Friday, October 05, 2018

Writing: Why Go To A Conference?

Some of the authors who follow this blog (both of you) have just returned from an annual writing conference. Others are making plans to go to one after the first of the year. A third group, and apparently a large one, is debating whether to invest the time and money to attend such a conference in the future.

I'm certainly not the world's expert on writing conferences--I've attended as a student, I've participated as a faculty member, and I seriously consider each major conference as it's announced. I think it all boils down to your status, as well as what your expectations are if you attend them.

Some are what I describe as "newbie" writers. I don't use the term in a pejorative fashion--I was one myself--and this is perhaps the group that will get the most from attending a writing conference. But choose one that offers what you need, not one that's the most high-profile. When making such a choice, consider several things.

People starting out entering the publishing world often don't understand the ins and outs of what has become a rapidly changing field. I liken it to algebra--you go along and go along in utter confusion, then suddenly it makes sense. At least, it did for me. And that's important for someone just starting out as a writer.

You may have a great concept of English grammar, but the ability to string words together that are grammatically correct does not automatically confer the ability to write something that will hold the reader's attention. I don't hold with always following the rules, but one needs to understand the reason for each one before breaking them. Sure, Picasso could put body parts anywhere he wanted, but I'd bet he knew where they belonged before he moved them. That's why the novice writer has to learn about point of view, avoidance of passive voice, sparing use of adjectives, and dozens of other admonitions.

Please, fledgling writers, don't go to a conference because there are lots of editors and agents there and you expect to get representation and an immediate contract. For every attendee to whom this happens, there are dozens who are disappointed when their dreams come crashing. Make friends, enlarge your sphere of contacts, and enjoy the atmosphere of being with others who understand what you're doing and offer support.

Some veterans teach because they feel it's important to give back. Asking around will give you the information you want as to which classes are best. Choose them, pay attention, make certain the faculty recognize your name and face. You'd be surprised at how these relationships eventually deepen.

There are many more things to consider about conferences, but perhaps these will help those dipping their toes into the writing pool. Come on in. The water's fine.

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2 comments:

Priscilla said...

Thank you for the advice. I am not ready to attend a conference, but it's something I look forward to some day.:-)

Richard Mabry said...

When you're ready, ask yourself what you hope to get from attendance. Then look for honest answers about what you'll get from it.