Monday I posted a tongue-in-cheek top ten of why to attend a conference. Today we’ll get serious and I’ll give some good guidelines to help with your decision.
The first thing you should consider is your experience level. You need to look at where you are with your writing, that will be the biggest factor in your decision. As you look at the categories realize that your experience may overlap.
- Never submitted anything for publication
- Hasn’t told many people he writes
- Has submitted a couple of things, but nothing published
- Has several rejection letters and a couple of acceptances
- Is a member of a local or online writing group
- Regularly reads articles or books about writing
- Has attended a writers event (either a workshop, conference or online class)
- Has an idea of where he wants to go with his writing
- Has been paid for his writing
- Spends time each day working at the craft of writing and has an income derived from writing
- Has definite goals and aspirations for his writing
Once you know which group you fall into, it’s easier to evaluate each individual event. There are 2 reasons to attend a writers event.
To learn more about the craft of writing
To network with professionals within the writing world
Here’s a general breakdown of what is usually offered at each kind of event.
These events vary slightly, so the following information is generalized. You should read all brochures and websites carefully to know what to expect.
Large, National Writing Conference
Expect lots of classes for a wide variety of writers – from beginner to advanced.
Continuing Classes – these are classes that last for more than one class period and concentrate on one subject. Even though they are continuing, they rarely provide advanced information on a given subject.
Workshops – these are classes that give an introduction to a concept (like dialogue, plot or setting).
Breakouts or Panels – these are groups of professionals giving instruction on a given subject. The information here is usually very basic.
Appointments with Faculty – most large conferences include a private appointment with a member of the faculty. This is where you would pitch a book or article idea to an editor. It can also be valuable to let a seasoned author look at your writing and give one-on-one feedback.
Regional or Local Writing Conference
These tend to have more classes for the beginner and advanced beginner writer, although there are exceptions. Depending on the length of time, the conference will follow the same basic setup as a national conference.
Workshop or Seminar
Many of these are very specific in what they offer. They aren’t for a large number of writers and generally target the intermediate or advanced writer.
Again, they are very specific in what they offer and vary widely in who they cater to.
It’s never a good idea to write in a vacuum. I have always tried to attend one large conference a year to expose myself to the writing industry, both for networking and education. I also try to attend at least one focused workshop or seminar each year I and I try to keep my eyes open for online writing courses and take at least two a year.
Let me know what conferences and events you’ve attended and how they’ve helped your writing journey.