Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How to Become a Better Writer? Learn to Write Better!

It seems like three quarters of the advice we hear as writers has to do with marketing, sales and platform. The reasons for this are myriad, but the biggest is that most of us struggle in this area. It tends to be way outside our comfort zone. But all this focus on social networking can also lead us astray, in time management and priorities.

It’s critical that we recognize the need to grow in our craft…to learn to write better!

So how do we do that? One of the best ways is to attend writers conferences. But with all the choices out there, how do we choose the one that best fits our circumstances? I hope this blog post will help.

I have my favorites, of course! But just because they’re my favorites doesn’t mean they are the best choice for YOU. I’ve tried to break it all down and give you as unbiased an overview as I can.

The first thing you should consider is your experience level. You need to look at where you are with your writing, that will be the biggest factor in your decision. As you look at the categories realize that your experience may overlap.

  • Never submitted anything for publication
  • Hasn’t told many people he writes
  • Has submitted a couple of things, but nothing published
Advanced Beginner
  • Has several rejection letters and a couple of acceptances
  • Is a member of a local or online writing group
  • Regularly reads articles or books about writing
  • Has attended a writers event (either a workshop, conference or online class)
  • Has an idea of where he wants to go with his writing
  • Has been paid for his writing
  • Spends time each day working at the craft of writing and has an income derived from writing
  • Has definite goals and aspirations for his writing
Once you know which group you fall into, it’s easier to evaluate each individual event. There are 2 reasons to attend a writers event.
  1. To learn more about the craft of writing
  2. To network with professionals within the writing world
Here’s a general breakdown of what is usually offered at each kind of event.

These events vary slightly, so the following information is generalized. You should read all brochures and websites carefully to know what to expect.

Large, National Writing Conference
Expect lots of classes for a wide variety of writers - from beginner to advanced.
Continuing Classes – these are classes that last for more than one class period and concentrate on one subject. Even though they are continuing, they rarely provide advanced information on a given subject.
Workshops – these are classes that give an introduction to a concept (like dialogue, plot or setting).
Breakouts or Panels – these are groups of professionals giving instruction on a given subject. The information here is usually very basic.
Appointments with Faculty – most large conferences include a private appointment with a member of the faculty. This is where you would pitch a book or article idea to an editor. It can also be valuable to let a seasoned author look at your writing and give one-on-one feedback.

Regional or Local Writing Conference
These tend to have more classes for the beginner and advanced beginner writer, although there are exceptions. Depending on the length of time, the conference will follow the same basic setup as a national conference.

Workshop or Seminar
Many of these are very specific in what they offer. They aren’t for a large number of writers and generally target the intermediate or advanced writer.

Online Classes
Again, they are very specific in what they offer and vary widely in who they cater to.

It’s never a good idea to write in a vacuum. I have always tried to attend one large conference a year to expose myself to the writing industry, both for networking and education. I also try to attend at least one focused workshop or seminar each year I and I try to keep my eyes open for online writing courses and take at least two a year.

Let me know what conferences and events you've attended and how they've helped your writing journey.


  1. Edie,
    I appreciate your practical & applicable information. So many people wonder where they are on the writing road -- and then what to do about it. If they read this column, they'll know. Going to FB and Tweet this.

  2. So helpful to know where I am! :-) I've been mulling the conference question just this morning. Thanks for adding to the conversation. Very helpful.

  3. I'm with Jennifer - it's good to know where I fall in the spectrum!

    I LOVE attending conferences & workshops & retreats, and always come away with helpful info. I'd like to give a little plug to Blue Ridge -

    One of the best classes I've EVER taken was taught by Susan King (editor of Upper Room) and was a continuing class on writing devotions. I learned a lot about writing "tight" and the mechanics of devotion writing.

    Can't wait to go back someday!

  4. Great resource for all writers, Edie!

  5. I appreciate the breakdown, Edie -- and couldn't agree more with Susan's take on Blue Ridge. (Susan King was one of my fave's too!)

  6. Great resource as we begin finalizing conference choices.

  7. As always,Edie,great information!! I agree with Susan and Cathy...love Blue Ridge!!

    If you are interested in writing for children and young adults, please check out the Write2Ignite! conference coming up in March!! There is a nice range in course offerings at W2I and the event meets the needs of various levels of writers. There are also opportunities to meet with publishers and editors one on one.
    Check out www.write2ignite.com. Scholarships are available.

  8. You break everything down to easy, managable steps. That is an art! Lots of helpful info-thanks.

  9. I missed Susan King's classes because I joined another continuing class but I've heard such good things about it - I hope to go back and take it at some point. And I'm with others, it's great to know where I am in my career based on your chart. Sometimes I need something like that to go on as I reevaluate where I'm headed. As always, Edie, a big thanks for all you do for writers!

  10. Thanks Edie. I have attended one small, regional writer's conference and the best thing I got, as a beginning writer, was the sense of support and encouragement. Writing is such a solitary art, it's always nice to talk with others who understand and/or have experience with it!