Schedule: 2020 Workshop

(IMPORTANT MAY 2020 UPDATE: The 2020 TWW is now an Online Conference to keep everyone safe. It is being folded into (combined with) the 2020 Writing Workshop of Chicago and is now happening on Saturday June 27, 2020. There is much more to say about this, but immediately you should understand 1) This will be easy and awesome, and online conferences we’ve done thus far have received wonderful feedback, 2) You do not have to be tech-savvy to do this, and 3) We are keeping all aspects of the event, including one-on-one agent & editor pitching, which will now be done by Skype or phone. Learn all details about the new June 27 WWoC & TWW Combined Online Conference here and what everything means.)



8:30 – 9:30: Check-in and registration at the event location. Check in and get comfortable.

There will be 3 classes/workshops going at all times during the day. Agent pitches and critique consultations overlap with the sessions below. The schedule of presentation topics below is subject to change, but here is the current layout:

BLOCK ONE: 9:30 – 10:30

1. Developing Irresistible Atmosphere, taught by Erica Waters. Have you ever read a novel that immediately drew you in, not because of an exciting event or an interesting character but because of something you couldn’t quite put your finger on? Maybe you got wrapped up in the language or the setting, or the very mood of the book? If so, I suspect you were in the hands of an author who’s a master at evoking atmosphere. This course will focus on using voice, setting, tension, and language to craft an atmosphere that readers will want to linger in long after the novel’s last page. We will trace these elements in a few highly atmospheric novels, both classic and contemporary.

2. The Most Common Query/Submission Mistakes and How to Fix Them, taught by Alyssa Roat. After looking at hundreds upon hundreds of submissions, I’ve noticed quite a few trends in what makes a good—and not so good—submission. This class demystifies what agents and editors are looking for and will cover submission do’s and don’ts from formatting, to etiquette, to information you should (and shouldn’t) include.


BLOCK TWO: 10:45 – 11:50

1. Characters: The People of Your Story, taught by Bob Mayer. The most critical component of a novel is character. How do you go from flat two-dimensional characters to vibrant three-dimensional ones? Bestselling author Bob Mayer will discuss templates you need to develop characters as well as the concept of character arc and change. These include profiling, psychological frameworks, and the to show character arc and change.

2. Making Social Media Work For You, taught by Kenzi Nevins. As authors, most of us wish we could spend more time writing and leave marketing to the experts, but in today’s world, social media is a necessary part of our job. Fortunately, with a little work, you can turn it in to a vehicle for reaching the world with your words, rather than a frustrating time-waster.

3. Writing Stand-Out Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction, taught by Erica Waters. Kidlit is a crowded market, and even very good books can fail to capture an agent’s or editor’s interest. So how do we write a middle grade or young adult novel that will stand out from the crowd? This course will briefly discuss market expectations for YA and MG fiction, including age groups, manuscript length, and subject matter. The primary focus of the course is to explore key elements of commercially viable MG and YA fiction, with an emphasis on developing a compelling concept, crafting an authentic voice, and creating characters readers will relate to. We will look at several recent examples of successful YA and MG books in a range of genres.

LUNCH ON YOUR OWN: 11:50 – 1:15

Lunch is on your own during these 85 minutes. There are lots of options, including onsite restaurants, and nearby places to eat.

BLOCK THREE: 1:15 – 2:30

1. “Writers Got Talent”—a Page 1 Critique Fest (Azalea & Iris Rooms combined), with participating literary agents and editors. In the vein of “American Idol” or “America’s Got Talent,” this is a chance to get your first page read (anonymously — no bylines given) with attending agents commenting on what was liked or not liked about the submission. Get expert feedback on your incredibly important first page, and know if your writing has what it needs to keep readers’ attention. (All attendees are welcome to bring pages to the event for this session, and we will choose pages at random for the workshop for as long as time lasts. All submissions should be novels or memoir—no prescriptive nonfiction or picture books, please. Do not send your pages in advance. You will bring printed copies with you, and instructions will be sent out approximately one week before the event.)

2. How to Sell a Nonfiction Book, taught by Brian Klems. This session is completely devoted to nonfiction that is not memoir. So if you are trying to create an awesome nonfiction book proposal, this presentation is for you.

BLOCK FOUR: 2:45 – 3:45

1. Platform, Product & Promotion: Understand Your Unique Position as an Author, taught by Bob Mayer. A writer can easily be overwhelmed by all the well-meaning advice given by experts, industry professionals and even other authors. The reason for this is that every single writer is in a different place and has to figure out their position and point of view with which to boil down all the information into intelligence (useable information). If you consider these three variables, with a sliding scale from ‘none’ to ‘the best’, you end up with an infinite variety of authors. This course taught by bestselling author Bob Mayer will help authors make decisions, such as should whether to traditional publish or self-publish; what areas they should focus their creative and marketing efforts on; and much more.

2. Panel: Ask an Agent Anything. In this session, attending literary agents, publishers and editors sit on a panel to answer your questions on everything to writing, publishing, building a platform, what agents want, what are the latest trends in publishing, how movie options work, and more. Come ready to ask questions about anything you want related to the writing and publishing industry, and our panel will answer them.

3. Do’s & Don’ts in Science Fiction & Fantasy World Building, taught by Eric Smith. Join literary agent Eric Smith for a chat about worldbuilding in SFF! Some of the books he’s worked on in the SFF include Mike Chen’s critically acclaimed Here & Now & Then as well as A Beginning at the End, Alison Stine’s Road Out of Winter, Julia Ember’s Ruinsong, Helen Corcoran’s Queen of Coin and Whispers, and more! He’ll dig into what works and what doesn’t, drawing from his experience as both an agent of SFF and a writer of it. 

BLOCK FIVE: 4:00 – 5:00

1. Getting Published in Today’s World: 10 Tips to Make You the Writer Agents and Publishers Want, taught by Brian Klems. If you want to land an agent and a book deal in today’s market, you’re going to have to do a lot more than just write a great book (though that’s a good start). In this session, former Writer’s Digest editor Brian A. Klems discusses the challenges writers face in publishing today and offers up 10 practical tips to help you break through the barriers and find success.

2. Edit Like a Pro: Self-Editing Fiction, taught by Victoria Griffin. This class covers the basic structure and tools of self-editing, from developmental editing to proofreading. Attendees will gain insight into methods for developing their story’s structure, characters, plot, and prose style. The class also covers common high-level and low-level issues. Writers will leave with a blueprint for designing their personal editing process and an understanding of key elements to look for at each stage of editing.

3. Self-Publishing: Top 10 Ways To Get It Right, taught by Marian L. Thomas. From book cover design to getting your ISBN, this note-taking session will take you through the top 10 ways to self-publish your first book the right way. Learn cost-saving strategies and marketing techniques, plus learn how to get reviews and reach book clubs.


At 5 p.m., the day is done. Speakers will make themselves available by the workshop’s bookstore station for a short while to sign any books for attendees.