Friday, October 25, 2013

Getting Down To Business: Workshops

Columnist Donna Alward is back this month to chat about workshops. How many should you take, and what kind, to get the most value for your time and money?

Last month I talked about the value of entering contests, and broke it down into pros and cons. When it comes to workshops, there really are only 2 cons across the board. One is time, and the other is money.

Before I launch in, I want to stress that workshops are great not just for the unpublished but for the published as well. Every single time I've attended a workshop, I've taken something away that I can use either in my current work-in-progress or a book I'm going to be writing soon. There are also lots of times that we know something, but forget in the every day business of writing books. And that's just the craft part of the workshop equation. Don't forget there are workshops that have to do with business, promotion, and writerly life.

In answer to my question above, that's really a very personal thing for you to figure out yourself. There are some people who take workshop after workshop, but are so busy doing workshops that they forget to write. That's pretty counter-intuitive. After all,  I still maintain that the NUMBER ONE way to improve your writing is to just write - more and more and more. Workshops support your writing, but they can't replace the actual act of crafting a story from start to finish.

So you have to ask yourself a) how much time can you dedicate to taking workshops and b) how much money can you spend?

You also need to decide what you really need help with. Is it finding ways to promote/discoverability? Is it finding an agent, doing revisions, crafting characters or filling plot holes? Just like you'd target contests, target your workshops so you get what you need.

You can look at the length of each course and what's involved. Is there a lot of homework?

Who is the instructor? Word does get around about people who do great workshops. I can think right away of three friends of mine whose workshops are always popular: Susan Meier, Shirley Jump, and Deb Hale. If I were looking at workshops, I'd see those names and immediately think that I'm going to get some really solid information I can use. There are lots of other people out there who give WONDERFUL workshops - get recommendations from your friends! Most people offer repeat workshops so you can take it the next time they offer it.

There are also lots of free workshops available - you just have to look for them. A great place to start is RWA University - some of these workshops are paid and some are free.

You don't always have to take a workshop to learn, either. There are lots of articles and blogs with fantastic information. The articles in the RWR are usually very strong and if you keep your ear to the ground (or your eyes on social media) you'll find links to some great resources on the web.

And don't forget reading! Download a new writing craft book on your kindle and do it on your own time! Or, if you're like me, there's nothing like a paper copy that you can highlight with a highlighter. :)

It's important to keep up your writerly education. Just don't become a slave to it. The old 4-H motto is "Learn to Do By Doing". Workshops are wonderful, but don't forget to do the single most important thing: WRITE.

Donna's next release is A CADENCE CREEK CHRISTMAS, #5 in the Cadence Creek series and out November 1. It's available via right now.

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