Sunday, May 13, 2012

Do You Need This Conference?

Conference season is alive and well, from California to New York, and you can sense the energy in the air as writers walk in the front doors of motels and register. They collect their goodie bags, glancing quickly to see if there's anything to eat in it for later, and find their way to the horde. They might seek friends they know, or might be alone, but chances are, they arrived with only two goals: To find someone who can help their writing struggle, or sell their wares. Other than that, they haven't clearly defined their purpose to be at that particular event, at that period in their professional lives.

You might consider being selective in your conferences.

What do you need from a conference at this point in your career?

1. An agent?
2. A publisher?
3. A class on writing your genre?
4. Ideas on platform and promotion?
5. To step up your poetry?

This list could be a hundred items long, but the point is that you need to make a list. What do you need from a conference? And most importantly, does the conference you're currently considering offer precisely what you need?

Many writers attend conferences for the feel of them. They want to be around other authors, compare notes about what they are doing. Mutual cheerleading, or at worst, mooching ideas off the successful. Hey, I get that. I love hearing new concepts and directions. However,  attending a conference without a purpose is like going to school without a major. You might learn some things in the process, but you aren't headed in any direction. You could waste precious time that could be spent writing. Or you waste money that could be better spent on a conference more suited to your needs.

Make a list of what you seek for your writing right now. Then identify conferences that offer what you seek. Design an agenda and establish goals to reach while you are in attendance. If they feature a particular agent you've love to meet, write a list of questions for him on a notecard. If they have a class on plotting, make a notecard with a list of your shortcomings or concerns or questions to ask.

I understand that sometimes you attend a conference based on locale and cost. In that case thoroughly review the courses and speakers, making notes on what to accomplish. Make it detailed.

"I hope to determine whether I need a prologue for my story."
"I want to understand how to format a novel for Kindle."
"I want to learn why I need an agent."
"I want to learn how to get my script in the right hands without being stolen."

I've seen scriptwriters at conferences where nothing was offered for scripts. They attended because friends were there or it happened to be the closest conference with the least amount of travel. Don't waste your time if you don't go with purpose, with full intentions of walking away with your money's worth.

You might only need a one-day workshop just for romance writers. You might prefer a retreat where you write, and then exchange critiques among attendees of your caliber. You could have a manuscript complete and only need advice on pitching agents, available through an online class.

Conferences can be great catalysts for us, but they can also waste our time, even confuse us. You create marketing plans, platform plans, novel outlines, and day to day notes to accomplish word counts and chapter completion; so why not develop a personal development plan . . . precisely noting when and where to expand yourself as a writer. 

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