IWSG: Five Things Writers Don’t Need to Buy

Counting your pennies? Don't worry--here are five things #writers really don't need to buy.

If you’re seeing this because you signed up for my newsletter, you may have forgotten who I am. I’ve been terrible at interacting with my readers, but that ends now. I hope you’ll stick around, because you’re in for some awesome perks in 2017!

Thanks so much for your patience. I’ve survived yet another NaNoWriMo and am celebrating it by co-hosting the Insecure Writers’ Support Group this month! If this is your first visit, welcome. Every Tuesday I blog about unsolved mysteries, spooky places in the world, scary true stories or the supernatural. You may have missed yesterday’s scary true story, since it posted late. Here it is.

As I prepare to spend three years focusing almost solely on fiction, I’m bracing for some financially lean times. Perhaps not as bad as when I waitressed at Pizza Hut, but pretty damn close.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for anything that promises to help improve my productivity, write a better query letter, get more newsletter followers, or sell more books. I’d hate to guess how much money and time I’ve spent on courses, workshops, books, and boot camps over the years. And you know what? Most of them weren’t worth it.

The sad truth is, one of the easiest ways to make money as a writer is to create books, workshops and courses for other writers–but just because someone is successful doesn’t mean their brand of success will work for you (and if they’re so successful, why do they need to run courses and workshops?)

As insecure writers (and who isn’t insecure in this industry?), we’re particularly vulnerable to believing we need these things.

So, without further ado, here are five things writers don’t need to spend money on:

1. Costly writing retreats. (NOT conferences–those are different.) I’ve attended several different writers’ retreats over the years, and you know what I remember? Eating. Socializing. Going for walks with other writers. Talking about writing. Was it fun? Sure. Did I vastly improve my writing or get much (or any) writing done? Nope. Writing retreats with other writers (the ones that tend to be $5K-$10K) are great for socializing, making new writer buddies and getting inspired. But you know what? There are many cheaper ways to do this. (Have you heard of a little community called the IWSG? It’s free!)

2. Expensive agent-led bootcamps/workshops. I’m a sucker for this one, I have to admit, to the tune of hundreds and hundreds of dollars. This agent will finally tell me what’s wrong with my query letter. That agent will foolproof my first ten pages. No, no, no. You will come away from the workshop with the highly subjective opinion of one person (maybe two if you’re lucky), same as you’d eventually get for free if you kept submitting your work. And, no offence to the great agents offering their services, but–how many books are they selling while they’re leading workshops and giving in-depth feedback to strangers? One of the most successful agents I know is almost impossible to find online. He doesn’t Tweet, and he barely has a web presence. I have to wonder if there’s a correlation.

3. Fancy productivity or “success” journals. As I gaze across the room at my lovely $77 success journal, I am reminded of one thing–the success of the guy who created it. You don’t need a fancy journal to set goals and stay on task–you can adapt any dollar store notebook or find free templates online. Miss the inspirational quotes? They’re online too. An additional downfall of productivity journals is that they often take a lot of time to fill out–time you could use to, you know, write.

4. Business/life coaches and marketing consultants. With the average coaching and/or consulting package starting at $500, it’s easy to see how this service can quickly drain your bank account. Yes, it’s very comforting to put your life in the hands of an “expert” and have that person hold you accountable and at least pretend to listen as you babble on about your week. You know who else will do that? A good friend. Talking through things with my boyfriend resulted in at least as many, if not more, epiphanies than working with a coach.

5. Online courses targeted to writers. I’m sure there are good courses out there. But the vast majority of them are time consuming, labor intensive, full of advice you’ll forget within two months, and taught by other writers who don’t have much more experience than you.

On the flip side, here are some things worth investing in:

1. A designer. A talented web and/or cover designer is worth her weight in gold. It’s an investment that will pay off.

2. Equipment. Sure, you can get away with using the same computer for 13 years like I did, but I don’t recommend it. With the time I wasted rebooting and swearing, I could have written another book. A back-up system of some kind is non-negotiable–if you don’t have one, get one yesterday. Trust me.

3. Photography. Whether it’s high-quality stock photos for blog posts and ads or headshots for guest posts and your next cover, you won’t regret spending a bit more for better images.

