Five Reasons to Attend Writing Conferences

I recently attended the RWA National Writing Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Nationals is an intensive three-day conference with workshops, editor and agent pitch appointments, chat sessions with best-selling authors, publisher spotlights, book signings, luncheons and awards dinners, and that’s just the scheduled activities. In addition to that, you might have appointments with your editor or agent, lunches with fellow authors or your critique group, and chapter meet and greets. All worthwhile activities.

Writing conferences, local, regional or national, are indispensable activities, well-worth the cost, and here are my five reasons for attending writing conferences:

  1. Improving your skills

Workshops often cover craft, marketing, and career. I don’t care how many books you’ve published, you should never stop honing your craft. It’s always helpful to refocus your attention on creating conflict, developing your characters, establishing your settings. Maybe something a workshop presenter says will spark an idea for your latest WIP, an idea that gets you past that sticky place where you’ve been stuck the last few weeks.

And I don’t know about you, but I need all the help I can get when it comes to marketing. Marketing is the bane of my existence, so I’m open to anything and everything that works. Obviously, I can take everything I’ve learned and apply it, but I can choose the ideas that work best for me, my budget, and my time.

Finally, workshops on career are not to be overlooked. Learning how to avoid burnout, getting tips on balancing your writing, your family, and (if you have one) your day job, and learning how to keep track of writing expenses is useful for published and unpublished authors alike.

2. Making connections

You never know who you’re going to sit next to at lunch, dinner, or a workshop break. You could find yourself sitting with an editor who asks what you’re working on. Or another author who’s happy to share her marketing hints. Volunteering can also be a great opportunity to connect. While volunteering for the literacy signing, I met several authors who introduced me to their connections, building my network.

Aside from making those all-important career connections, you might meet your new best friend, someone who shares your passion for writing, and who can share your triumphs and your tribulations. Just listening to many of the best-selling authors whose friendships began at RWA and have lasted years is proof of the value of these friendships.

3. Broadening your horizons

If you’re published with a traditional publisher, but want to learn more about small digital-first publishers, or maybe you’ve got a manuscript that can’t find a home because it’s a mash-up of subgenres and you’re thinking about indie publishing, you can learn about all of these options by attending workshops on indie publishing and publisher spotlights. Talk to other authors about the roads they’ve taken to publication, the pros, the cons. Nothing is more valuable than hearing about first-hand experiences.

4. Getting out of your comfort zone

Most writers are introverts. I know I am, and getting out of my hotel room, mingling with other authors, volunteering for activities that (gasp!) require me to actually talk to other people is good for me. Hearing that other authors, even multi-published, best-selling authors have the same struggles you do, is reassuring.

5. Gaining inspiration

I leave nationals exhausted, but inspired. I’m so pumped, the creative juices are flowing, the motivation to finish the “damn book” is so strong, that I can’t wait to get home and put all the things I learned to work. I eagerly re-read my notes, thinking about how I can tweak my WIP, deepening my point-of-view, strengthening my character development, and adding new plot twists. The ideas sparked by this year’s RWA helped me complete my WIP in short order, after several weeks of spinning my wheels. Would I have finished the WIP without attending RWA? Yes, of course. But I don’t think I would have finished it so quickly, and I don’t think it would be the new and improved version.

Do you attend writing conferences? Are they helpful to you?



About Rebecca Heflin

I've dreamed of writing romantic fiction since I was fifteen and my older sister sneaked a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss' Shanna to me and told me to read it. Now I write women's fiction and contemporary romance under the name Rebecca Heflin. In case you're wondering, Rebecca Heflin is an abbreviated version of my great-great grandmother's name: Sarah Anne Rebecca Heflin Apple Smith. Whew! And you wondered why I shortened it. When not passionately pursuing my dream, I am busy with my day-job at a large state university or running the non-profit cancer organization my husband and I founded. I'm a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Florida Romance Writers, RWA Contemporary Romance, Savvy Authors, and Florida Writers Association. My mountain-climbing husband and I live at sea level in sunny Florida.
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7 Responses to Five Reasons to Attend Writing Conferences

  1. Great article, Rebecca. Makes me want to attend.

  2. lynncahoon says:

    I love conferences, especially nationals. But I don’t like the costs. So I have to budget and make hard choices.

    • Budgeting is definitely important. Local or regional conferences can offer the same networking and workshop opportunities at a fraction of the cost of nationals. Thanks for commenting, Lynn.

  3. kathybryson says:

    Sounds like a great opportunity. I’ve booked marked for next year. Fingers crossed that the finance gods cooperate by January registration. It’d be fun to get the inside look at the industry.

  4. Pingback: Pitching to the market | Lovers of Philosophy

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