Monday 15 October 2018

Six Tips to Upskill Yourself Without Attending a Writer's Conference

By Iola Goulton @iolagoulton

Registration has now closed for the 2018 Omega Writer's Conference to be held in Adelaide from 26 to 28 October. For those of you who are going, it's going to be a great weekend (and I'll have some tips for you next week).

But for those of you who can't make it ... does this mean you miss out on the opportunity to learn, to upskill yourself? Not at all. Here are six tips for upskilling yourself without going to a conference:

Reading In My Genre

Reading in my genre (Christian romance) enables me to observe genre trends. It also means I can suggest comparable titles for clients to include in contest entries, proposals, or in developing their own marketing plans. I tend to focus on debut authors (because that shows me what publishers are buying) and new-to-me authors.

Reading Outside My Genre

Reading outside my genre expands my genre horizons, and often teaches me something new about writing craft. For example, I have been heard to say I don't enjoy reading fantasy. Yet I've recently read and enjoyed Fawkes by Nadine Brandes. What did I enjoy? What can I learn from that? (Click here to read my review).

I've also recently read a couple of Christian romance novels I didn't enjoy. Why not? What can I learn from that? And was it the book ... or was it me? (Sometimes it's that I didn't care for the characters. So what can I do to put more emotion in my writing and editing?

Reading Craft Books

I also read writing craft books, and I often quote respected writers such as James Scott Bell, Janice Hardy, Randy Ingermanson, and Orson Scott Card in my editorial letters. Reading experts helps me edit to a higher standard by showing me areas in which I (and my clients) can improve, and giving me a language to describe both what needs work, and how to fix it.

Many popular writing instructors and speakers also write books on writing craft or offer online courses. Some of their books are based on their courses or conference presentations—so if you can't make the conference, buying the book will give you the main content.

For example, I've recently purchased Verbalize by Damon Suede after hearing him speak at the 2018 Romance Writers of New Zealand conference. I've also bought books by Michael Hauge and James Scott Bell after hearing them speak. The books don't replace listening, but they are a great aide memoir for all the notes I didn't take (Damon Suede makes the Engergiser Bunny seem slower than a sloth).

Read Blog Posts

There are dozens—hundreds—of great writing blogs. Most are written by writers for writers, although some are written by editors (or people who both write and edit). Some of my favourite writing blogs are:
Of course, I should also mention my own blog, Christian Editing Services, where I share a weekly post on some aspect of writing, editing, publishing, and marketing.

Online Courses

Many writing instructors offer online courses either through their own website (e.g. Margie Lawson and Lawson Writer's Academy) or through online platforms such as Teachable or Udemy. If you aren't able to hear Michael Hauge in person, then his Udemy course is a great substitute (and it's sometimes on sale for as little as USD 10).

Some courses are delivered via email or an online classroom and give students the opportunity to submit writing samples, receive individualised feedback on their writing, and interact with other students. These are generally more expensive, as students are paying for the instructor's time. They also operate over a fixed timescale (e.g. one month), so it's only worth enrolling if you will be able to make time to complete the assignments, as that's how you get the best value.

Other courses are delivered via email or through online audio or video platforms, and students can work through the course material at their own pace (my Kick-Start Your Author Platform Marketing Challenge is one such course). This can be an advantage and a disadvantage: it's easy to sign up for a work-at-your-own pace course, and it's just as easy to not complete it because life gets in the way. These courses require more self-discipline than the classroom-type courses.

Conference Recordings

Some of the bigger writers conferences record the teaching sessions and make the audio recordings available for members to purchase for as little as $10 each. Conferences which sell audio recordings include:
So there you have my six ways to upskill yourself without going to a writing conference (or to keep learning throughout the year between conferences).

Will you be attending the 2018 Omega Writer's Conference? Of not, how do you plan to upskill yourself in 2018 and 2019?

About Iola Goulton

Iola Goulton is a New Zealand book reviewer, freelance editor, and author, writing contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Unpronounceable Names (Iola is pronounced yo-la, not eye-ola and definitely not Lola).

Iola holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting, works as a freelance editor, and has recently introduced an Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter


  1. There are also many free webinars on the business aspects of being an author that I've found very helpful.

    1. Yes! There are also a lot of free online conferences (well, they are free if you watch them live, but you can also pay to get the replays).

  2. Hi Iola. Great advice! I would have loved to come to the conference but have 2 reunions in Mount Gambier that same weekend :-(. I hope everyone has a great time!

    1. Well, it's hard to be in two places at once. I hope we see you at the 2019 conference, Sally.

  3. Iola, great post! I’m doing my second Margie Lawson Immersion later this year. Can’t wait! :)

  4. You do have to be a member to download conference recordings from some organisations, but it's still worth looking into.

  5. A Margie Immersion is a great learning experience. Have a great time!


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