4. Travel. The inspirational and creative boost you get from a change of scenery is amazing. And you don’t necessarily have to go far–sometimes a walk around the block or a journey to the next city is enough to recharge your batteries.

5. An editor. Yes, I’m an editor, but I also use one for my own work. Whether your goal is indie or traditional publishing, a good editor is essential. Just make sure you hire someone who’s an actual editor–not a writer who needs to make more money. There’s a big difference. Some professional editors are writers as well, but not all writers are suited to be editors.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but I hope this will help you avoid some of the costly mistakes I’ve made. What would you add to the list? Anything you wish you hadn’t bought or something you think is essential?

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s purpose is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Comments

  1. Thank you for co-hosting IWSG for December. With the fabulous list of do’s and don’t above, you could start your own consulting business! Best of success in your writing.
    Enjoy the holidays and Happy New Year to you and your family.

    • JH

      Thanks, Gail! I’m probably going to offend some people, but I don’t want other writers to make the same mistakes I have.

      Happy holidays and a wonderful New Year to you as well!

  2. Thanks for the post! It’s encouraging to hear from the frontline that my apprehension about some very nice offers wasn’t unjustified.

    I’m with you on the second list. Back-ups are your friend, and so are editors. Which leaves me to fill in items 1 and 3. Internet seems to have us spoilt for choice, but as you pointed out that’s no guarantee. Have you any recommendations to tell a good designer from a bad one?

    • JH

      Hi Chris,

      Glad I could help! Find covers or websites you love, and ask those writers who their designer was and what he/she was like to work with.

      My current web designer used to work for me, and I liked her style and snarky sense of humour. My cover designer used to work at my publisher, and I really liked her designs. After speaking with her for a bit, I knew we’d work well together. Relationship building is key–if a designer is super talented but impossible to work with, that’s no good.

      The fruits of both their labours will be seen in 2017. Hope that helps!

    • JH

      That’s the thing. A lot of those people are exceptional salespeople (or they’ve had exceptional salespeople write their copy).

      Everyone claims to have the Holy Grail–but then why haven’t they put it into practice for themselves? There was one guy who sounded so brilliant, I almost fell for it. Then a friend said, “If he’s so successful, why is he teaching these courses?”

      And I said, “Well, he makes a good living as a writer, but he makes an even BETTER living teaching other writers.”

      Wait a minute…

      Oh.

  3. Great list of “must-haves.” I did one local weekend retreat (about $380 a couple of years ago.) Great location, private cabin and I put out over 15K words in 2.5 days. Haven’t done one since, but I think if you choose wisely, it can be beneficial. Or, pick a couple of nights at a hotel/cabin that is having a sale and write your buns off!

    • JH

      I didn’t have enough room to get into it, but those kinds of writing retreats are absolutely beneficial! I rented a cabin with a friend and, similar to your experience, we both got a ton done. And I think it cost us each $500 for the week plus groceries.

      I’m talking about the ones that are heavily scheduled. I went to one at an “eco lodge,” which was cool, but we spent so much time helping prepare and clean up group meals and recycling/composting that, combined with the one-on-one sessions and group activities, there was little time for anything else. My one-on-ones with the famous writer consisted mostly of her kvetching about her life and promising to help make me a “rock star.”

    • JH

      Hi Ellen,

      You can have your own writing retreat on the boat! Seriously, the ones we do for ourselves or with a writing friend are great. It’s the “Pay $10,000 to go to this island and have this best-selling author and an agent tell you how to be a successful writer” ones I’m warning against.

    • JH

      Welcome, Hélène! What a nice surprise to see you here. Hope you’re well. <3

      That's such a great attitude to have. I've been unfriended by people who were definitely not ready to hear the (gentle) truth about their work.

  4. You’ve given excellent alternatives to those expensive investments in a writing career. Good to know I didn’t ruin my writing career by not attending a writing conference.
    Thanks for co-hosting today!

    • JH

      Thanks for having me, Alex. I’m very proud to be part of the IWSG and to contribute in any way. It’s done so much for me.

      Writing conferences are different from retreats and workshops. They can be super helpful, but as a long-term networking and information-gathering strategy. Definitely not insta-success!

