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:
- 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and (if you have one) your day job, and learning how to keep track of writing expenses is useful for published and unpublished authors alike.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?