“How about some guidance of spending money to improve our writing?"
“When should a writer invest money in attending conferences, or getting professional critiques from writers/agents? When should a writer attend classes or workshops vs reading and practicing on their own?"
Look at the money spent on conferences, critiques and classes as investing in yourself. There is no wrong time to invest in you.
If you have the opportunity to attend a writing conference, I highly recommend you go. These conferences have keynotes and workshops designed to help you with your writing. You will leave with newfound ways to improve your work. The same holds true with writing classes. Professional critiques can go either way. I’ve been fortunate when I’ve done these. The editor or agent provided thoughtful feedback that helped me to see where my writing lacked, what would improve the scene, and what worked. Critiques from established writers are also valuable. Writers know what elements are needed to catch a reader’s attention. They’re passionate about their craft and, if they’re doing critiques, they want to pass along their knowledge.
“What about entering contests as a way of perfecting their craft, even if novels are their main interest?”
Some contests do offer feedback to contestants. Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award is one of them. If you make it to round two, you will be able to see the judges’ comments. I found this very helpful when I participated in this contest. Not all contests provided feedback, though. If you’re entering for feedback, then select contests accordingly.
“General guideline stuff. It's easy to go too much one way or the other.”
The guidelines I use to decide if I’m going to attend a conference or sign up for a writing class are as follows:
- Does the class/conference offer something that will help me improve my craft?
- Can I afford to go?
- Of my choices, is this the best choice for my current needs?
- For conferences, are there going to be speakers there I want to hear?
- As far as if I’m going to spend extra money on a professional critique, do I have something to submit? Even though the idea of a critique is to get feedback on my current work-in-progress, I know the first chapter of a first draft is most likely going to change. I like to wait until the first draft is done or I’m sure there aren’t going to be major changes to the plot or characters before submitting material for a professional critique.
I hope you find this helpful. I'd like to thank Kim for provided this quesitons.
If you have a tip to share, please share it in the comments.