      • To be honest I’ve never used it, but I’ve never felt compelled to, either. I usually use the most basic of basic word processing programs for writing (like WordPad or even NotePad sometimes), then switch it to Word for formatting. Scrivener just seems like a frivolity to me, but I know lots of people who swear by it.

  5. I loved this. My local RWA chapter does a weekend retreat and I’ve never gone. It’s a few hundred dollars but I can’t see spending that when I have such a comfortable office at home. But they seem to spend it really working so it might not be a waste for some of them.

    • JH

      Thanks, Susan. And they might not be. It’s the “Pay $10,000 to go to this island and have this best-selling author and an agent tell you how to be a successful writer” ones I’m warning against.

      But if you have a comfortable office and do well writing at home, why would you spend money on a retreat? Retreats like that are usually more about the camaraderie, and if I meet awesome new writer friends, I’d rather TALK to them. I can write when I’m back home!

  6. Both lists are great. I did learn much from the conferences I went to when I was just starting my writing career 20+ years ago. Back then, writers didn’t have the resources online that we do now. I agree with your list of what we should invest in. Right on target.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your family.

    • JH

      Thanks, Diane. To me, writing conferences are different from retreats, and I do think they can be helpful for networking and gathering information. Definitely not a way to be instantly successful, though.

      Merry Christmas to you as well! All the best in 2017.

  7. I love this list and reading it makes me feel better about not participating in some of these things like online courses and agent boot-camps. I did think (in the back of my mind) that my time would be better spent writing and submitting. Many years ago I went to a conference in NYC where participants got to pitch a novel to 4 editors. It was super expensive and after all was said and done, I was only picked to submit a partial to one of the four editors. Some participants were not picked by any. The editor I got did not want to see more than the first fifty pages, but she did write a nice note about them. I actually used some of her words in my query letters and got 5 requests for fulls. I don’t know if it was her quote or maybe just the book description, but I haven’t been back to an expensive conference since.

    • JH

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Tamara. I do think each of the things I mentioned provide at least one glimmer of hope and/or useful piece of advice. But how much should people pay for that?

      If I saw an amazing recommendation from an editor for an unpublished book, I’d think “Why didn’t that editor buy it, then?” so I doubt that’s the reason you got requests. You did that on your own. 🙂

  8. Absolutely awesome post. I totally agree with the things writers don’t need and what they do need. I laughed at the swearing at the computer. I’ve been known to do that too. Thanks for co-hosting today!

    • JH

      You’re very welcome, Christine! I’m glad you liked the list.

      Yeah, that computer should have been put out to pasture a LONG time ago.

    • JH

      My concern stems from seeing tons of struggling writers hang out editing shingles lately. Some writers have natural editing talent, but it never hurts to get some official training. Being able to write a great book doesn’t mean they know the ins and outs of the Chicago Manual of Style.

      Or, failing that, they could show actual examples of issues they caught in a manuscript or clients who have used their revisions to get a contract. Testimonials aren’t that effective, in my opinion, because everyone knows they can be solicited from friends and peers.

      From my limited knowledge of what you’re doing, you’re charging quite a low rate in order to get experience, right? And that’s fine.

  9. Excellent advice, and oh, so true. I chuckled at your comment about wasting your time “rebooting and swearing” at your computer. I hear ya!
    Congrats on your success with NaNo! Thanks for co-hosting IWSG this month.

  10. A great post JH!
    I just invested in a writing course which was going for $10 on Udemy during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale. The original price was about $195, so it’s a bargain. Plus it’s the first course I’ve ever purchased. I don’t intend making it a habit, especially after reading this post which makes perfect sense. I must admit that the idea of a writing retreat is very appealing but FAR TOO expensive, so that means it ain’t gonna happen!
    Thanks for being the voice of reason.
    And yes, a good editor is the best investment. I’ve heard that many, many times.
    Thank you for co-hosting the IWSG this month.

    • JH

      You’re very welcome, Michelle!

      Well, I don’t think you can go wrong with $10. Ultimately, everyone has to do what’s right for them. I am, of course, only speaking from my own experience.

