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

First, though, here’s what one writer said: “Writers are introverted and insecure.” – best-selling author Mary Jo Putney.

Hmm…I’m insulted by that because it used to be 100% true for me! I wasn’t insecure about my writing or blogging, though. I quickly got used to the idea of sharing my article ideas and getting rejected 95% of the time, and my blog readers have been 99% supportive and encouraging. Freelance writers have to develop thick skins, or else they quit writing. They need certain personality traits of successful writers and they have to learn how to overcome insecurity about their work.

I’m definitely introverted! What about you — are you introverted and insecure? Both? Neither? One or the other?

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.

Reading books on the craft of writing fiction is a great practice for nonfiction writers, too. The more creative and interesting your writing is, the better it’ll sell.

7 Tips for a Successful Writer’s Conference

My favorite writing conference was Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference in California. I haven’t written about that experience yet — but I should, because it’s where I met the best literary agent in publishing today!

If you’re looking for an agent to represent your writing, read The Query Shark’s Best Advice on How to Get a Literary Agent. But first, check out these tips for writer’s conferences…

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

7 Tips for a Successful Writers ConferenceI forgot my “She Blossoms” business cards, and I didn’t even have extra paper or a pen to scribble down my info, 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 final tips from the Surrey International Writers’ Conference:

  • Writing and publishing books are 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.”

Have you attended a writers conference — and what did you learn? If you have any questions or tips for a successful writers conference, please share below!

And, back to my original question: are you introverted as a human being and insecure as a writer?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 thoughts on “7 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Writer’s Conference”

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    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!

  2. 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.

  3. Surrey was such a terrific conference! Thanks for sharing all these posts. It’s great to pick up some extra info and ideas. 🙂