Nicole J Simms/ July 28, 2020/ Blog/ 0 comments

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The 2020 Evergreen Writing Oasis Virtual Writing Retreat — My Thoughts

The weekend of July 17th to 19th held the first Evergreen Writing Oasis virtual writing retreat, which was broadcasted via YouTube. This retreat allowed writers across the world to participate in panels and workshops presented by AuthorTubers (Writers on YouTube).

This writing retreat was created by AuthorTubers Tamara Woods, Dana Gaulin, Carrow Brown and Ka’Shay Warren. Together they planned a weekend that fitted the needs of the writing community by covering a wide range of topics from drafting a story to building an author platform.

As you all know (if you don’t, see my ‘Exploring AuthorTube – My 10 Favourite Writers on YouTube’ blog post), I’m a regular AuthorTube viewer. So, when I spotted a video about this virtual writing retreat weekend, I knew I had to tune in, especially since many of the AuthorTubers I watch were taking part in the event.

Keen to know more, I checked the event schedule on the retreat website and made a note of the panels and workshops that caught my interest. However, because the event times listed were in Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), I had to convert the times to British Summer Time (BST), so I would know what time the events would be live over here in the UK.

So, what was planned for the retreat weekend? The plans for the weekend were as follows:

Friday 17th July 2020

Day One Playlist

  • Opening Panel
  • Self-Care Writing Tips for Authors
  • Hand Health & Mindfulness
  • Burnout & Filling the Well Panel

Saturday 18th July 2020

Day Two Playlist

  • Creating Series Bibles Workshop
  • Marketing Panel
  • Discovery Writing
  • Outlining/Drafting Panel
  • Fast Drafting Workshop
  • Diversity in Writing Panel

Sunday 19th July 2020

Day Three Playlist

  • Self-Editing Workshop
  • Beta Readers & Critique Partners
  • Editing Panel
  • Author Platform
  • Closing Panel

Opening Panel

The writing retreat started with an introductory panel from the event organisers: Tamara Woods, Ka’Shay Warren, Dana Gaulin and Carrow Brown.

After an introduction to the writing retreat, the panel took part in writing sprints to get the viewers pumped and ready for the writing weekend.

Self-Care Writing Tips for Authors

Becca C. Smith hosted the first Evergreen Writing Oasis workshop (I’ll call it a workshop). She shared her self-care tips for writers — well, these tips can help anyone, but, of course, the focus was on writers. She also shared her experiences in dealing with stress and anxiety.

The tips I liked were the breathing technique she does when she experiences a panic attack or is feeling stressed: you breathe in for five counts, hold for five counts and breathe out for five counts. I’ve never had a panic attack, but I did find that this breathing technique helps to calm you down when you feel anxious.

It doesn’t matter if you have anxiety or not any writer can find the tips given in this workshop useful.

Burnout and Filling the Well Panel

This panel was live on the 17th, but due to it being on so late (12:30 am – 2:30 am my time), I watched it on the 18th before Day Two’s events began.

Dana Gaulin’s hosted the Burnout and Filling the Well panel. Kate Cavanaugh (I love her channel), Sarah Scharnweber, Austin Kaye and Becca C. Smith were the other panellists.

The panel started the discussion with imposter syndrome and their experiences of dealing with this. They also talked about how they deal with burnout, what they do to fill their creative well and how they practice self-care.

Austin suggested trying a different creative task that’s linked to your novel project, e.g. painting your story or the story characters. I found this interesting, but it’s just a shame I suck at painting.

During the panel, Dana received a comment about her now having 500 YouTube subscribers. It was nice to see how happy she was when she found that out — happy tears are always nice to see.

As with Becca’s workshop, this panel offered some great advice and tips. And I found it comforting to know that I wasn’t the only writer who struggled at times.

Creating Series Bibles Workshop

This was the first event for Day Two, and Lainey Kress hosted it — she’s known as Gingerreadslainey on YouTube.

In this workshop, Lainey shared how she creates a story bible for each one of her novels. She also explained what kind of information you should keep in your story bible.

Even though the workshop was titled ‘Creating Series Bibles’, Lainey explained that since she is looking to be traditionally published, she has not written a series yet.

I was looking for advice on writing a series bible, but I still learned something new from the workshop that I could try. For example, she keeps a list of interesting names she has come across which she uses to help her name future characters. And she uses Pinterest to create a digital version of her story bible — I’ve been thinking about doing the same thing, so using her advice, I will give it a go.

Marketing Panel

I wasn’t able to watch this video live (18th), so I watched it on the 19th before Day Three began. This marketing panel was hosted by Carrow Brown and included Ka’Shay Warren, Michelle Schusterman, Lisa Daily and BC Brown.

The panel was a mix of traditionally published authors, indie authors and hybrid authors, and they all had different marketing experience.

Carrow asked the panellists four questions about their marketing experience:

  1. What marketing strategy has worked best for you and why?
  2. Do you push your book or your brand more?
  3. What advice would you offer for assembling a street team and getting arcs into the hands of readers?
  4. How do you make your marketing goals so you do not become overwhelmed?

After the panel answered these questions, the floor was open for the audience to ask their questions via the live chat.

What I got from this marketing panel is that as a writer, you are your brand, and your books are your product. So you must see your writing career as a business.

The panellists also shared their tips on what pre-published or new authors need to do to build their brand, such as creating an email list and creating newsletters for your subscribers.

This video was so informative, and I recommend this video to any writer, no matter what level you are on.

