When you’re looking for further instruction on writing, you can take college classes, but that gets expensive and they’re held at specific hours that may be inconvenient. You can also learn a lot by going to a conference that’s put on by professional organizations like the Romance Writers of America, The Mystery Writers of America, or Novelists, Inc. In Connecticut, every September there is a convention called Fiction Fest. It’s a three-day intensive weekend that features New York Times published authors, editors from major publishing houses, and literary agents. You can find these conferences all over the United States. There’s even one in Hawaii. However, as exciting and informative those workshops are, they only usually last anywhere from a day to a full weekend.
There are times when you want and need a longer course. You’ll either need detailed feedback on your writing, or help in creating and editing stories. Doing assignments and having an instructor available to give you personal and specific attention is invaluable. That’s difficult to do in a conference setting in such a short time. Online writing courses, however, are usually longer and provide a one-to-one experience with an instructor. They are a great choice when you can’t get away to a larger conference, or if there aren’t any local opportunities. There are also a wide amount of choices online, so you can choose the course that you most need in your writing journey right now. The important part is to find the course that will help your writing get to the next level.
Are you thinking about writing a novel? Have you already written one and need to know how to edit it? Are you ready to find a publisher or an agent? Or have you published a book and want to know how to market it? There are workshops out there that will specialize in what you’re looking to do.
The first thing you should do once you narrow down your choices is to research who is putting on the workshop. Anyone on the internet can claim to be an expert or make claims that by taking their course you will be a bestselling author. Caveat emptor! A quick Google search will tell you how legitimate the course and the instructor are. For example, if you look up The Institute for Children’s Literature, you will see right away that there is a professional website, detailed information, a contact section, and a lot of information that you can read through to make your decision on which course works best for you. You’ll also notice that they’ve been doing this since 1969, and the sister school, The Institute for Writers (formerly Long Ridge Writers Group), has been around since 1989, so that’s a proven track record you can trust.
The next thing that’s important is to decide how much time you can devote to the course. Some courses allow you to go at your own speed. Others have a set beginning and ending time, and if you don’t access your course material in time, you lose it. You don’t want to rush your way through a course—or worse—give up in the middle because life has gotten in the way. The best courses are open ended with unlimited access to the material.
Another thing to consider is the level of technology that is required for the workshop. If you aren’t comfortable downloading software and using a video camera and microphone, you don’t want a course that requires that. There are some courses that have you log in and attend the class in a virtual classroom where you can see your instructor and the other members of your class on your computer screen. You interact with them as if you were in an actual classroom.
On the other hand, you might enroll in a school that will send you the course material either virtually or through the mail and then you submit assignments to your instructor via email, and there’s very little interaction with other students. There are also Yahoo groups, Facebook groups, and LinkedIn groups where you learn through online posts. Finding out what your comfort zone is regarding technology will help you decide which course is right for you.
Once you decide on a writing course, especially if it’s an online one, you’ll want to make sure that you back up all your files. There’s nothing worse than being about to turn in an assignment and having your computer crash, or accidentally deleting a file. The new “my dog ate my homework” is “my file got corrupted.” So, save early and save often.
USA Today bestselling author, Jamie K. Schmidt, writes contemporary love stories and paranormal romances. Her steamy, romantic comedy, Life’s a Beach, reached #2 on Barnes & Noble and #9 on Amazon and iBooks. Her Club Inferno series from Random House’s Loveswept line has hit both the Amazon and Barnes & Noble top one hundred lists and the first book in the series, Heat, put her on the USA Today bestseller list for the first time. Her dragon paranormal romance series from Entangled Publishing, has been called “fun and quirky” and “endearing.”