Thursday, September 17, 2015

Dollars & Sense for Writers—Guidelines on Where & When to Spend Your Money—Part Three

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

This is an ongoing series designed to give writers guidelines on where & when to spend your money. If you missed the first two posts in the series you can find them here:

How to Evaluate Writing Workshops & Classes
Today I want to share How to Evaluate Writing Workshops & Classes. It doesn’t matter where you are in your writing career—you still have plenty to learn. And the best way to learn is to invest in classes, workshops, and conferences.

But how do you evaluate which ones will benefit you the most at what time?

First, let’s take a look at the type of classes and the advantages and drawback of each. There are two basics types of classes you can take—online or in person. Either option is equally good, but they both have things you should consider.

Do you have the Internet connection you need to make the course workable? If your Internet connection is slow and intermittent, the class or workshop may prove more frustrating than helpful. Also, if it’s a class that you take at your own rate, will you actually do the work? Some of us are BORN procrastinators and that type of a set-up may not work well for you.

In Person
Are you a homebody who will back out of driving to a class after a long day? If so, your attendance—or lack thereof—may be a hindrance to accomplishing anything. Do you have other commitments (a travel schedule, kids in sports, aging parents) that will cause you to miss out on a certain percentage of classes. If so, you may need to look for other, more flexible options.

After you’re familiar with your options, you'll want to ask yourself some question to evaluate specific workshops & classes.

Questions to Ask
  • What are the credentials of the instructor? I’m not necessarily looking for college degrees here. I’m looking for publishing credits and/or where they’ve been employed. For example, I like to take freelance editing classes from editors who have worked for real publishers.
  • How recent is the instructor’s experience? This question is subtle, but very important. If someone worked as an editor in the 90s, but has been out of the industry since then, a lot of his information is suspect. The basics of what makes a good article or short story, or book may be similar, but a lot has changed as far as formatting and even grammar.
  • Is the instructor where (or has been) where I want to be? I know it’s possible to be a gifted teacher and be able to convey information. But in my mind, there is NO substitute for real life experience. The person teaching doesn’t have to be way ahead of me, but I do expect them to have at least spent some time where I want to be.
  • Does my experience fit the class? Here is where it’s vital to be honest. When I first started out, I wanted to take all the cool classes, but what I needed was a good foundation of basics. For example, don’t waste money on taking a fiction class about characterization or the subtleties of sub-texting, if you really need to learn how to format and punctuate dialogue correctly.
  • Can I recoup the monetary investment? With writing courses this can sometimes be hard to answer. Sometimes it’s a no-brainer. If I’m taking a course on how to write articles, I should expect to be able to earn a couple of thousand dollars over the next twelve months as a direct result of information I got. With fiction, the time-lag may be much longer. But it’s always good to at least ask the question.
  • Can I afford the time to do all the course requires? To get the most out of a course, it’s important to do the work that goes along with it. If you can’t spend the time on homework, I recommend you wait to spend the money.
  • Are there any relevant endorsements about the class and/or instructor? I qualify it with the word relevant, because sometimes endorsements don't always make sense to me. 
  • Do I know anyone who's taken the class or sat under this instructor? This is a big one for me. If I know someone who can give me a personal recommendation or a personal warning, I will weight that heavily when I'm making my final decision.
These are the steps I go through to evaluate whether or not I should invest the time and money in a particular class or workshop. 

Now I'd like to know how you decide? Be sure to leave your comments in the section below.

Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains ChristianWriters Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for SouthernWriters Magazine and the Senior Editor for Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook. Don't miss her new book from Worthy Inspired, WHILE MY SOLDIER SERVES.

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