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Resources for Writers

Some of the ideas and resources I've shared during panels at SF/F/H cons.

Writing Workshops

Writing Workshops

Before you plunk down your cash and bring your tender heart to a writing workshop, know that a "great workshop" may not be great for you. And that's okay. You might prefer a how-to book, a critiquing group, or a discussion list.

As a former programming director for a literary organization, I suggest you experiment with different educational opportunities; what works for you will likely change over time.

Here are a few things to ponder as you’re evaluating writing workshops. What do you prefer?

  • Classroom or online experience?
  • Study with writers, editors, professors, or agents?
  • Instruction in writing, publishing advice, or both?
  • Focus on one topic, one form (short story), or overview of a genre?
  • Critiquing class, instruction in the elements of fiction, or a mix of both?
  • Level of instruction?
  • One instructor throughout or a group who each teach a portion?
  • Juried critiquing class or open to any writer?
  • How much time can you commit?
  • From a literary org., academic institution, informal group, or individual?
  • Mix with writers who work in different genres or not?
  • Instructor credentials?
  • Earn undergraduate or graduate course credit?
  • How important is the networking?

Feel free to contact me if you have more questions or would like to discuss this in more depth.

Websites with links to classes, conferences, and other literary events:

Locus magazine: Many useful lists, with writing workshops under “writers’ resources”

Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction: Degree programs in SF, workshops, scholarly resources, conferences, and much more

Online SF/F/H workshops

Poets & Writers: Lists MFA programs, conferences, residencies, literary events

A sampling of highly regarded writing workshops for adults that are friendly to genre writers:

Odyssey Writing Workshop:
Juried, six-week summer program in Manchester, NH, taught by World Fantasy Award-winning editor, Jeanne Cavelos, with guest lectures by noted writers and agents for one day each week. Combines an advanced curriculum on fiction writing with group critique and individual conferences with Jeanne. Half of the time is devoted to the tools and techniques of storytelling (lectures, writing exercises, discussions, analysis of powerful writing), half to group critique. Accepts short fiction and novels.Other opportunities from Odyssey:
Online Writing Classes
Critique Service

Clarion Writers’ Workshop:
Juried, six-week summer program at the U. of California in San Diego, featuring well-known writers and editors as instructors. The first four weeks feature a different instructor each week, with two instructors overseeing the final two weeks. Includes group critique, individual conferences with instructors, writing exercises, and time for personal writing. Focus on short fiction. Offshoots:
• Clarion South in Brisbane, Australia
• Clarion West in Seattle, Washington

Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction:
In addition to its undergraduate and graduate classes, the U. of Kansas in Lawrence offers a science fiction summer program: writing workshops, a writing retreat, an institute on SF literature, and the Campbell Conference.

Taos Toolbox Writers Workshop:
Juried, two-week summer program in Taos, NM, taught by Nancy Kress and Walter John Williams. This Masters Class combines lecture, writing exercises, group critique, and individual conferences with the instructor. Emphasis is on the novel, though short stories are accepted. This class is meant for those who have attended a major workshop or sold a few stories and then stalled.

Cascade Writers’ Workshop:
Non-juried, weekend summer workshop near Seattle, WA. Mostly SF/F/H, but open to fiction writers of all genres. Critiquing workshop for short stories and novel excerpts. Classes organized by genre, with a mix of students at different levels.

Gotham Writers’ Workshops:
10-week classes in writing science fiction and fantasy offered in New York City, NY, and online. Combines lecture, writing exercises, and group critique. Beginning and advanced levels; the level 2 class features more critique and requires the completion of a level 1 class.

Viable Paradise:
Juried, one-week autumn workshop on Martha’s Vineyard, MA, featuring well-known writers and editors as instructors. Most instructors attend all of the lectures and group discussions, offering multiple perspectives on each topic. Includes individual conferences with the instructors, lectures on the craft and business of writing, group critiques, writing exercises, and group discussions.

Superstars Writing Seminars:
Winter weekend class held in Colorado Springs, CO, that focuses on the business skills needed for a successful writing career. Taught by bestselling authors, editors, and other publishing industry professionals. Covers such topics as contracts, editors and agents, indie publishing, distribution, promotion, building a fan base, and more.

Workshops for young writers:

Alpha SF/F/H Workshop for Young Writers (ages 14 – 19):
Juried, 11-day summer workshop for teens held at the U. of Pittsburgh in Greensburg, PA, featuring well-known writers as instructors. Combines lecture, writing, critiquing, and public readings.

Shared Worlds (8th – 12 graders):
Two-week summer camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC. Students work in a group to create a shared world, then present that world through works of fiction and art. Classes emphasize problem solving, collaborative learning, and experiential learning.

World-building for Writers

Three tips and my favorite resources.

1. There's world-building you do for yourself, to build your competence and confidence as you discover your story and characters. It's crucial because it will help you make good choices, but it doesn't belong in your story.

Then there's the world-building you do for the reader. This should propel the story. A good way to tell the difference between the two is to ask:

  • What does a reader need to know right now to understand the action and the stakes?
  • And what does the reader need to know to care?

That's the information that matters. Whenever possible, deliver these details through action and emotion.

2. Be aware of your own assumptions about gender, class, race, ethnicity, intelligence, and ability (as starters). History is generally far more complex and interesting than people think. For example, some of the most successful pirates of all time were Chinese women.

3. Nearly all of the Earth species that use technology have complex social structures (humans, crows, chimps, ants). And while there are highly intelligent prey species such as elephants, nearly all of the tool-users are predators. So your highly technical alien species might be more credible if it's social and a predator. At least to your Earth readers.

Some of my Favorite World-building Resources:

Fantasy World-building Questions by Patricia C. Wrede Comprehensive list, good for SF, too

An Impatient Writer's Approach to World building by Victoria Strauss

Science and Technology Links by Doug Dandridge Comprehensive list of references on topics as worm holes, rockets, aliens, time travel, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology

Transracial Writing for the Sincere by Nisi Shawl
An essay with tips about writing the Other

Listserves for subjects of interest: Lurk and learn