February 9, 2015
Getting the Most Out of a Writers Conference
But I Already Know All That!
Cec Murphey Teaching a Class
This is the fourth post in a short series about writers conferences and why it’s so important for writers, both newbies and experienced, to attend. This time we’ll discuss why it’s absolutely necessary for you as a conferee to choose the correct workshops and learn the essentials of becoming a better writer, no matter what genre interests you.
The best conferences will offer a variety of excellent workshops covering numerous topics to whet any writer’s appetite. But which ones should you choose? How do you decide?
Using a past brochure from the Montrose Christian Writers Conference, I’ve listed just a few of the 50+ workshops the conference had offered from Monday morning until late Thursday afternoon:
STEPS TO SUCCESS
THE POWER OF STORY
NONFICTION BOOK PROPOSAL
CREATING A PAGE TURNER
WRITING FOR THE YOUTH MARKET
MINISTERING THROUGH BLOG WRITING
TOUCHING HEARTS WITH WORDS
WHY YOU NEED AN AGENT
SO THERE’S A POET INSIDE
CATCH THAT EDITOR’S ATTENTION
10 MISTAKES SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS MAKE
WHO NEEDS A CRITIQUE GROUP ANYWAY?
PUTTING CHARACTERS IN PLACE
As you can see, this conference, as most others, offered classes and sessions from fiction to nonfiction to marketing to poetry to social media, and much more. The key to getting the most out of any conference is analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, your knowledge of the writing/publishing world or lack thereof, and the genres of writing you’ve attempted. Then, a wise conferee will plan ahead to attend classes all day long and take notes. Also, most conferences offer CDs of the workshops presented, so any conferee can go home with a wealth of information packed in his/her suitcase.
With 60+ conferences under my belt, the only words of warning I have to offer is mainly to the newbie or the writer who’s not sure he/she really wants to write at all, so here goes.
My Advice to Newbies: If you plan to spend hundreds of dollars on conference registrations and room/board or, at least, your valuable time and the expense of traveling to and from a conference, then go with the goal of learning. If you’re just starting, you need to evaluate what workshops will be most valuable to you. I can’t emphasize enough the value of attending any beginners’ workshops offered.
“But I’ve been writing for two years, and I want to know how to write fiction better!” you might say. Or maybe you’d say, “I know all that stuff about margins and fonts and what kind of paper to use for submissions. I want to know how to get my poetry published.”
My best advice to any newbie or anyone who’s not yet decided what to write is to go to the beginners’ class. There, the instructor will share information essential for the conferee to become a better writer, no matter what genre you write. It will involve much more than margins and letter fonts.
I’ve been constantly surprised with submissions I’ve received, some from folks whom I assume have attended writers conferences for years, but their quality of writing has much to be desired. I’ve received some manuscripts that had the wrong size font and the spacing was single spaced. Others had no contact information included at the top of the first page, and the writing was so immature, it couldn’t have passed a high school sophomore’s term paper test. I can only scratch my head and wonder if these folks EVER attended any conferences, and, if they did, if they went to the right classes to help them improve their writing.
If you’re just starting to write, please don’t be embarrassed to admit your newbie status, and get to those beginners’ classes to learn the vital facts so important to improve. After you have a few of those classes under your belt, then launch out into specific genre workshops and commit to having your work critiqued by a faculty member.
All these opportunities are there to help you become that best-selling author you dream to be. So, decide to attend writers conferences as often as you can, and when you get there, go to those classes that are designed just for you. You’ll come home with a wealth of new information that you can find no place else. Apply what you’ve learned, and that publishing contract will be right around the corner.
Next time, we’ll look at the different ways you can have your work critiqued at writers conferences.