      If you love the idea of writing retreats, why not host your own? Grab a writing buddy (or just yourself) and rent a cabin or a hotel room where you won’t be disturbed. Less expensive and much more productive than the stuff I’m talking about.

  11. This is great advice. All too often I think there’s people out there making tons of money off desperate writers, and the only thing the writers get in return is lighter pockets. Sure, it’s great to socialize and meet other writers, but you can do that for free too, and the only real way to be a writer at the end of the day is to…write!

    • JH

      You hit the nail on the head, Megan! Agreed. Too many writers make a living teaching other writers how to do what they can’t (sorry if that sounds harsh).

      Whenever I’ve attended an expensive retreat, I’ve thought “Wow, these writers are great. I wish we could just hang out without having to spend $3K or more listening to someone drone on and on about the famous writers they know and how that makes him awesome.” And you can! You just have to make your own “retreat.”

  12. I’m a sucker for books about writing/the craft of writing. I used to fall into the trap of reading about writing instead of actually writing. I’ve gotten much better, though, at picking and choosing the ones that speak to me the most and then actually applying the lessons. Those books live on my “keeper’ shelf and are definitely worth the money. 🙂

    • JH

      Awesome, Madeline. Sounds like a good investment, although I can totally see how they could be used as a procrastination tool. Everything in moderation, I guess?

  13. It’s a good thing I haven’t paid for any of the things on your don’t list. Well, except for online editing courses, which did help me. And I’ve paid for all but #3 and #4 on your list of do’s…so I guess I’m on my way. 😉

    • JH

      Well, it’s a “These things are worth it” list rather than a list of “must do’s.”

      Editing courses are a different animal. If you plan to edit someone else’s work, I think it’s a really good idea to get some training.

  14. Heather M. Gardner

    MOST excellent lists! I agree and concur!

    A good editor. We either love ’em or hate ’em, but we must have ’em.

    Thanks for co-hosting!
    Heather

    • JH

      Thanks, Heather. Yes, a good editor is a lifesaver and can actually make you a better writer–if a person can put his/her ego aside and open the mind a little.

      It’s not an easy thing to do, but is it worth it? Hells yeah!

    • JH

      That there are, Jacqui. There are no end to people who’d be happy to take your money.

      There are now coaches who specialize in teaching other coaches how to be better coaches.

      Welcome to my blog!

  15. Great post. I’m the total cheapskate, so I haven’t invested in any of the things on your “don’t” list. Actually, I’ve bartered for most of the ones on the “do” list (except the cover art. I pay for that). I’ve resisted getting a proper headshot mostly because I hate photos of myself and like using pictures that don’t really show me.

    I love the idea of doing a writing retreat in a lovely spot, but I know myself well enough to know that I’d spend all my time hiking, and not write at all. My best writing retreat would probably be snowed in alone in a suburb.

    • JH

      Hats off to you, Rebecca. You’re a lot smarter than I am! There’s benefits to being a “cheapskate”…you don’t waste money.

      Writing retreats that you organize yourself can be great. And as for headshots, I don’t like photos of myself either, but it’s amazing how different it can be with a great photographer. That I’ll never regret.

    • JH

      Welcome, Raimey! I’ve heard the same, and after much soul-searching and research, I’ve hired one who will start in February. About mid-2017 or later in the year, I’ll be able to report back with how it worked for me.

      I’m a publicist by trade along with everything else, so I’ll be able to evaluate what was done on my behalf and the difference it made.

    • JH

      That’s awesome, Anna. Free courses are great (unfortunately, the two links got you busted by my anti-spam bot–sorry about that).

      And that brings me to another suggestion–if you find a course or retreat you do want to invest in, find someone who’s already done it (ideally a friend or at least a colleague you know a little) and ask how helpful it was. Specifically ask how it helped their career, because fun is fun, but it won’t get you published.

  16. I hear ya on not interacting with your newsletter readers. There’s so much to juggle, eh? Like you, I’m getting better at it!

    Helpful list! I’ll be sure to share this at the the next #StoryDam writing chat on Twitter. (All are welcome, by the way! 8pmET each Thursday. 😀 )

    ~Tui

    • JH

      Tui! It’s been forever! How are you?

