When I started on this journey to become a published romance writer, I shied away from writing workshops. I read a fantastic book on writing by Elizabeth Berg (Read it!), in which she suggested that while writing classes and workshops were helpful, they could also undermine one’s confidence. I figured, that made sense, and I have you know, “low self-esteem” like many of us do, so I avoided any and all writing workshops.
I was prowling around the RWA Web Site one day and checking out the vast array of resources that were available to help one’s writing career. One of said resources was a yahoo group devoted to announcing workshops. I figured what the hey, can’t hurt to check it out, right? Turns out, WRITERS are good at coming up with catchy names for the workshops they teach that make ’em sound super interesting to take!
…so I took one…and I liked it.
My “first time” was with mystery author Wendy Lyn Watson who has a fantastic series of novels in the works that manage, quite fantastically, to combine murder and ice cream. The first, I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM, is available now, and it’s freaking hilarious. There are some limitations that I have to acknowledge having as a writer, and the inability to use the word “gazongas” as effortlessly as she does in a sentence, is one of them. It makes me sad.
Wendy’s Workshop, on the other hand actually made me quite happy. It was called “Write Naked” and it turned out to be a really good first workshop to take because it was all about finding your voice as a writer. Too many times I will read a novel and LOVE the writers voice so much I find myself trying to channel their writing style. Problem is, it’s a little like finding that author’s home and trying to fit into their pants. In one way or another, it’s going to land you in some trouble.
I have taken the following other workshops thus far, all of them were well worth the time and money:
– Mauled Men, Drowned Dames and Crispy Critters; a Body Disposal Primer for Writers by Jeanne Adams. If you ever have to kill a character and want to make sure you do it right, this is the workshop for you!
– The Warrior Writer by Bob Mayer. This was one of my favorites because his approach is so unique, he is a former Green Beret and brings that experience into his teaching. He focuses more on strategy than art, which is very important. He also has an excellent book out called Who Dares Wins that is a worthwhile read.
– Effective use of POV by Carrie Lofty. This workshop, REALLY helped me to improve the overall quality of my writing. If you want to write deep point of view, this is a fantastic workshop. She really gets into the psychology of your characters and how to make sure they aren’t seeing/experiencing things that aren’t realistic. For example, men aren’t just women with penises. This was a HUGE mistake that I made many times over in my writing. I mean I knew that, but I didn’t KNOW it, you know?
– Loglines, Queries, and Synopsis by Elle James and Delilah Devlin. I found this workshop to be quite painful, but in a good way. None of us want (none of us who are sane, anyway) to write all the other stuff that is required to help us sell our books. They have a great formula that they have put together though, and this is a very worthwhile workshop.
– Pitch Perfect by Kerri Nelson. Kerri also does private online tutoring for creating pitches, synopsis, etc and I can say that her pitch method is DEFINITELY effective because I just got a request for a full manuscript after using the pitch I developed in her workshop!! My old pitch was just God awful, so I can’t thank Kerri enough.
– Marketing for Introverts by Tina Gallagher. As Bob Mayer points out, the writer personality type is the exact opposite of the promoter personality type, and to get your name out there, you’ve got to promote. Tina tells you exactly where to go and what to do!!
So these workshops are great, what’s BAD about them?? Now maybe it’s just me, but I found it EXTREMELY easy to get overwhelmed. I made the rookie mistake of signing up for every damn workshop that looked interesting and there are lots of ’em. Like I said before, writers are good at making their courses look interesting. Thing is, I have found that as a stay at home mom with two kids still in diapers, finding the time to write, maintain my blog and web site, etc. already is a struggle for me. Add in a couple of workshops (many of which have actual ASSIGNMENTS) is quite hard. Then there’s the fact that these workshops are offered by a variety of RWA subchapters, so when you’re tooling around on the interweb signing up work workshops willy-nilly, you can run into some problems. For example, I am signed up for four in August. FOUR.
Previously I determined that two is about all I can handle at a time. I just forgot which ones I had already signed up for.
Also, I was notified by a very polite treasurer with the Low Country RWA subchapter (they have a fantastic course offering btw) that I signed up for the same workshop twice. Twice. As in, I signed up for two workshops twice accidentally. Probably this won’t happen to you, unless you have been running on 4 hours of sleep a night like I do.
So don’t pull a ME and get in over your head with the workshops, be judicious in determining which ones are most important to you, and writing workshops are, in my view, a fabulous way to enhance your craft, your understanding of the industry, and of course your career.
Oh, and join the RWA, because they are your best bet for finding out about workshops, either via their yahoo distribution list or in the back of their Romance Writers Report.