Outlining/Drafting Panel

Tamara Woods hosted the Outlining/Drafting panel on her YouTube channel. On the panel, she had Megan Jashinsky, Brooke Passmore, Michael La Ronn and Rachel Sargeant.

Like with the other panels during the retreat, the host asked the panellists a selection of questions on how they draft and outline their stories:

  1. Do you have a preferred outlining method?
  2. What does your drafting process look like?
  3. How do you know when a draft is done?
  4. Do you have any tips to help the discovery writers to focus their process?
  5. What’s your preferred software for drafting?

The one tip I found the most useful was that you shouldn’t add too much detail about a minor character because the reader will think the character is important.

Diversity in Writing

I didn’t have time to watch this panel live, and I had considered not bothering to watch it because I thought I already knew about diversity in writing. But I was wrong. And I would recommend every writer watch this one.

The panel was hosted on Ka’Shay Warren’s channel, and the panellists included the following AuthorTubers and BookTubers: Lauren Wheatley, Marisa Mohi, Catalleya Storm, Kevin Savoie and Liselle Sambury — two sign language interpreters were also present.

Ka’Shay started the discussion by asking the panellists the following questions:

  1. What are your thoughts on the current state of diversity in writing?
  2. How has your diverse experience affected how you write?
  3. What does diversity in writing mean to you?
  4. What would you suggest to others wanting to write characters outside of their demographic?

She then allowed the audience to ask questions.

One of the things I learned that made me realise that I did need to watch this panel is that what you think or know about a group of people (different to you) isn’t always correct. For example, a person without a disability is likely to focus on the difficulties of having a disability rather than the real-life of a person with a disability — having a disability doesn’t mean you will hate your life.

So yeah, I do recommend you watch this video.

Self-Editing Workshop

This Self-Editing Workshop kicked off the final day of the Evergreen Writing Oasis. It was hosted by Natalia Leigh, who is an AuthorTuber, indie author and a freelance editor.

Natalia started the workshop by discussing the order of a professional edit and what should happen in each stage. She then shared some editing tips, such as buying a proof copy from KDP, so you can read the story as a whole before you start on the developmental edits — this is the first editing stage and focuses on the story as a whole.

Following this, she discussed the bad writing habits and the best way to approach your edits, e.g. setting goals.

If you’re about to start editing your novel, I would recommend you watch this video first.

Beta Readers and Critique Partners

Next up for us writing retreaters was the beta readers and critique partners discussion with Erin Kinsella and Jenna Moreci (one of my favourite AuthorTubers).

Technical difficulties delayed the start of the talk — we couldn’t hear Jenna — but things were soon resolved, and the discussion began.

The talk started with what a critique partner (CP) is and what you should expect from a CP. They then moved onto beta readers, and again they explained what they are and what you can expect from a beta reader.

It was good to finally learn the differences between a critique partner and a beta reader because I had seen them as the same thing — one big difference between the two is that a CP has to be a writer while a beta reader doesn’t.

Jenna and Erin then explained the process of getting CPs and beta readers and how you can make sure you get relevant feedback and thoughts from them.

It was an informative video for any writer, no matter your publishing path.

Editing Panel

Editing, editing, editing, oh editing. You can’t get away from having to edit your work, so this editing panel is ideal for the writers on the dreaded next stage.

The panel was hosted by Tamara Woods, who was joined by Carrow Brown, Stephen Howard and Chelsea Lockhart. Tamara and Carrow are writers, and Stephen and Chelsea are writers and editors. And together they discussed editing and working with editors.

Tamara asked the panel the following five questions:

  1. What are the key qualities that we should look for in an editor?
  2. What are the different types of editing? As an indie, is it ever acceptable to “skip” any type of edit?
  3. Can beta reading/critiquing take the place of editing?
  4. What do you suggest for self-editing before you send off your manuscript to an editor?
  5. How can we protect ourselves from a bad editor? What are the warning signs of a bad/unethical editor?

After the planned questions, the audience was allowed to ask their own — I didn’t watch the video live, so I wasn’t able to ask any questions via live chat. But because we were given so much useful information, and the questions the others asked covered anything missed, I didn’t have any questions to ask.

So, if you are looking for an editor or currently working with one, I do recommend this panel, so you can know what to expect, e.g. the cost of hiring an editor.

Author Platform

Last but not least was the author platform workshop by Courtney Young. Courtney is a self-published author, writing under the pen name Lyra Parish. And she is part of an author duo who writes romance under the name of Kennedy Fox. So, the advice she gave is from a self-published author’s point of view. However, her tips can also help traditionally published authors.

To start the workshop, Courtney asked the audience what they knew about author platforms — sadly, I didn’t watch the video live, so I wasn’t able to join in.

After people shared their answers, Courtney explained what an author platform is, and she shared the author platform stages she follows: write the book, get the readers excited about the book while you write it, finish the book and start marketing, publish the book and repeat.

During the workshop, she also talked about the five W’s to build an author platform, social media to use, branding and the ways to reach readers. So, this is a must-watch for any writer, no matter what stage you are at.

So, that was the Evergreen Writing Oasis. I enjoyed my time at the retreat, even though I didn’t leave the house. Covid-19 has stopped us from physically attending writing events, but I’m glad that my fellow writers are doing what we do best and coming up with new ways for our community to come together.

The workshops and panels are still on YouTube, so you can watch them anytime. And I recommend that you do, otherwise you will miss out on so much useful information and advice to help you on your writing journey.

Did you attend the Evergreen Writing Oasis? Let me know in the comment box below. I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Stay safe and keep writing, folks!

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