      Thanks for sharing this on #StoryDam. I’ve seen Patricia talk about it, but I’ve never been really clear on what it is.

      I was kind of dumb in the way I set up my newsletter, but I’m learning. Hopefully I’ll make less mistakes as I go, but probably not.

    • JH

      Thanks, Lee. And disappointment is right. I would love to have my money back from the last one. I hate to guess how much I’ve spent, and yet all my success has come from cold submitting and answering publishers’ calls.

      All of it.

  17. Great post!When I talk to new writers I always always mention the huge amount of free content you can get by doing a little homework. I still enjoy writers conferences, but I’m choosy, and I’m often going for other social reasons, book promotion reasons, or I’m presenting material.

    A few things I wanted to hook onto from your post: local writing groups, workshops and conferences can be so valuable. Not everyone lives in an area rich with opportunity, but even a few hours drive can be worth it. I started in a free public library critique group.

    Facebook groups – the reason I use FB at all now is because of closed groups with a niche focus. I have learned SO much through various publishing groups where authors share what actually works for them to sell books (and what does not) or what’s worth focusing on with your writing, tips, support, etc. These are all free. Search around on Facebook using the groups function and you will find a lot!

    For children’s lit and YA writers Write On Con is back next February. It’s an all online conference and right now they are raising funds to make this a free event for writers. You can get access to everything for $5 donation. I don’t work for them or benefit in any way, but this online con helped me so much 3 years ago.

    • JH

      Those are GREAT suggestions, Stephanie! Thank you! I was hoping people would chime in with what worked for them.

      A few people have mentioned writer’s conferences, and I’m not sure if that’s because they think I meant cons when I said retreats, or just because they’re adding what worked for them.

      In any case, I think cons are great, but for networkings and information gathering, like you said. Not so much for getting published or getting an agent. But I have made amazing friends and gotten a great mentor at a conference, so I won’t slag them! 🙂

  18. Thankfully, I haven’t spent much on the things you mentioned not needing to buy, but I’m also cheap and tend not to spend money whenever it’s at all possible not to. 🙂 Your list confirms I’m not missing out on much!

  19. Thank you! I agree completely. The first huge, fancy, expensive writer’s conference I went to felt like a complete waste of time and money to me. I’ve been to some smaller ones and they made sense. Most of the time, I tell my hubs that I would rather be given a day or two on my own to write – maybe even the same weekend that a writer’s conference would take place.

    Thanks for your list of don’ts and dos.

    • JH

      Sorry to hear about the money wasted, Tyrean. As you probably gathered from my post, I can relate! A small writer’s retreat for one is a great idea. Those can be super productive.

      I feel a bit differently about conferences–the ones I attend I do find useful, but for networking and information gathering, not ascending in my career or getting published.

  20. I really do think books, course, retreats etc can help (and I’m not just saying that because my writing book was published last week!) but we don’t need to spend thousands we to get started and there is a danger of spending so much time on these that we don’t actually get much writing done.

    • JH

      I think that the majority of those things can provide one glimmer of hope/inspiration or one piece of new information. As someone else mentioned, so much of it is old info packaged in a new way. And there are tons of free resources online.

      What bothers me the most is a lot of these items are marketed as “must haves” but they’re not necessary at all. People definitely don’t need to spend thousands–or even hundreds–to get started.

      Thanks for commenting, Patsy!

  21. I’ve been working on an ancient laptop with an ancient version of Word for a while now, and I refuse to upgrade because I like my ancient version for Word. An upgrade would mean I’d have to change my software, too, and I think that’s too much change for me.

    Of course, eventually, it will be foisted upon me, whether I wanted it or not.

    I’d love to be able to travel more, though. That’s such a great source of inspiration. Glad you listed it here!

    • JH

      Traveling is amazing! I can’t recommend it enough. It can get expensive, though I know I could cut more costs than I do, but I’ve never once regretted a single moment. Well, maybe that massage in Italy….

      I assume you’re on a PC. If you’re on a Mac, you can keep an ancient version of Word forever. It’s awesome.

