Classes, Workshops and Webinars: Which Is Right for You?

Thursday, July 07, 2022

Last week one of my writing buddies emailed me. Progress on her project had stalled but she found an online writing course. She wasn’t familiar with the instructor, a fellow children’s writer, and wanted my opinion. Would this class be a good way to move her writing forward? 

There are so many classes, workshops, and webinars available. But not every event is created equally, and even the good ones may not be right for you and what you write. Here are the things she and I examined so that she could make an informed decision. 

Is it a class, a workshop, or a webinar? 

Sadly, not everyone uses these terms in the same way. Any one of the three can be interactive, can take place over multiple sessions, and can include feedback from the class and the instructor. To be sure the event offers what you want, read the description. A single session on plot and structure may not give you what you need if your goal is to figure out how to make it through the muddled middle of your novel. On the other hand, if you need a quick review on setting, a single session may be all you need.

Is the event a good match for what you write? 

This is especially important if you write for young readers or if you write genre fiction. My friend is working on an early reader. These books are for new readers who are not yet confident in their abilities. These books are short with no subplots and relatively simple sentences. Writing them requires a very specific skill set. 

A class on novel writing probably would not be a good fit. Cozy mysteries, magical realism, and alternate histories all have very specific conventions. You need to learn from someone who knows how these types of writing work. 

Is the instructor the best person for the job? 

When I want to learn about writing, I turn to writers. When I want to learn about self-editing, I may very well select an editor. But I’m also going to check out the person’s experience. Some people are better salespeople than they are publishing professionals. I don’t want to be stuck with someone who has no experience, but talked their way into a position as an instructor. Google is your friend. 

Who sponsors the event? 

I’ve signed up for some truly awful events. There was the one where the person’s microphone cut out intermittently. Offered through a known entity, it was recorded, and everyone got a link.  Another event included the speaker's bird pacing the desk and shrieking.  It might have been funny but I had signed up to test out the organization since I had been invited to teach for them.  

My writing friend didn’t sign up for the class she had found. It wasn’t a good match for her writing, and it wasn’t offered through a known entity. Instead, I helped her find a how-to book about writing chapter books and recommended a top notch editor who I know. 

Not every opportunity is right for every writer. Before you sign up, make sure the one you’ve found it a good match for you. 


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 30 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on July 10, 2022).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins July 10, 2022) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins July 10, 2022). 


Angela Mackintosh said...

This is super helpful, Sue! I enjoy webinars, but I don't get anything done in them, so it's like watching writer TV. Lol. Workshops with peer and instructor feedback are best for me and hold me accountable. I guess my ideal class would be a combo of a webinar mixed with written lessons, reading, and weekly workshopping. For webinars only, I look for a topic that will answer a craft question I'm having problems with.

I paid for a webinar from a well known writing site and there was no audio the entire time. I wasn't happy about that, but they offered a refund. It was a waste of time though. The bird pacing and shrieking is hilarious! :)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Hi Ang,

Webinar exercises are hit or miss with me. Sometimes it is very much writer TV. Other times I come out of it with new ideas, new characters and more. A total gamble! The self-editing one I took was AMAZING.

I had one with no audio. We could get a refund or take another class. They had also only sent the link to half the participants, given out the wrong time, etc. I took the refund.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Sue, you gave your friend great advice! I've signed up for classes that were too basic and some that were too advanced but even when the class didn't fit, I've met some great writers. Sometimes, that's the best takeaway, right? :-)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Meeting fellow writers is the best! I don't know that I've ever ended up over my head but I have ended up in unexpected places including conference sessions for illustrators. I'm not an illustrator but I loved gaining insight into how they work.

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