Once we reach a certain age and have been working in some type of responsible position for a few years, we have been to a boatload of workshops, conferences, and seminars. A writer’s workshop is a little different, but not much.
At this point in my fiction writing career, I’ve attended a writer’s conference, Midwest Writer’s Workshop (MWW) last July in Muncie, Indiana, and a workshop, Writer’s in Paradise (WIP) at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida.
What you will probably experience:
- A famous or semi-famous or not-so-famous-but-available-and-cheap author talking about how he or she did it and you can too, or about writing in general.
- Some discussion of craft, either general or specific to genre: good beginnings, how to write a mystery, plotting secrets, etc. The value of the session depends on the value of the presenter.
- Opportunities to interact with other writers-to-be, of all ages and sizes. Many want to write the next Twilight or 50 Shades. A select few might be good possibilities for an online writer’s group.
- Sessions on technical stuff like how to get a blog. The two big topics will be “self-publishing – is it evil?” and “writer platform and why the mainstream publishers will make you have one.” In case you missed out on those two topics.
- Possibly some type of critique of your work, either in a small group discussion setting or one-on-one.
- Networking and connection to editors or agents. MWW included a pitch session with an agent; WIP had no explicit time to connect with a specific agent, but lots of opportunity to network.
Writer’s Workshop vs. Writer’s Conference
In my opinion, at a writer’s conference people go to presentations, whereas a workshop is a place where you can get a more intensive discussion of your work. But don’t go by titles. The MWW is mostly a conference. There is a keynote speaker (usually a semi-famous author), craft sessions, and technical sessions. WIP focuses more on small group discussions of manuscripts (25 pages) and you must apply to be considered (I’m not sure how many are turned down).
Exclusive or not?
Some conferences or workshops are very exclusive, with a vetting process that includes a submission of work. WIP required a manuscript submission (25 pages) to be accepted. Others, like MWW, are pretty much for everyone, up to a point of turning away people if they reach a maximum capacity.
Where you go and what you do depends on what you want and where you are in your writing career. You may also want a residency or retreat (you hibernate and write) or a festival (like a book festival).
Here are some places to get more information about writer’s workshops and conferences in 2014. I looked in all three, because some might not be listed in all places: