Last week, I kicked off a giveaway of James Patterson’s Writing Masterclass. (If you hurry, there’s still time to enter!)
Giveaways like this always create love/hate feelings in me. I love the opportunity to help one of my readers, but I hate the fact that I’ll be disappointing so many, as I can choose only one name.
Many of my readers have been including in their entries their reason for wanting to win the giveaway (which won’t affect the random selection of the winner), and their heartfelt desire to improve their writing is inspiring. But at the same time, I’m disheartened by the belief some writers have that a workshop, class, or conference is necessary to succeed.
A sales email I received this weekend was the last straw. The sales pitch in this email—which was for a writing class—stated (emphasis added):
“Ask any successful author, and they’ll tell you that you need to invest money in writing classes to learn the craft at the professional level.”
No, no, no. That’s a dangerous and discouraging idea that’s designed to scare money out of new and upcoming writers.
Can well-designed classes, workshops, or conferences—that are appropriate for our current level of development—help us as writers? Absolutely. Are they required to succeed? No.
Recommendations Aren’t Always What They Seem
If we’ve signed up to receive email from some of the big players in the writing world, chances are we’ve seen email from them touting the awesomeness of this class or that software. Many times, those recommendations are genuine.
However, we should always give a side-eye to recommendations from others because they can go wrong in so many ways—even if the person giving the recommendation is 100% truthful with their praise:
- Limited Experience:
An author who’s been with only one publisher and/or one editor might think their editor is fantastic and recommend them to others. But they might not realize how shallow their edits have been because they’ve never seen how a different editor might dig deeper or challenge them to improve.
- Affiliate Programs:
Many service companies (such as some website hosting companies), and even some writing courses, offer affiliate programs. So an author might recommend a company and subconsciously think about the affiliate bonus they’ll receive. (The hosting company I use doesn’t offer an affiliate program specifically because they don’t want to “taint” recommendations.)
- Joint-Venture Partnerships:
Many of the big writing bloggers set up JV (joint venture) partnerships with class and software providers. JV partnerships are like affiliate codes on steroids. Virtually all of those sales pitch emails we receive from big writing blogs include links to a special landing page or use a special code to register a sale (and commission) for that JV partner.
None of those examples mean that we shouldn’t trust any recommendations in the writing world. *smile* As I said, every one of those recommendations can be valid—and helpful to us.
I just bring up these aspects because they could be a sign that the recommendation isn’t genuine. They’re a reminder to keep our eyes open to the circumstances behind a recommendation and to question whether or not the reality will be good for our situation.
Avoid Sales Pitches That Play on Fear
Those examples above were all giving the benefit of the doubt to the person giving the recommendation. But the example I gave in the introduction doesn’t deserve that benefit.
Any sales pitch that tries to induce fear should be avoided, or at the very least, should be taken with a car-sized grain of salt:
- “The secret to improving your writing other authors won’t tell you.”
- “If you want to be successful, you need this (class/software/etc.).”
- “The trick to becoming a bestselling author starts here.”
Each of those pitches (and countless more like them) play on our fears:
There’s a secret to success,
and I won’t learn what it is unless I buy this.
There’s no secret path to success lurking behind a hidden door that we’ll only be able to find if we pay money for the treasure map from that shady-looking character on the corner.
There’s no secret at all. The information we need is freely available. We just have to search it out, learn it, and apply it.
There’s No Secret to Writing Success
In the writing community, we’re blessed with many generous writers who create blogs and websites filled with advice on everything from grammar rules and character-creation tips to instructions on ebook formatting and marketing tips.
In short, if we’re tuned in to the writing community, there’s almost nothing a class or workshop or conference could tell us that would be impossible to discover on our own from free, online resources.
How can we get tuned in to that community? We can connect with other writers in places where everyone shares links to these valuable sources of information, such as Twitter, writing-focused Facebook groups, or writing forums (like NaNoWriMo, Kboards, etc.).
The “secret” to success? The basics are widely known:
- Learn the craft of writing.
- Make our storytelling (plot, characters, themes, etc.) stronger.
- Keep writing and keep reading.
- Decide on our publishing goals and figure out how to get to our Point B along our path.
- Study the market to see how to appeal to our audience.
- Etc., etc.
The problem is that there’s a lot to learn, and it’s not easy. It takes time to research and learn what we need. So it’s natural to look for a secret shortcut that will make our path easier and shorter.
The desire for that secret shortcut on our writing journey is what can make us vulnerable to those sales pitches. There’s a reason they use that wording—too often, it works.
Can Classes Offer a Shortcut for Our Journey?
Yes and no…
Yes, classes, workshops, and conferences can gather lots of information for us in one place that would otherwise require us to dig around several different blog posts. So they can be a “shortcut” as far as saving us time researching and gathering information.
At the same time, workshops can be a waste of time (and money) if they’re too basic for us or if they’re too advanced, and we don’t understand the material (which can make us even more confused). And that doesn’t even consider whether the instructor is a good teacher.
No, they can’t eliminate the need for us to actually learn the material and develop the skills to be able to apply it. And those two elements are the trickier aspects that can cause frustration, as we struggle to understand or to fix what we know is broken.
There’s no “secret” that can help us with those steps because we each have different holes in our knowledge, different learning processes and styles, and different problems to address in our work. One writer’s process to fix their story might not help anyone else, and we’re the only person with access to our brains to make a lesson make sense to us. *smile*
In other words, classes, workshops, and conferences can be an efficiency shortcut, but not a “here’s the secret guaranteed to instantly solve our problems” shortcut. Even as far back as three-and-a-half years ago, I had a hard time learning anything new at conference workshops because I read so many writing-related free blog posts.
Absolutely, it can be nice to attend those educational sessions, but they are by no means necessary. (And yes, I include my own workshops in that nice-to-have-but-not-required category. *grin*)
Classes, workshops, and conferences can provide benefits. They can even be life- or career-changing, as we learn something new or make new connections. But those benefits can often be found elsewhere—for free—if we search, so we shouldn’t sacrifice to the point of pain to afford the paid version.
For example, some classes provide opportunities to ask questions, but I take questions from my readers to turn into blog posts here. In-person conferences can provide networking opportunities, but so can social media and writing forums. Free resources are available to us if we learn where to look.
So if your name isn’t announced in Thursday’s post as the winner of my giveaway, please don’t think for a minute that the loss will impede your ability to find success as an author. We can all do our part to share helpful information for other writers and reach success—even if we never attend a single class. *smile*
Were you aware of sales techniques, like joint-venture partnerships, that might affect the sincerity of recommendations? Have you seen writing-related sales pitches based on fear? Have you ever worried that you needed to pay to reach the next level in your writing career? Do you agree that there’s no secret to success? If you’ve taken writing classes or attended writing conferences, what benefits helped you the most?Pin It