Tag Archives: Writers’ Resources

The Writers’ Toolbox: Seminars, workshops, and conferences

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One basic tool every author needs in his/her toolbox is the Writers’ Seminar. These are workshops offered by people who have mastered certain aspects of the craft, and are your way to gain more knowledge of the craft.

They are classes, focusing on every aspect of writing, from the story arc to character development. You can also get classes in how to court agents and editors, if the traditional route is your choice, or conversely, advice on negotiating the rough seas of indie publishing. In this craft, there is never an end to the learning process.

But what if you are housebound and can’t get to a conference? Three excellent resources for an intensive online 3 part seminar are Scott Driscoll’s courses through The Writer’s Workshop ($500.00 each, plus textbook, see the website for more information. Length- and quality-wise these classes are the equivalent of a college course–where else will you get this kind of education for the cost of an average 4 day seminar?)

What about actually finding and physically attending seminars and events? That is where you will meet authors, both famous and infamous, known and not yet known.  You will meet people in the industry who will enlighten you and also help you up the ladder to success.

I love writers’ seminars, and attend every one I can afford to get to–and cost is an issue. But there are many budget-friendly seminars out there, many offered by your local library system.

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For me, it’s about being in a community of authors who are all seeking the same thing–a little more knowledge about the craft. Everyone who attends a writers’ conference, seminar or workshop is serious about the craft, and just in conversation with other attendees you can find great inspiration to help fuel your own creative muse.

How does one find these things? Google (or Bing) is your friend here:

A short list of Seminars, Workshops, and Conferences in Western Washington—check websites for the next seminars offered:

  • Hugo House ($60.00 to join-cost per event may vary)
  • PNWA Writers Conference ($65.00 to join PNWA + cost of 4-day conference–can be pricey. With early registration 2015 conference was $425.00 + the cost of room. Continental breakfasts and two dinners were included, and being vegan I brought my own food. Altogether I spent nearly $1000.00, but was able to do so in 2 chunks.)
  • Southwest Washington Writers Conference ($60.00 early registration, 1 day conference) VERY GOOD INVESTMENT!
  • Port Townsend Writers Conference (10 day conference, Tuition ranges from $150.00 for one or two classes to $900 for the full 10-days, includes room with meals==$90.00 per day–a steal!)
  • Northwest Institute of Literary Arts (costs of individual events vary, average seminar under $200.00) (Terry Persun is giving a seminar most indies could benefit from on taming the beast that is Amazon there August 22, 2015 from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm–get to it if you can!)
  • Clarion West Writers Workshop (Specializing in speculative fiction,  offering everything from seminars to a highly respected 6-week workshop for $3,800.00.  Costs vary, average one-day event $130.00)
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But what if you have little or no $$ to spare for food much less a conferences? For the love of Tolstoy, check out your local library! They are an unbelievably great, free or exceedingly low-cost resource.

For example, the Tumwater, Washington branch of the Timberland Regional Library system has several upcoming seminars offered by author and writing coach Lindsay Schopfer, at no cost to the attendee– the library has hired him as a bonus for the aspiring authors among their patrons. These seminars are not fluff–Lindsay gives good, solid, technical classes for serious authors, so if you are in this area check out the schedule and try to attend.

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Check out your local library, and see what is available for the starving author!

Now that you know what is available in my area, check your own area and see what you can find. You will be amazed at the wide variety of good one-day conferences, multi-day events, and continuing education courses that are available. While most have some cost attached to them, the author who is determined to improve within the craft and who has little or no money can find something that will fit his budget just by doing a little research at the local library.


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Writers’ Resources

tumblr_ng6esx01YT1syd000o1_1280The internet is a wonderful place. You can find just about anything here, and you can get a complete education for FREE!

Of course, it’s not credited, but there is an incredible amount of information on just about anything for free, up to and including college level courses in various aspects of writing through Coursera.

Coursera is a wonderful organization. They are a for-profit organization but you can take online courses from major universities FOR FREE, and while you don’t receive a diploma, you do get a good education. Wikipedia tells us that: All courses offered by Coursera are accessible for free and some give the option to pay a fee to join the “Signature Track.” Students on the Signature Track receive verified certificates, appropriate for employment purposes. These students authenticate their course submissions by sending webcam photos and having their typing pattern analyzed. 

I’m not sure how that works, but I am all for it. What I really like is that Coursera offers specializations, set courses that help increase understanding of a certain topic. I’ve take a couple of medieval history courses from them and while I didn’t have the money to get the certificate, I really enjoyed them. Knowledge is such a useful thing!

But  for the financially strapped author wanting to increase their knowledge of the craft of writing, an amazing resource is the website Writers’ Digest. They are also for profit, but they offer an incredible amount of information and assistance FOR FREE.

So here, in no particular order, are my favorite sources of Online Information About Writing your novel:



The Creative Penn


Creative Writing Now

Harlequin has one of the best websites, for teaching authors how to develop professional work habits, which is critical to being productive. I highly recommend you go to websites that specialize in writing romance novels regardless of what genre you write in, because the romance publishers have it right: they want to sell books, and they want you to succeed and so they get down to the technical aspects of novel construction and offer many excellent tools for getting your work out the door in timely fashion–something I need to work on. They also offer tips on marketing your work.

They also give you all kinds of tips on how to create a writing space and organize your day so you can get good writing time in and still manage your family. I used to do my writing on an old IBM Selectric that was next to the gerbil cage–not a good environment for writing.

In regard to research, reading one Wikipedia article does not qualify you as an expert in your chosen subject, so go beyond the surface. Find the websites that really explain your subject and go to the local library to research. Once you know what you are writing about, you can mash it up any way you want to.

But even though we are educating ourselves about our novel’s setting and have gained an understanding of how the science that forms the core plot-point actually works, sometimes we hit a bit of sticking point in the creative process.

When that happens we can either drop out of writing mode (not an option for me) or we can find a way to yank that thought out of our head and identify what must happen to get that scene moving. I am a linear thinker, so after a little trial and error, and after seeing how other authors work, this is what I came up with, that works for me in regard to organizing a scene that I am having difficulty with. If it works for you, feel free to:

right click>save image as jpeg or png and save it to your hard drive to print out

Scene creation chartOnce I know how these seemingly disparate things fit together, the scene becomes unstuck, and I begin making progress again. Also, something about the process of spreadsheeting the scene gives me a little insight as to why a particular character might NOT need to be in that scene.

Sometimes just knowing who does and who doesn’t need to be in a scene is just as important as knowing where the nearest inhabitable (for humans) planet  might lie in a given star system.


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