon (Goal, Motivation and Conflict), Alicia Rasley (The Power Of Point Of View), and just this last weekend – Margie Lawson.

I’d never heard of Margie Lawson before one of my chaptermates went to her deep editing intensive last summer. Six authors in a cabin in Colorado for three full days that completely changed the way she approached writing. Now, after just two workshops, I can see why. Lawson is a psychologist who uses her skills to show writers how to boost emotion in their writing. She’s a big fan of writing tight and writing fresh – so I do think I came away with a new perspective as well.

Writers need to hone their craft or their stories can become stagnant and stale. How a writer does that varies based on how they learn. I wish I were a visual learner and could glean the same information from books and online courses that I do from in person workshops. For me, next to writing (which is in itself the best teacher of how to write), attending workshops has truly helped me expand my knowledge and hopefully become a better writer.

We’ll soon see. I promised myself that I would start submitting again before next month’s Slushing Through column!

Next month, Jenna will see what she can glean from Michael Hague and Bob Mayer (The Fiction Writer's Toolkit). While she’s waiting for the time to put words on the page and learning how to make them worth reading, her
latest release is Compromising Positions -- available with chocolate, Kama Sutra yoga, a decade old crush and a steady addiction to sugar. To find out what Jenna is up to ...check out her website or blog


  1. I loved Break Into Fiction--I showed up with an index card and a few lines on it for a story. I left with a plot.

    Awesome post. I've got to take the Margie Lawson course. It sounds right up my alley.

    I"m reading the MAASS book: Writing the Breakout Novel. It's got a workbook companion. That might be helpful, too.

  2. Oh wow - you've done some great workshops and I'd love to sit in on the next one!

  3. We're trying to talk Donald Maas into coming out for a weekend. He reps one of our chaptermembers and she's learned so much from him - mostly to trust her instincts as a writer which is where I am REALLY struggling right now.

    We've had some lesser-known workshops that were really good -- Paty Jager did I'm Just A Guy about Brad Paisley songs and the male perspective, Teri Mclaughin did The First Kiss were my faves last year.

    Now if I could only stop staring at the blinking cursor...