1.26.2007

online workshops are not pub credits

Dear Miss Snark:

I haven't done any creative writing to speak of since I was in college over 25 years ago. I've been working on three different manuscripts since late last year, and the only thing I've gained from the exercise is that I've forgotten a lot more than I ever knew. My writing is boring and formulaic. I can't join a writer's group because I live in the back of beyond; the nearest one I could find is over two and a half hours' drive away.

I subscribe to "Writer's Digest" and decided to enter one of their online workshops. I realize that it's not accredited and doesn't count as an academic course, but is it something that I could list as a credit on a query? I thought that, at worst, participating in this workshop will exercise my writing skills and maybe get the creative juices flowing a little.

What do you think?


I think you don't understand the difference between "publication credit" and "working on your craft". Going to a seminar, accredited or not, going to a workshop, belonging to a critique group, putting your work through the travails of the crapometer are all valuable to various degrees. They are "working on your craft". They are NOT mentioned in query letters. Never. Not even the "bingo bango bongo" of the recent HHCom.

Getting your work published is a publication credit. Small journals, winning a contest, previous novels are all pub credits. Pub credits require your work to be selected from a pool of submissions, evaluated by someone other than your mom and generally available to be read by Miss Snark should she wish to clickity click over to the website.

19 comments:

Elayna said...

This person may be interested in the free 2 year novel course offered at forward motion writers' community. I'm over there right now and it's definitely getting the creative juice flowing. They're still allowing sign ups until the end of the month.

Anonymous said...

you don't need live in an urban community to join a workshop, there are plenty online workshops as well, some for free. Dreaming In Ink Writers Workshop is at http://www.dreaminginink.com. There's Critters, the SFFHOW workshops, and other writing communities. You can find a whole list of them at the alden.nu resources page found here: http://www.alden.nu/resources.shtml. Look towards the middle of the center column.

writtenwyrdd said...

I took some Writers' Digest workshops, and although they are pricey, they were helpful in that they helped me focus and gave me some input. I have also checked out a few different writing critique circles on line and found them to be helpful.

You just have to shop around until you land in a spot that suits your needs as a writer. I really recommend trying for a critique group that is specific to the type of writing you do.

Sherry D said...

I doubt mentioning that I took advanced writing classes at the UW Seattle made any difference in selling my short stories. I think the editor liked my stories and the way I wrote. I advise you to write a lot, submit a lot, grow thick skin and persevere. Taking the classes certainly won't hurt, but don't expect it to open doors for you. Just learn what you can from the classes and from interacting with the teacher(s) and other students.

Anonymous said...

Not a class, but a lot can be learned at the Absolute Write Water Cooler.

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/

J

Anonymous said...

"My writing is boring and formulaic."

Take a look at the best seller list. You have two of the qualities needed to make that one. If your readers can finish every sentrence themselves without reading to the period, and if they know what's going to happen next without turning the page, you definitely have a best seller on your hands.

Anonymous said...

What if the workshop you attend is something that is run by professionals in the field with a name behind it. Like Clarion for instance?

Maria said...

Anon with the clarion workshop question:

I've read magazine interviews with editors that say things like, "If you attended Clarion, mention it."

But Clarion is not really your standard, sign up, pay and you're in. There are probably a few other workshops (very few) worth mentioning, but darn it all, as Miss Snark says, in the end, the writing is gonna have to work...

Anonymous said...

If you're too far out to attend a face-to-face critique group, you should consider signing up for one online. Depending on what you write both http://www.critiquecircle.com and http://www.critters.org may provide what you need. Also, don't forget to look at the other suggestions posted here.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't list an online workshop credit, but I do generally put in-person workshops in my queries. No, they're not publication credits, of course. But in one case, it was a competitive-admission workshop run by Pam Houston, and I go to Iowa every summer for their Summer Writing Festival. I think it conveys dedication. Can't hurt, right?

Fuchsia Groan said...

A while ago in some other comments trail, somebody mentioned that he/she used to read for a literary journal, and they were instructed to give preference to submissions whose authors listed certain prestigious workshops and MFAs as a credit. (Iowa and Bread Loaf were two workshops cited, I think.) So a name-brand workshop you have to "audition" for might be a useful credit if you write "literary" stuff. (Whatever that means... there's quite a range there.)

I wish I'd submitted my work for the Crapometer, because you guys are a great critique group of sorts!

Dave Kuzminski said...

Clarion is definitely considered worth mentioning in a query letter by a number of speculative fiction publishers.

Anonymous said...

There are great critique groups and resources for working on your writing online.
Critique circle is a good one.
Blogs are amazeing, go to google and do a blog search for "writing" "publishing" etc.
Just frequent writing message boards - don't post any of your writing (I've heard that counts as first publication rights)! But listen to what other people have to say. Read the critiques.
Even fictionpress.net can be helpfull if you understand why the stories suck.

Anonymous said...

I could take music classes from Bach, but that doesn't mean I can carry a tune. Write well, and the rest will follow. Learn the craft, and write a good story (ah, it sounds sooo easy!).

Twill said...

Clarion Meets Miss Snark's criterion - "Pub credits require your work to be selected from a pool of submissions, evaluated by someone other than your mom..."

Dave Kuzminski said...

Clarion attendees generally have to submit writing to show they're far enough along in development to understand what they'll be taught before they're accepted at Clarion. That's why being a Clarion graduate causes speculative fiction editors to give their work a read when other authors can't get past the query letter stage.

Anonymous said...

what about workshops with very well known authors (that require applications, etc.)? are those mentioned in a query if the genre is related?

Anonymous said...

I think it was Marion Zimmer Bradley who once said 'expect to throw out your first million words' or words to that effect.

You can get writing/critique help, take classes, read how-to books, you can (and should) read fiction you like and think about why you like it and what it is about it that works technically. But the only way to practice writing is to do it. I think almost everyone writes crap to begin with. But if you love it and care about it, you keep doing it and you get better. Doesn't everyone reading this blog have a box (or disk) full of unpublishable crap they hope no one ever sees? I certainly do!

~RobinH

RachelMcG said...

I belong to a well known critique group in Oregon, and we've had several editors (like Ellen Datlow) visit, and then tell members to mention the group in query letters to her so they'll pass the first reader. Again, it's the exception to the rule. I've heard that other editors look very askance at any such mention in a letter, so do so at your peril.