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Announcing the 2022 Writer Unboxed OnConference

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We had been looking forward to a live UnConference in 2021, but the pandemic nixed those plans. Things didn’t sync this year, either. And so it was time to think about whether or not we could pull off the magic of an UnConference online. We researched various platforms, and finally found one that we think gets us close — or at least has the potential to get us close. And so it’s with great pleasure we announce this year’s Un OnConference!

What’s an OnConference, and how is it different from any other online conference or webinar?

Time + Craft + Community =
the Writer Unboxed OnConference

The Writer Unboxed OnConference is an innovative three-week virtual event that honors our busy home lives, the need to advance our craft, and our desire to connect with our writing community. Here’s how:

TIME: It may be more difficult to find the time to participate in a comprehensive online event while at home and/or juggling the demands of a day job. That’s why our event stretches over weeks, and hopefully dovetails with your free time. The bonus of this approach is it allows you more time to muse over whatever it is you just learned, and even integrate it into your work. You may also avoid the overwhelm that often hits after attending a weekend or even week-long intensive. And if you miss a session you wanted to see, you can visit the video library at your leisure; it will be in place for up to two weeks after the event ends.

CRAFT: Our sessions feature Writer Unboxed’s signature deep dives into the writing life and story craft, and are led by the voices you’ve come to know and trust here at WU. Sessions will run one at a time–in fact, on most days there will be only one session. And if that one session runs long? No problem. We want every session to matter, and we want you to have time to get what you need from every session. Have something to add to a session? Raise a virtual hand and you may be invited to join the session leader “on stage.” Type your questions out in the session’s Q&A sidebar, and upvote any questions you see there that appeal to you, too, so that we can be sure questions with the most community interest are answered.

COMMUNITY: Writer Unboxed is known for its tight-knight community, and the ability to connect in person has become a favorite aspect of the WU UnConference. We come as close as we can to a real-life meetup with an online lounge that will remain open 24/7 throughout the event. Want to join other writers in your genre for a chat? You’ll have a way to search for them and invite them to a table. Crave a writing sprint at 5 a.m. — or 10 a.m. — or whenever? To join others over lunch? To read or listen to bedtime stories in the evening? Pull up a virtual chair at any open table to listen, learn, and share. Or create your own table and label it with an identifying title, so friends can search for it throughout the event for a video-meet.

Our Sessions

From Crisis to Character: How to Create and Develop a Realistic, Compelling, and Dramatic Character Arc, with David Corbett (part 1, part 2)

  • In this two-part session, explore your character’s formative moments of helplessness, the habits those moments create, and how your character views their needs and desires because of them. Once you are secure in this formative backstory, then what?
  • In part 2, David will demonstrate how to create story from the character’s “mistaken desires and misbegotten yearnings,” and how to build a plot that demonstrates “success through failure,” as the character makes the inevitable errors and blunders required as she moves from misunderstanding to clarity—or stubbornly rejects the opportunity to change.

I’ll Buy That: Encourage Your Reader to Suspend Disbelief, with Kathryn Craft

Circuses that arrive by night, meteors hollowed out for low-tech space travel, literary characters that narrate their own births—stories are born from imagination. But how can we make our readers believe? With examples from genres across the board, we’ll analyze concrete techniques that best-selling authors use to navigate the implausible.

Get That Story Moving, with Kathryn Craft

At the first indication you can’t keep your story moving, your busy reader will move it for you—right off of her nightstand. Even go-to scenes that are chock full of movement, like explosive action, combat, and sex, may not be able to salvage a stalled story. With examples from popular novels, this look at story movement—what it is, why it begs reader investment, and how to create it—will show why this specialized “movement” should be central to your storytelling efforts.

Searching for “The One”: Excavating the Story Hiding Inside You, with Keith Cronin

An interactive series of prompts, questions and challenges that probe your hot-buttons, fears and insecurities, aimed at sparking your imagination to unpack the story that lies deep within you. The one that’s burning to get out, but there’s something standing in the way. We’ll explore processes and criteria for figuring out which story is “the one,” and how to take that kernel of an idea and let it morph and grow without losing control – or killing your passion.

I, Writer, with Julie Duffy

Reframe your writing life and you’ll see there are lots of opportunities for success and fulfillment at every stage. In this session, you will explore seven realms of writing that ascending writers must manage—including generating ideas; drafting and revising; engaging with other writers, readers and the publishing industry; learning to celebrate your tiny wins; and putting systems in place to keep yourself on track. You’ll learn to identify your next step based on your stage and any strengths or weaknesses, and in this way can make meaningful progress, step by step.

The Dynamics of Opposition, with Desmond Hall

We need to create meaningful challenges for our protagonists, and many times we don’t create enough of them or those challenges lack the complexity needed to bring out a protagonist’s real character. Digging into the negative side of our stories as well as the protagonist’s perspective can create solutions. In this workshop we’ll explore different ways of generating obstacles for our protagonists. Come with a one- to two-sentence description of your story. Be ready to work on a 15-minute exercise where you will create obstacles of opposition that will make your plot more compelling.

