7 Tips for a Successful Writers Conference 3

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These tips for a successful writers conferences will prepare you to get the most out of your publishing, editing, and writing workshops and seminars! Here’s a round up of things I learned in my three days at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference in British Columbia, Canada.

Before the tips, a quip:

“Writers are introverted and insecure.” – best-selling author Mary Jo Putney.

I’m a little insulted by that. I mean, I am introverted…and a little insecure, but not any more than the next non-writing human being! Mind you, when you’re constantly sharing your ideas and getting rejected 95% of the time, you’re bound to see yourself and the world a bit differently.

At this conference, best-selling novelist Robert Dugoni recommended Writing Genre Fiction: A Guide to the Craft by Thomas H. Milhorn as one of your absolute must-read writing resources. And, read on for seven tips for a successful writers conference…

7 Tips for a Successful Writers Conference

1. Take your laptop. I loved having my laptop, especially because I’d planned to take notes for my fellow scribes (that’s you!). I bought three days of wireless internet, and was able to post what I learned in each session minutes after they ended. This was a great way to build a blog for successful writers!

2. Don’t take your laptop. I was fried at the end of the second day, so I sat in on a partial session without my laptop. I enjoyed the session in a totally different way; without my head buried in my computer, I could watch the panel of writers and really think about their advice. Plus, I was more open to networking with writers without my laptop – it was a barrier to initiating conversations. I recommend not using your laptop for every workshop.

3. Get handouts of the sessions you don’t attend. If a presenter is offering hand-outs, find a way to get a copy. You may miss the writing or editing workshop, but at least you can get the content. To make your writers conference successful, gather as much info as you can.

4. Practice your elevator pitch. Your “elevator pitch” is a 3 minute (or less) summary of your book, article, or novel. Make sure you’ve got it down pat…I happened to share an elevator with agent Janet Reid of Fine Print Literary Management, and wasted a whole 11 floors talking about the workshop we both just attended (she was on the panel, I was in the audience). But I was too fried to sell my non-fiction book proposal! So, I emailed her later that night. But that was a wasted opportunity, and I may always regret it.

5. Have specific questions ready. Funnily, this writer’s conference didn’t have any magazine writing workshops. It really focused on various genres of fiction, some non-fiction, and some blogging. To enjoy a successful writers conference, have a list of questions ready. Panels of writers, agents, and editors are fabulous resources – but not if you can’t remember your questions!

6. Take your business cards. I forgot my Suite101 Feature Writer business cards, and I haven’t made up my own cards, so I missed out on this great way to network with other writers. Mind you, I was so buried in my laptop, I barely spoke to a soul…to make your writers conference successful, take and distribute your business cards.

7. Use what you learn. Blog about the writing tips you pick up at the conference. Pitch magazines to articles about what you learned. Teach it in your writing classes, or share it with your writer’s critique group. Don’t just write it down in a notebook and forget about it! To enjoy a successful writers conference, wring every last drop out of your writing rag.

Two more tips from the Surrey International Writers’ Conference:

  • It’s serious business. Professional writers take their craft very, very seriously. It’s not just a job – it’s a career. Writing is how they make their living, and they are deliberate, businesslike, and disciplined (for the most part). Professional writers don’t just dabble with writing. They map out their books, stick to their writing schedules, market their novels, and learn the fundamentals the writing business
  • Perseverance, persistence, patience, and prayer are the 4 P’s that will get you published. “You won’t always get answers to your questions (“Why was my manuscript rejected after an editor said she loved it? Will I ever get published?”),” says best-selling author Dugoni. “At some point you just have to put it in someone else’s hands and let go.”

If you have any questions or tips for a successful writers conference, please share below!

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3 thoughts on “7 Tips for a Successful Writers Conference

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Post author

    Writing conferences also offer several intangibles, that I can barely put into words:

    It’s just energizing to be with published writers who talk about how they found a publisher, agent, etc — there’s no big secret or skill! Earning a living as a writer is a reachable goal, and writing conferences make it seem more than possible. There’s so much energy at those conferences.

    And, writing is a business. I did blog about this, but it really made an impression on me: writing is hard work. The best-selling authors all agreed that writing requires discipline, perseverance — the drive and will to succeed.

    Anyway, not only will I go back to the Surrey writer’s conference next year….I’m hoping to volunteer!

  • monica

    I’ve never been to a writer’s conference but your posts about SIWC make me realize how valuable they can be! We don’t get many opportunities to pick the brains of editors and publishers. Thank you for sharing your experience… it’s really opened my eyes.