Buyer Be Aware: Good and Bad Writing Investments

When it comes to writing and the writer’s life, there are good  and bad investments of our time and money. Knowing the difference can be tricky, and sometimes you get burned. This week, we’re sharing what we’ve found to be wise and unwise investments in hopes of helping others learn from our successes and mistakes.

B.I.C. Time

Sitting with your butt in the chair and writing the story is always a good investment. 100% ROI.

Books

One piece of advice you’ll hear successful authors give again and again is this: read. The best authors are avid readers. They read to become better writers. Books — and here I mean novels — are always a good investment. As long as you read them.

Community

Most authors I know have at least a small community of other writers they spend time with, whether it be for moral support, networking opportunities or active critiquing and feedback. It can take time to find the right community, but once you find them, investing your time with them is worth it.

Conferences

There are a lot of conferences out there, and most of them are pricey. In today’s economy, you really need to be sure you’re going to get a good return on your investment. Do your research. Make sure the conference fits your needs for where you’re at as a writer.

For example, I spent a number of years attending a local conference and it was worth the money I spent to get me off and running as a writer. However, the conference is focused primarily on literary fiction. As I am now writing commercial and urban fantasy young adult novels, it doesn’t really fit my needs. Yes, I’m sure I could still learn how to improve my craft by attending the conference, but my money is better spent at a conference focused more on what I write. Like the SCBWI international conferences. Which are, in a word, awesome.

Authors Associations, Guilds and Societies

Whether or not to invest the yearly dues to become a member of a particular authors association or society is really a personal decision. Again, it depends on what you want to get out of it. Two years ago, an industry professional I trust recommended I join SCBWI, and I haven’t regretted it for a minute. I can’t say enough good things about it. There are a lot of groups out there to join. Do your research and see what others say about the group you’re thinking of joining. Ask yourself what you want to get out of your membership, and if the group fits your needs and is a good use of your time and money.

How To Books

There are a lot of writing books out there. A lot. Some of them are good. Some of them are not. Most of them cover the basics, which can be helpful when you’re just starting out. A couple of things to keep in mind when considering How To books:

  1. Check the credentials of the author. Are they successful authors? Have you heard of them? In this day and age, everyone is an expert.
  2. Does the book offer information that you genuinely don’t already know? Or are you just buying the book as a means of reading another How To book so you don’t have to sit with your Butt In Chair, staring at the scary blank page? Be honest with yourself.

That being said, I’ve found some “writing” books very helpful. But they’re less about How To Write, and more support and encouragement for the writer’s life. Two of those books are The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield and Supplies: A Troubleshooting Guide for Creative Difficulties by Julia Cameron.

Writers Magazines and Literary Journals

I feel the same way about writers magazines (e.g., Writers Journal, Poets & Writers, etc.) as I do about How To books. If they meet your needs and you are a better writer having read them, then go for it. I’m sure they’ll appreciate your subscription.

Literary journals I consider an extension of books. Reading them helps me become a better writer, and keeps me informed of what is selling in the literary marketplace. There are a lot of lit journals online now, which is even more awesome. You read for free and become a better writer as a result. That being said, literary journals will definitely appreciate your subscription. If you find a journal you love, consider treating yourself to a year of literary goodness.

Websites and Blogs

The awesome thing about the web is it’s free. The not-so-awesome thing about the web is there’s a lot of crap out there. And a lot of people lacking credentials calling themselves experts. And reading blogs and articles can be a total time-suck. BUT, there are so many good websites on writing and publishing. Can I suggest a couple? (And please, feel free to add more in the comments section.)

I could go on and on and on. But won’t. Just spend some time surfing and searching and you’ll find your own favorites.

Writing Classes and Workshops

I am all for writing classes and workshops, as long as the teacher is truly knowledgeable in the subject and sticks to the agenda of the class. I’ve taken a few duds, and regretted the time and money I spent. Do your research, and make sure the expert leading the class really is an expert. Check your local bookstores and libraries for author appearances and workshop events. But know they can be hit and miss. Sometimes they are awesome and you get a lot out of them, and sometimes you wish you could get a refund on the time you sat there listening to everything you already knew or the misinformation the “expert” shared.

Twitter

I know a lot of people snicker at Twitter, thinking it’s all navel-gazing and “today I ate a ham sandwich” and celebrity stalking. Well, it can be, if that’s how you use it. But there are a lot of good things happening on Twitter. Like networking with authors and industry professionals. Keeping up on the latest industry news. And Twitter chats (people conversing on Twitter on a given subject, using a particular hashtag to follow the conversation). Three chats I enjoy are #litchat, #kidlitchat and #yalitchat. I’m sure there a bunch more. Find a chat that fits your writing and dive in. Network. Have fun.

I’m sure there are a lot of potential investments I’ve missed in this list, but if I don’t cut this post off soon, my fellow confessioners are going to give me the skunk eye. If there are resources I’ve missed that you find helpful (or harmful), feel free to add them to the comments section.

Thanks for investing your time in reading this!

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