Writing Conference Season: Part II

Susan Faye’s Safari Cat! Used by permission.

Last post we discussed how to choose which conference you need the most wherever you are on the writing journey. Today, let’s assume you’ve chosen one (or more if you can afford it!), and paid your fees. Now what?
Writing Tip for Today: How can you make the most out of the writers conference you’ve elected to attend? Here are some tips:

  • What Do You Need? You may wish you were ready to agent shop, but if your manuscript isn’t complete or polished, it will probably be a waste of time and resources. First, ask yourself what writing skills you need to work on the most. Are you still confused about POV? Have you received feedback saying you need to study plotting and story? I like to home in on a couple of areas and concentrate my efforts. That way, I will be more likely to retain what I’m learning. Go ahead and take that platform-building class, but take more workshops in the areas you struggle with on a weekly basis.
  • Go for a Mix. If the workshops offered are a combo of big name writers and lesser knowns, I’d shoot for a balance. It’s great to learn from a master, but frankly, some authors are better writers than teachers. Don’t pass up a workshop solely on the fact you’ve never heard of the presenter. I’ve learned some amazing techniques from total unknowns. Chances are, the Big Names’ classes will be large and more impersonal. It may be the unknown instructor whose class is intimate enough for some one-on-one work.
  • Keep Expectations in Check. Writing conferences are not magic bullets. Yes, network, learn and soak up everything you can. But be realistic. Not every writer who pitches agents will come away with representation. And to be fair, these agents are always looking for the next big thing, but they’re also tired and HUMAN. Many attendees come away floating on air after an agent(s) ask for a partial or even the full manuscript. A few weeks later, these same conferees are disappointed when they receive a standard rejection. Not for us, it reads, and the conferee is baffled. If you keep your expectations low, you will still be elated if something great happens, but if not, the ground won’t be so far away.
  • Writing Is Key. While conferences are often a valuable resource for writers, remember that writing is the real key. You have to put BIC and produce word count. Write for at least 10,000 hours. It’s a little sad (to me) that some “writers” do more talking about writing than actual writing. They’re welcome to be social, but the goal is to WRITE, not to “have written,” as Faulkner once said.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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