Writers rarely produce perfect first drafts that are ready to publish. Even famous authors like Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf joined writing workshops to polish their prose. Although it’s possible to self-edit your book, you’ll usually get better results if you hire a professional editor or workshop your manuscript with the help of fellow writers. Read on to learn more about the workshopping process and how it can improve both your manuscript and writing skills.
What Is a Writing Workshop?
A writing group or workshop is basically a meetup for writers. Workshops give you a chance to network with other authors and get feedback on portions of your manuscript. During the workshop, fellow writers will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your manuscript and suggest ways to improve it. You usually aren’t allowed to talk or defend your writing while it’s being critiqued—you just have to sit back, listen, and absorb the feedback.
In addition to critique sessions, many writing workshops include lessons on different aspects of storytelling such as character development. There may also be designated writing time so you can respond to a prompt or work on one of your current projects. Some writing groups even invite guest speakers like published authors and literary agents to discuss key aspects of writing and marketing books.
How to Find a Writing Workshop
Whether you’re looking for a writing workshop in your area or one that meets on Zoom, there are a few ways to find groups to join. You can search on Meetup.com and Eventbrite for online or in-person critique groups, many of which are free to join. Sometimes libraries and bookstores also host free community writing workshops. Your librarian or other authors in your area may know of writers’ groups that are accepting new members, so ask around.
If you don’t mind spending some money on a workshop, many writing centers offer classes you can attend in person or remotely, including Grubstreet in Boston and Gotham Writers in New York City. You could also audit a writing course that includes a workshop component at a university.
Benefits of Workshopping Your Manuscript
Now that you know more about writing workshops, let’s dive into the reasons why you might want to join.
Helps You Catch Mistakes
Getting feedback on your manuscript from other writers can help you polish your work to a higher standard. As an author, you’re usually too close to your book to evaluate it objectively. Your critique group may catch mistakes you’ve missed like typos, grammatical errors, awkward sentences, or rambly paragraphs. They’ll also give you advice on how to improve the flow of your writing and communicate your message effectively.
Gets You to Dig Deeper
Sharing your story is a brave act of vulnerability that can inspire readers and show them they’re not alone. But for your memoir or self-help book to resonate with others, you’ll have to dig deep and uncover the emotional truth behind your experiences.
A writing workshop is a safe place to share your work for the first time and gauge readers’ reactions. You’ll be able to see which parts of your book hit home with your audience and identify sections that aren’t landing or connecting as well.
Gives You Motivation
Struggling with writer’s block? Joining a critique group can motivate you to finish writing or editing your manuscript by giving you concrete deadlines. If you don’t have any new material ready before your group meets, you won’t be able to participate in the critique session and get the feedback you need. So you may feel a greater sense of urgency to make steady progress on your book if you’re part of a writers’ group.
The workshop setting itself can also be energizing. Meeting other writers who are all passionate about their projects can give you the inspiration you need to tackle your own manuscript.
Allows You to Connect With Other Writers
Joining a writing workshop allows you to connect with other writers who may turn into friends over time. Writing is a pretty solitary activity that can get lonely if you don’t have a community. It’s nice to have like-minded people in your corner who you can go to for support when your book writing journey gets tough.
Gets You Comfortable With Sharing Your Work
Writing a book is difficult and sometimes emotionally painful. You may be forced to reopen old wounds as you turn your experiences into a narrative that will inspire others. Because creative nonfiction books are often raw and personal, it can be difficult to put them out into the world.
Joining a writing group can help you get comfortable sharing your book with a smaller audience before you officially release it. Receiving feedback from other writers will teach you how to accept constructive criticism and prepare you for the reviews that will pour in after your book launches.
Drawbacks of Writing Workshops
Although workshops can help improve your manuscript, they’re not without drawbacks. Here are some potential downsides of writing groups and things to consider before you join.
The Quality of Feedback Can Vary
The quality of the feedback from critique groups can vary. If the people in your group are newer, more inexperienced writers, they may not know how to provide actionable feedback yet. You may get conflicting suggestions or unclear advice that you’re not sure how to implement.
Workshops that are led by a qualified writing instructor (like The Book Professor’s Executive Mastermind Group) usually provide the best critiques because there’s an expert present to guide the discussion.
You Won’t Get Help With Book Planning
Many writers struggle to organize their thoughts and ideas into a logical narrative that flows from one chapter to the next. However, workshops usually won’t help you overcome this hurdle. Since your writing group probably won’t read your manuscript in its entirety, they can’t give you much feedback on how well your narrative is structured.
If you’re stuck on this aspect of the writing process, our proven BookMAP strategy can help. We work with all of our writers to create two BookMAPs, which are visual representations of everything you want to include in your book. They can help you plan out your chapters and sequence your ideas in a way that drives home your message.
Workshops Aren’t Always Genre-Specific
Authors usually benefit the most from workshops that focus on their preferred style of writing. Every genre has its own literary conventions and stylistic guidelines, so you’ll get the best feedback from people who write the same type of material as you.
You’ll also get more out of your workshop’s writing lessons if they’re geared toward your genre. As a nonfiction writer, a lesson on building suspense in a thriller or creating a fictional world isn’t very useful to you. But a class on crafting engaging dialogue, for example, will give you lots of new writing techniques to try.
If you’re looking for book coaching programs specifically designed for creative nonfiction writers, you’re in the right place. The Book Professor focuses solely on helping coaches, business leaders, public speakers, and overcomers like you pen impactful nonfiction books.
You Won’t Get Much Individual Attention
Writing workshops don’t always have a cap on the number of participants who can join. It’s common for a writers’ group to have a dozen or more members. If your group is large and overcrowded, you may not get much critique time. Sharing your work with a big group can also feel intimidating, especially if you aren’t used to letting other people read your writing.
That’s why group masterminds at The Book Professor® are limited to just ten authors. Our small group size allows you to really get to know the other writers, which makes it easier to open up and share your personal story. You’ll have more chances to workshop your manuscript and receive the feedback you need to improve your book. You’ll also get lots of one-on-one attention from an expert instructor, which will help you grow as an author.
Get a Book Writing Roadmap
Traditional writing workshops are ideal for authors who want to take a DIY approach to writing their nonfiction book. Writers’ groups provide some support and feedback, but you’ll mostly be on your own during the book planning and writing process.
If you’d rather be guided through every stage of drafting your book from start to finish, our group mastermind or one-on-one coaching program may be a better fit. Our proven writing system will give you the roadmap you need to complete your book in just one year. Contact The Book Professor® today to learn how our coaching programs can help bring that book idea you’ve been sitting on to life.