I had to deal with NY again yesterday, so I'm running a little behind today. Tomorrow I will be posting all the information on how and when to send me the links for your LB&LI virtual workshops, and I'll repeat this post again on Sunday. I don't want to post it too early as that usually results in people either missing the info or sending it in too early.
A couple of you (you know who you are) have asked exactly how one goes about presenting a virtual workshop. The good news is you don't have to dress up, put on heels, have your hair and nails done or wear pantyhose (unless you have some sort of live webcam thing involved, in which case I recommend not wearing your SpongeBob Squarepants pajamas.)
The basic ingredients of a virtual workshop are 1) a place to hold it (ideally, your blog), 2) a writing- or biz-related topic you know well and can discuss with other writers and 3) a personal spin or approach to your topic that can be a benefit to other writers.
For example: On Monday I'm holding a workshop on power plotting. I am a militant pro-plotter and constantly look for new ways to prompt other writers into giving plotting a try. I also know that a lot of writers dread plotting (almost as much as writing a synopsis.)
I had an idea to use the mechanics of a main electrical panel as a metaphor for how plotting works and what it should do for a story. During my years in the commercial HVAC field, I learned a lot about industrial electrical systems (on which my guy is also something of expert, which gives me an in-house consultant.) I also have some excellent reference books on power service installation and basic wiring. By playing around with some standard electrical wiring diagrams, I came up with a new template to "wire" a story plot.
It's a lot of information to present, so I've condensed my notes, simplified the idea and put together three graphics and a universal template. When I present the workshop, I'll introduce the idea, show how it works, use it to solve some common plotting problems and offer links to other writers' sites with different approaches to plot outlining as second opinions and alternate resources. The rest of the workshop happens in comments, when my visitors ask questions and/or offer their opinions on the topic, I respond, etc.
More things to consider when giving workshops, virtual or otherwise:
1. Talk about what you know, and know what you're talking about. If you have problems with or aren't clear on your topic, that's going to come through during your workshop. Also, there's nothing more embarrassing than a visitor asking a question and all you can answer with is "I don't know."
2. Keep it fresh. One reason I looked for a new approach to plotting is because there has been so much written online about the more traditional methods. Also, much as I love to plot novels, plotting can be a very boring topic.
3. Make it fun for you and your visitors. When I was in RWA, I sat through so many dull workshops that I'm surprised they didn't give me narcolepsy. The best workshops are always those that use humor in some capacity, even if you just offer an ice-breaker with an opening joke that relates to your topic. Something like:
"In English," the college professor said, "a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative."
A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right."
One final note -- if it's not your style to use humor or a light-hearted approach when virtually workshopping, don't force it. Do what you're comfortable doing. While I'd rather use humor than get too serious, the two posts on PBW that to this day still bring in the most e-mails from other writers are two that didn't use humor at all: Courage and Mansions.