  22. Great post! I’ve not invested in any of those things so yay, I’m ahead of the game in that regard. The only writing book I’ve ‘purchased’ was the one from IWSG and it was at no cost. 🙂 I was often worried reading those ‘help’ books would make me feel like the way I wrote was wrong and I didn’t want to lose my voice in the face of trying to be ‘successful’.

    On the other side, I have been giving some serious research to finding an editor for my second book. The cost was the main thing that scared me away because with one income and 4 kids I try to be wiser in how I spend money on ‘non essentials’. Yes I know an editor is essential for my writing but I worry if we’d not be able to let a kid do some activity because mom spent money somewhere else.

    I’d love to travel more, even if it’s not far away. My current goal is to visit a tiny home community for a weekend and just enjoy less stuff and more quality time.

    • JH

      Welcome, Meka. There are a lot of good writing books on the market: I love Stephen King’s “On Writing,” for example, or Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird.” I actually don’t have an issue with writing books, but I question how much good most of them do, beyond making the author money.

      When you’re ready for a good editor, I’m happy to recommend mine. He’s inexpensive compared to many, he’s incredibly meticulous, and he’s sharp–he edits by the Chicago Manual of Style and has his MA in English, along with other credentials. All of my publishers, including Harlequin, have commented on the cleanness of my copy, so I can highly recommend him.

      Four kids on one income, though–that would be tight! Of course you have to be careful with your budgeting.

  23. I guess at $25 a pop, I’m really undercutting myself as a consultant. LOL

    I’ve been to many conferences but almost all of them as a speaker, which made it cost-effective. I did pick up blogging from a conference 11 years ago, so I’m glad I went to that one.

    • JH

      That is super cheap, Diane! Most consultants don’t even post their prices–you have to email and ask. And you know what they say…”If you have to ask…”

      I feel a bit differently about conferences than I do about retreats and workshops–the ones I attend I do find useful, but for networking and information gathering, not ascending in my career or getting published.

  24. Nice post! I’m also an editor (or was before I became a full-time writer), and I do also still get others to look at my work. It’s not about not being a good enough editor in my own right; anyone who is close to their work is going to overlook things.

  25. Editors are essential for ALL writers. It’s just at this stage in my writing career; I need to pay for it. Who knows, maybe in 2017, I’ll have an “editor” who is helping me fine tune my memoir for publication. Thanks for hosting the IWSG post this month. Happy holidays!

    • JH

      Thanks so much, Victoria! Happy holidays to you as well.

      Nothing wrong with paying for an editor. At least then you can pick one you like. 🙂

    • JH

      Those are about the only writers’ retreats that work, Jennifer. 🙂 Either alone or with a good, likeminded writer buddy who’s also invested in getting a lot accomplished.

      Sorry to hear about the marketing consultant. Me too. During one very expensive call, she actually started deleting Twitter followers on her own account while I waited. I wasn’t impressed, to say the least.

  26. I hear you on the writing conference experience. I’ve spent close to $800 on two writing conferences, and can’t say I really gained anything. I got a partial request from one of the agents that was there, but never heard anything back on it, even after a nudge. And I didn’t get that much out of it socially either, as I’m too shy to really open up and talk to ppl I don’t know.

    • JH

      Welcome, Leandra!

      I feel a bit differently about conferences than I do about retreats and workshops–the ones I attend I do find useful, but for networking and information gathering, not ascending in my career or getting published. And for people who are shy, introverted, or who have an anxiety disorder, they can be a nightmare.

      Your experience about not hearing back from a conference agent who requested material is pretty common, sadly. I’m sorry you had to go through this. 🙁

  27. Great post! Those are two very helpful lists. I love the layout of your website, and look forward to poking around to view your work. Thank you for co-hosting!
    Happy Holidays,
    Adrienne

    • JH

      Thanks so much, Adrienne! I’m actually in the process of having my website redone with a bunch of exciting perks and surprises. So stay tuned.

      I’m super excited about all the changes that are coming!

      Happy holidays to you as well, and all the best in 2017.

  28. Outstanding advice! As one who has (sadly) tried many of the things on your ‘don’t’ list, I can honestly say you are absolutely right! I think I’ve found a new favorite haunt right here;-)

    • JH

      Aw, thanks so much, Diedre. It’s great to hear from someone with similar experiences. Misery (and broke) loves company! 🙂

      Not that we’re actually miserable, but I’ve certainly had miserable experiences with this stuff.

