In the hope of selling books many of us offer talks to various groups and partake in Q&A sessions. It is right to be skeptical about advice dished out by authors, as there are few substitutes for reading, writing and hard work, but there remains a great demand for creative writing courses and so called workshops. Regarding these, do any of you have a foolproof session plan for leading such a practice? Maybe you have a tried and trusted method of engaging and enlightening a group?

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I've always given away my advice for free or in exchange for editorial input from the other writer. It seems to me, if someone goes into the business of teaching mystery writing, he/she needs to have some solid credentials.
Quite right. If you are going to charge you need solid credentials. Without them what good is your advice anyway?
However, there are many published writers in the UK who, like myself, travel around talking about their books and spouting advice on many aspects on writing. For this they rarely, or never, get paid but use the opportunity as a way of selling books, networking or getting their name out there. Hosting workshops (for free) can be simply another marketing tool.
Okay, that's another matter. If you must go around promoting your books, you do whatever gets the job done. I've long since decided that it's a waste of time and effort. You need a major national publicity campaign to sell enough books.
John--what's the duration? A day? A week? A month?
Duration = No more than an hour.

Often I talk about what I like to find in thrillers and how I structure my writing accordingly (I write plot driven novels – every hook and twist is set out before I begin). But this time I have offered to run a workshop, thus, interacting more with the audience.
Instructional design is mostly about finding your end point and working backwards. Decide your learning outcome then decide how best to get there by interaction with your audience through exploring their experiences, exploiting their prior skills and forming, dissecting and reforming opinions via activities. Easy, huh?

What's your end point; what do you want to teach them?
Thanks Vic.
Let the goal dictate. I see.

On this occasion, what I want to achieve might have to fit around the best practice/session plan I come up with. The workshop is part of a writer’s festival but it’s difficult to know how involved the participants would like to be. Ideally, I want to lead a shared activity that will be fun and informative. Oh, and it must be specifically ‘crime’ based
In an hour you could talk about basic thriller plot elements, maybe, and then have them rough-in a basic story line. Or you could talk about character and/or conflict. Who's your hero and what kind if trouble is he in? Let them help you make a list--you'll need a white-board; people will say funny things. The important thing is to get them talking and to have fun. Emphasis on the latter, since you're not getting paid.
Make THEM do the work. Give them a prompt, then ask them to free-write (I've heard it also called "practice" writing) using the prompt. Give them 10 minutes to write a scene, then ask if anybody wrote anything that surprised them. Hands will go up. Pick people to read their free-writing...make generic, superfluous comments of praise ... the hour will fly.

Prompts:
Have your protagonist (or antagonist) remember something...meet her first love ... or discover a secret. Whatever. Encourage dialogue, a scene, not description.

People write all kinds of stuff. It can be fun. Also humbling (to some of us) when you hear what other people come up with off the top of their heads.
Thanks guys.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but you're not giving them a lifetime's experience in one hour here, just "entertaining" them so they'll say "that bloke was fun, let's buy his novels!" In my experience most keen writers have done this type of Practice Writing zillions of times before in various workshops = very familiar and runs the risk of being super boring which is prob not what you want to have them remember about you if the workshopping is a marketing tool! Don't just deliver information, have them find out for them selves in some type of fun innovative way so they remember you as being cool, engaging etc stuff you WANT them to link to your work.

Interaction can go both ways. Find the end point. eg you might want to demonstrate to them how to do an elevator pitch (which is short and can be very engaging). Have one ready as an example that links directly to your novel and make it very powerful. Make it into a quiz. Get them to write one, have them pitch it, get the group to score each, including yours. Highest score wins. Provide choc frogs for winner. Then have the group re-write each pitch so it's a winner. They'll go away smiling if you create the right energy and then they'll buy your book!
Credentials, credentials, credentials. If you are going to hold a seminar on creative writing, you unlike any professional educator are an artisan and your craft is the creation of stories that you put on paper.

I think that should be your platform. Your lessons should come from that part of you . . .The artisan part of you. I believe, the art of writing, like many art, comes from within and is innate. Like anyone sitting in a Calculus seminar, you'd hope they all have the mathematical background and natural ability to keep up. The seminar should therefore revolve around the rules of style, of creative writing, research methods, setting, characterization, blueprints of genre, outlining, viewpoints, pacing, suspense and the list goes on.
I think because you would most likely be dealing with fledgling and advanced writers, it is best you set a topic or seed a discussion, ask for input from their experiences and guide from your experience as an expert.

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