Friday, July 7, 2017

Workshops Are Not Wonder Cures For Your Writing

I have heard a lot of presenters over the years proclaiming the wonders of their workshops. "This workshop will revolutionize the way you write your novels." This workshop is the definitive guide to selling your manuscript for the highest dollar." or "In this seminar, you will learn everything to make your dialogue be the star of your novel." Unfortunately, when I hear things such as this, I am immediately reminded of those old west snake oil salesmen. These men would tout their products as fixing everything from the common cold to E.D.

Let me just say, there is a slight difference here. These salesmen had products that were far from the cure. These were just great moneymaking ventures. The workshop presenters for your stories are not scam artists, and yes, the things they speak of do work. HOWEVER, there is another twist you need to understand. The proclamations of curing your stories or selling your product immediately are a bit of a hyperbole.

Look, I get that when we put together a workshop, we come up with titles that sell. I know when I have put together presentations, I have tried to come up with a title that will wow the authors. But when I start all of my presentations, I always emphasize the fact that, like everything out there in publishing, there are no quick fixes, easy routes or guarantees. I also note that when it comes to writing and publishing, what works for one person is not going to work for someone else.

If you are a writer planning on attending workshops at RWA Nationals, the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, or any other upcoming conference, it is important to remember a few things about these sessions.

First of all, these are the opinions of one person. This speaker found some success with the approach he or she took when working on their project. Does that mean it will work for you? Not necessarily. Could there be ideas you can take from the presentation to play around within your own story? Absolutely. I stress this when I do critiques for authors. I always start out by saying to adapt the ideas I am providing to each of their own situations. If something doesn't work with that next project, then don't force the issue.

Secondly, these ideas may be fantastic, but if not executed properly, the ideas will fail. My graduate work in Literacy focused on student learning in a classroom. I looked at the interaction of the teacher, the student, the curriculum, and, the environment on student learning. The one thing I noted was that if one of the 4 variables was not working effectively, student learning WAS NOT a success. The same holds true with writing. An author can have the best story idea, the best tools to work with, but if the writer simply does not have the voice for that story, the story will fail.

I want to stress that I am 100% behind workshops for writers. I want there to be more of these around the nation. I am tired of writers "self-medicating" for lack of a better word, their way to publishing. But, I want to also remind you that you cannot expect to walk out of that workshop, go home and fix your writing. It is not going to happen!

Have a great weekend.

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