  29. This is a great and useful post, JH. I’m happy to learn that I am not missing much by never signing up for all the expensive offers out there. I have often wondered about a writing class, since I have no idea what I am doing, but a lot of information is to be found online or shared by writing friends.

    Many years ago, a writer friend held “writing marathons” in her home. Once a month, we would all get together and write the whole afternoon. It was productive and afterwards, we could share ideas and thoughts and socialize in any way we felt like. I seem to remember there was food involved as well. 🙂 I assume that is similar to what current writer groups do, if there is one in the area. And, it is free.

    You are such a busy writing bee and I can’t wait to see what you have come up with already. Thanks for co-hosting and happy holidays. For 2017, I wish you successful cutting of expenses and an overload of creative juices!

    • JH

      Aw, thanks so much, Liesbet. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you over the past year and a half!

      I think those writing marathons are a great idea. I’ve met so many amazing writers at conferences and workshops, and hope one day to figure out a way to get together with them without the hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in workshop and retreat fees on top of our travel expenses. I’m working on it!

      I took a masterclass at a conference with Jack Whyte, a bestselling epic fantasy writer. He said that writing is such a personal thing that anyone who claims they can teach you how to do it in a class is “full of shit.” His words, not mine!

  30. Cathrina

    Thank you for co-hosting this month J.H.

    I totally agree with you. All writer’s need an Editor that they can work with to make our mss as close to perfect as possible.

    • JH

      Welcome, Cathrina. I can’t get to your blog by clicking on your name–hope I didn’t miss it.

      I’m glad you see the value of editors. Sadly, not everyone does.

  31. Having experienced #2 personally, I completely agree. And with respect to #5, the very best writer’s course I ever took online was FREE, through the University of Iowa. As to the “do”s, yes, a change of scenery can be an amazing recharge, near or far. Thanks for co-hosting today.

    • JH

      I’d love to hear more about that course, Lee. The response to this has inspired me to do a follow up: the best free resources for writers.

      Sorry to hear you experienced #2 as well. Let’s just say “number two” is a good name for it.

  32. All these writers retreats and conferences seem only ways to take us away from writing and make those behind them money. If we go to them, we can feel we are doing something positive about our writing — but as you say if we invest in improving our perspective and focus on writing, we will be the better for it. Best of luck in your gamble!

    • JH

      Thanks, Roland. It’s an educated, well-planned gamble, at least–no sitting at the craps table waiting for the magic to happen.

      Yep, I’ve discovered this industry echoes the beauty and diet industries–it profits off the insecurity of others.

  33. If I had money, I’d be buying all that stuff you mentioned…except the retreats since I hate to travel. Instead, I have no choice as I’m really poor! So my “retreats” are free articles and online conferences, my editor and cover designer are me with help from my CPs, and my marketing chief/promoter is me. I’ve learned a lot, but I’m still not as good at everything as I’d like to be. But I enjoy a challenge, and so I’ll keep at it. 🙂

    • JH

      Um…you live in one of the most fascinating regions in the world. I think your travel is covered. 😉

      Buy everything from both lists, or only the second? And your cover designer is awesome. I still think everyone needs an outside editor, and there are some cheaper options out there, but when you’re strapped for cash, it’s difficult. As far as marketing goes, every author should be their chief promoter. No one else will ever care as much.

      Thanks for commenting, Lexa!

  34. Great post, JH. You nailed it on the head. I went on a retreat once. It did not meet my expectations. I waited two years and tried it again. Duh. Am I willing to go back? Nope. Another well spent course was the 3 act play by Alex Sokoloff. Excellent lesson. Learned a lot. Thanks for co-hosting.

    • JH

      Thanks for the insight and suggestion, Joylene. I did the same. It took me a while to realize, “Hey, these things are useless.” So don’t feel too badly!

  35. Thank you for generously offering inspiring advice and practical tips. I was amused to read the various reactions to retreats and other comments. Thank you, too, for co-hosting IWSG.