Losing the Plot: Writing by the Seat of Your Pants, with Gwen Hernandez

The writing world is full of plotting methods, but what if none of them work for you? You’re not alone—and you’re not lazy or doing it wrong!—you might just be wired differently. Join this seasoned writer-without-a-plan for tips on figuring out what type of writer you are, why knowing matters, and how to make not plotting a manuscript less stressful.

On Voice, with Elizabeth Huergo

We all know what it means to “voice” an opinion. What does “voice” mean when it comes to writing? In our conversation, we will be defining this elusive quality, exploring revision strategies meant to enhance how sound works hand-in-hand with sense, as well as considering why “voice” matters. Attendees are welcome to bring any 3 sample paragraphs (one sample per page/about 600 words total) of their writing for hands-on practice. All writers, all levels are welcome.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: Dialogue Workshop, with Dave King

The Dialogue Workshop, which will cover both the mechanics of dialogue and techniques to make dialogue flow naturally, will present material from Dave King’s classic book on writers, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, along with material that will appear in the book’s not-yet-published updated edition. Participants are invited to submit two pages of dialogue, from which Dave will draw examples.

Draw Your Next Draft, with Arthur Klepchukov

Still staring at the same words for your next draft? Learn how to revise in this playful, hands-on workshop by experimenting with techniques that go beyond writing–like creating movie posters, floor plans, caricatures, mind maps, and typography bombs. Your next draft needs you to dream bigger. Bring at least 1,000 words to revise, and plan to practice and discuss various techniques. Let’s draw your next draft!

THE BONES OF THE GODS master sequence, with Donald Maass
featuring new material from a book-in-progress

  • Part 1: Timeless Characters. Certain characters linger in our minds not just for days but for decades.  What components of character create that effect?  In this hands-on workshop, learn what not only brings characters alive but also makes them people that we can never forget.  Every character can create an archetype once you know how.
  • Part 2: Timeless Story Elements. Buried beneath familiar plots are the hidden structures of story, enduring patterns and elements that have captured the human imagination for millennia.  They work because they enact human struggles that remain constant through time.  Older than the hero’s journey and as immediate as the latest trend, learn the methods of building enduring stories in this hands-on workshop.
  • Part 3: Universal Human Experience. Beyond character arc there is a journey that ties together all of humanity, through all time.  What have humans always searched for?  What makes the journeys of your characters the journeys of us all?  In this hands-on workshop, discover the methods of capturing in your current novel the greatest treasure of timeless fiction: universal human experience.

The Building Blocks of a Story: Crafting Scenes with Purpose and Power, with Barbara Linn Probst

This interactive, step-by-step workshop will guide participants through the components of a well-crafted scene: how they relate to each other and to the larger narrative that the scene must serve, and why each is important. Using examples, we’ll look at eight core elements of a purposeful and effective scene; learn to identify and address potential weaknesses such as gaps, false cues, fuzziness, “doing too much,” and “doing too little;” and explore ways to strengthen a scene’s impact and cohesion. Attendees will then have several hands-on opportunities to apply these principles to one of their own scenes-in-progress.

Experiential Description, with Ray Rhamey

This interactive workshop details techniques for emotionalizing the descriptions of action, people, and place. You can not only enhance your overall story but create a deeply immersive experience for your readers by sharing a character’s singular perspective. Brief writing and class exercises will explore the craft of creating a rich sense of character through artful description.

Inclusive Storytelling, with Grace Wynter

Too often, stories welcome some readers at the expense of others. But inclusive storytelling strives to move beyond stereotypes and outdated language and archetypes by creating stories that come to life for all readers. In this session, Professional Editor and Authenticity Reader Grace Wynter provides insight into language, cultural shifts, and resources that will help authors tell stories that more accurately and authentically reflect the changing world around them.

And Finally

  • The event will take place September 29th-October 16th. Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday sessions will run from 7-8:30 p.m. ET, and Saturday sessions will run from 5-6:30 p.m. and 7-8:30 p.m. ET.
  • Early bird tickets will go on sale soon for $299. Watch this space, or sign up HERE to be among the first to know when tickets are made available.
  • Seats will be limited.

We hope you’ll be all in with this year’s OnConference. Write on!



Writer Unboxed began as a collaboration between Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton in 2006. Since then the site has grown to include ~50 regular contributors--including bestselling authors and industry leaders--and frequent guests. In 2014, the first Writer Unboxed UnConference (part UNtraditional conference, part intensive craft event, part networking affair) was held in Salem, MA. Learn more about our 2019 event, ESCAPE TO WuNDERLAND, on Eventbrite. In 2016, the Writer Unboxed team published a book with Writer's Digest. AUTHOR IN PROGRESS: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published has been well-received by readers who seek help in overcoming the hurdles faced at every step of the novel-writing process--from setting goals, researching, and drafting to giving and receiving critiques, polishing prose, and seeking publication. James Scott Bell has said of the guide, "Nourishment for the writer's soul and motivation for the writer's heart." You can follow Writer Unboxed on Twitter, and join our thriving Facebook community.

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