Monday, November 5, 2012

Student Forever

My husband works in the computer technology field, which is a constantly changing sector.  Because of this, he constantly learns more about his field by attending training, paying attention to the market and upcoming products, and getting certifications and education.  He has to do these things to keep his company up-to-date and provide the best service possible.

Why am I talking about this?  Because we work in a similar field.  Writing is always changing.  

What changes about it?  Right now, we're looking at huge changes in e-publishing and self-publishing.  However, the popularity of various genres, character-types, storylines, etc. is always changing, evolving, mutating, if you will.  The writing market does not stay static.  Yes, there are things that will always be popular, like romance and mystery, but those things change within themselves and evolve.

How can you keep up with these changes?

Conferences.  Go to a local writer's conference.  It doesn't have to be a big one.  Or do one online.  You will learn what is working these days, what is being written, and what is being read.  Bigger than that, though, is what you will learn about your craft.  No matter how good a writer you may be, you don't know everything about writing.  There is always something to learn.  Attend workshops that have to do with the stage you're at, or with what you have the most questions about.  For instance, if you're in research phase, go learn about research, about what you need to do to be accurate in your books.  If you're writing, learn about the dynamics of writing, how to open a story, what your arc should be like, how to manage your time, how to increase your creativity.  Focus on what you most need to know, then move onto the next topic when you're ready for it.  Don't overwhelm yourself all at once.

The Market.  Chances are, if you write, you read.  Or you should.  It kills me when someone says they write horror, but they've never been into horror (for example).  Then how do you know what's scary?  Or what works in horror?  If you're a reader, you are sort of naturally watching the market while you look for new and interesting things to read.  Pay attention to what is trending and what is going out.  It's just information to have.


Workshops & Groups.  Find local or online groups and workshops that might help enrich your craft.  Find things that are interesting and attend them.  Nervous about going by yourself?  Find a pal who will go with you.  There are all manner of groups and workshops.  For instance, we have Write Brains via Pikes Peak Writers every month, monthly programs from Pen Women, Mystery Writers of America, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and many others.  We also have write-ins, critique groups, library-run programs for writers, improv nights, you name it.  Don't attend every single one (well, unless you're able and have the desire to, I guess), but do choose things you think will help you.

Books & Magazines.  Read books on writing.  For instance, On Writing, by Stephen King, which is a popular book.  Get magazines about writing.  Writer's Digest is a good one.  The magazines will keep you updated on what's going on in the publishing world, as well as educate you on your craft.  The books will help with craft, and, if well written, will continue to apply to your writing even years down the road.

Online.  A lot can be found online these days.  Articles about writing, critique groups, forums for writers, workshops, blogs, and even online conferences.  You don't even have to leave your home to continue to learn about the craft of writing.  Go online and find the information you need.

These are just a few basic ways to keep yourself up-to-date and learning, not the only ways.  Absorb what you can from others.  Pay attention to what's going on in the book world.  Educate yourself in the ways that feel the most comfortable with, and that you glean the most out of.  Keep yourself a commodity by always being a student, always trying to learn more and take in as much information as you can.

How do you keep on top of things in the writing world?  What resources do you like best?  

May you find your Muse.


  1. I've never been to a workshop and probably rely on the Internet the most.

  2. I keep on top of things by attending my critique group and the once-a-month workshops Florida Writer's puts on. And I read a lot of blogs by writer's and have a group on Facebook I attend.

    Good post, Shannon!

    Hugs and chocolate,

  3. Going to a 'live' conference is on my list of 'must do' things for next year. I've done a few online, and they're great!

  4. Great post. I worked in the technology field before converting to motherhood and writing, so I can identify with both. :)

  5. Ohhh... great post! I'm such a conference junkie... I LOVE them... and there's so much great stuff online... I swear it's how I learned to write, LOL!

  6. Great advice!
    Just being around others with similar interests helps a whole lot.

  7. never been to a work shop but would love to take a class of some kind mostly I surf the net for new things about writing

  8. Great article, Shannon. I do all of the above. It's a challenge to find time to go to crit groups and workshops and also write, but I always learn something.


  9. See, I stopped at "computer," because I need a new one, and that made me think about it, especially since my computer sounds like it's trying to take off at the moment. :(

  10. I agree. I see the same thing in teaching. I'm always going to workshops for that. As any field evolves, we need to be up-to-date. I keep up with writing and publishing news, too.

  11. It baffles me when a genre author says they've never read in that genre. I'd love to go to a writing conference, but need the oomph to actually do it. One day ;)


  12. I'd love to go to a conference some day but in the meantime I get Writer's Digest Mag, buy books on writing, listen to my critique partners, and pay attention to those writers who offer their expertise on line. Oh, and I practice - a lot!

    I'm pretty sure I'm getting better :)

  13. Alex, I do rely on the internet heavily for learning in all aspects of life, but I always get more inspiration from in-person experiences.

    Shelly, sounds like you've found some great resources, which is wonderful!

    E.J., I hope you can make one next year, especially with your own book out.

    Linda, I bet you can! Technology can be such a stressful field, ever changing, layoffs all over the place, but then new openings elsewhere.

    Morgan, I'm becoming more and more of a conference junkie. I hope to go to one out of state some day, but out of city was this year's goal. Accomplished!

    Rosaria, it really does, even if it is a virtual togetherness. Like I said above to Alex, though, I do think I get more out of in-person contact.

    Becca, I hope you can get out to take an in-person class. I think it's doubly important for moms of younger children.

    Debbie, I agree that finding that time is a challenge. And I often feel guilty if there have been more events than usual, though my husband never complains about me attending them, and never makes me feel guilty. I do it to myself.

    Andrew, sheesh, there's so much more than computer in here. I hope you can get a new one, or get it fixed, before it dies on you. I burn through computers due to my super villain powers, so I keep getting refurbs. Sigh.

    Medeia, you're absolutely right. Teaching is ever-changing. Medical fields are ever-changing, as they discover new things. I think it's important to keep learning about any major facet of your life. I research parenting and child-related things, too.

    Jamie, me, too. I just can't understand it. If you're not a fan, how can you do it right?

    Marcy, sounds like you're covering plenty of bases. I do hope you can get to a conference one of these days, but they definitely aren't the be all and end all.