    • JH

      You’re very welcome, Lynn. Thanks for stopping by! The comments are always amusing around here. This is a dynamic, opinionated group, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 🙂

  36. Some great tips there. I think with regards to courses, it’s important to be clear about what you want to get out of it. I’ve paid for an expensive retreat but it was right for me and I learned a lot. It actually springboarded my writing career. But that particular course and the things it offered were right for me and that point in time. To do the same again would be nothing more than over indulgence 🙂 Thank you for sharing and for co-hosting.

    • JH

      Oh, I’d love to know which one it was, Nicola. Of course there’s exceptions to every rule, and I’m intrigued.

      All of mine have been duds in the springboarding-career department.

  37. Great lists! I agree pretty much all around. I get an annual trip up to Estes Park to stay at the Stanley Hotel by myself for a writing weekend. I get to go eat what and where I want to (without kids to worry about), make my own schedule, go wander around Rocky Mountain National Park if I’m so inclined, and write, write, write! Also, a small retreat with a friend or two has been more effective to me than big expensive ones.

    • JH

      Those writing retreats are the best kind, Shannon…and the most productive. I’d love to go to the Stanley Hotel! It’s on my bucket list.

      See any ghosts during your visits?

  38. I tend to stay away from those expensive courses/workshops/etc. too. Perhaps if I had more money and time, I might go to them, but I feel my best option is to read books on craft and listen to what my crit partners tell me.

    Thanks for co-hosting this month.

  39. Good to hear that all the money draining stuff I keep feeling bad that I can’t afford isn’t really a loss. I’ll spend my time writing and working with my critique partners instead.

    • JH

      Good idea, Jean! You can’t go wrong with that plan. For the next IWSG, I’ll list a bunch of great free resources for writers as well.

  40. JH,
    Thanks for these tips! I did get the MasterClass writing course when it was on sale I think and still haven’t gone all through it, the one from James Patterson and he does have some good tips and exercises. I always buy cheap journals, and actually you reminded me I still haven’t done my journaling for the day. Thanks for all you do!
    Anne

    • JH

      You’re very welcome, Anne! James Patterson puzzles me. I can’t figure out all the ghost-written books, let alone why he’s giving courses. There was a free video by him provided to this year’s NaNo winners, but I haven’t watched it yet. It’s awesome you got something out of it!

  41. I haven’t been to a retreat before, but I suspected the socialising element would be the main one for a lot of them.
    I like your point about travel too (and, of course, editing)

    • JH

      It definitely is the main element, which can be frustrating when everyone then has to head back to “class,” which may or may not be helpful or interesting. It would be great to arrange a get-together where writers could enjoy each other’s company without the ridiculous fees.

  42. Oh my! Look at all the comments! I guess it pays to cohost – nice job!

    And I love your lists. I’m very frugal (well, not much money to spend, so does that count as frugal?) so I do most things for myself, but do try to go to a class or two when I can. Great tips!

    Have a nice weekend =)

  43. While I can’t speak to the things to ‘avoid’ (since I don’t think it’s ever actually crossed my mind to engage in them), I have to agree that those ARE worth investing in. If there are two things I’m happy for it’s my editor, who takes my nonsense and makes it worth reading, and my designer, who is recently acquired but has left me excited for when I actually need my new cover.

    • JH

      That’s awesome, Robert. Honestly, by hiring a professional editor and designer, you are WAY ahead of the game.

      Welcome to my blog! Hope to see you back here again.

  44. As I just got back from vacation, inspired and creatively juiced, I can completely agree with everything you have said. I am such a follower. Also, it is really good to have you back, so to speak. I missed you.

  45. So yeah, I’m way late on this. Tis the season to be busy, which is why I kept this bookmarked until I could devote real time to it. I always find your words so insightful. I agree with everything you have here, but I’d add one must. Every author should do at least one public appearance, a reading or signing, to connect with readers. I’ve learned so much from readers and all their questions. Things other authors assume you know or are too embarrassed to admit they may not. Would you agree?

    • JH

      And the best thing is, those events are usually FREE! Good addition to the list, Toi. I haven’t been asked many questions yet, but interacting with readers has been incredibly rewarding.

      Happy holidays to you, and all the best in 2017!

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