One way to grow as a writer is to attend a writers’ conference!
Now, I’m not a writers’ conference junkie, but I’d like to be. I know enough about them to understand that if you are in a climate-controlled hotel ballroom, surrounded by writers from all over the world, with speakers and experts in front of you, then you’re in a great place to grow.
To meet other writers in person.
In my limited conference experience, I’m always amazed at the diversity of the writers that I meet. They all aren’t bloggers like me. My writer friends don’t all have tendencies to publish quirky comedies like me. They may not know the first thing about writing a novel in 10 minutes a day. Because I do get the honor of meeting them, I expand my horizons. I’m encouraged by what they tell me. I’m interested in their projects and check them out. And I always come away with new friends.
To practice your pitch.
Even if you never sit down with an agent or publisher, you will meet other writers who want to know what you write. You’ll need to be able to tell them in just thirty seconds. This takes practice. At a conference, you’ll have plenty of it.
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To learn at the feet of experts.
Any conference worth the price of admission will have speakers there who know more about the various aspects of writing than you do. Hopefully, you’ll get the chance to ask questions of these experts. You can find out how they came to their conclusions and what advice they may have for you. Take advantage of any downtime that you get to pick their brains and learn.
To get away from your life for a while.
At the last conference I attended, I got to spend fourteen glorious hours alone in a hotel room. I really loved it. For the first time in history, I ordered a pizza and ate it alone. I watched a Hitchcock movie and I wrote 3000 words without anyone interrupting me. It was heaven. I felt so refreshed the next day when I had to fly home.
To get some perspective.
If you are discouraged about your writing for whatever reason, a conference may have the people you need to encourage you. Many times we need to know that we aren’t alone in our professional struggles. Sometimes we need the brutal truth. Sometimes we need to look at our careers, not our current project. I think that getting out of one’s own setting can make a big difference in how we see ourselves.
To have one on one time with an agent.
Agents often don’t sign authors unless they have met them first. This is, in reality, a business relationship and many agents want writers that they can click with. Even if you aren’t quite ready for an agent, it wouldn’t hurt to get to know them, practice your pitch and get some questions answered.
To get advice.
Conferences are great places to get advice. Sometimes this advice comes from the speakers and workshops. Sometimes it comes from who you sat next to at lunch. None of us are so together that we can’t use a little insight. You can also eavesdrop if you want. Your neighbor may have asked the question you’ve always wanted to ask.
To pick up freebies.
Depending on the size of the conference, sponsors will hand out swag. At the last conference I attended, there were t-shirts, coupons to local businesses, and other things that were given to the coordinators just for the attendees.
To find out more about your genre.
Conferences are great places to buddy up with people who know your genre inside and out. You may gain fresh insight and advice for your genre in a way that you could never have online. Some genres have their own conferences — like ACFW or RWA. Check out this list of conferences and see if your genre has an event you can go to.
To be a bit more humble.
Besides wading through the endless bins of used books at my local library’s annual sale, nothing makes me more humble than meeting a bunch of writers. Many of them have been writing longer than I have. Many have bigger platforms than I do. When I’m at a conference, especially a big one. I’m a pretty little fish. This is good for me. The day that I’m too big to go, or too important to engage, or too accomplished not to attend will be a sad, sad day.
To get feedback.
Many conferences have contests or critique opportunities. These are good for you! You can learn where your weaknesses lie. Also, you can gain wisdom from the more mature and experienced. And you can even win something grand if you’re good enough.
To feel that you are not alone.
Writers, as tempting as it is to wrap yourself up in a solitary, lonely world with just your characters and your computer as your companions, please don’t neglect the importance of community. Reach out to other writers. Do this with online groups, local groups or conferences.
Conferences have the potential of making you a savvier, stronger writer. As you plan your 2017, make a commitment to get better and invest in yourself.