I’ve gone on and on in the past about how important it is for new writers to meet and make connections with other writers. There are so many different ways to do this, with the online community, local critique groups, and even from within your own social circle. For me, however, I think the most rewarding way to connect with other writers are through writing conferences.
I’ve been a member of the Nebraska Writers Guild for two years now and have really started to make the most of the group. I’ve had opportunities to attend signings, speeches, pitch sessions, and conferences, as well as making a few friends along the way. If you’re a writer in Nebraska, I’d highly recommend the guild. If you’re not in Nebraska, you should consider seeking out a similar group in your state.
This past weekend was the Nebraska Writers Guild Spring Conference, and like most writing conferences, we were treated to some top-notch speakers and also had the opportunity to attend pitch sessions with an agent or editor.
So, with the background out the way, here are 10 Takeaways from the Nebraska Writers Guild Spring Conference.
1. Not everybody writes the same thing, and that’s okay. When attending writing conferences, I meet people who write everything. From poetry, to cookbooks, to science fiction, to memories. And you know what? No genre or category of writing is any less “serious” than another. Remember that–and don’t judge something just because it’s not your preferred genre.
2. Not everybody publishes the same way. Five or six years ago, I was 100% against self-publishing. I considered it an act of vanity for writers who couldn’t “make the cut.” How wrong was I? In the last few years, I’ve met so many self-published writers–many, if not most, more talented than me–who have been far more successful than me at this point. While self-publishing is still not for me, it’s a completely viable path to publication that all writers should at keep in mind when planning their publishing strategies.
3. It’s harder than the dickens to publish a children’s book. I pitched my children’s book at the convention and learned a few things. First off, I was way off on word count for the desired age group of my book. Second, it’s one of the most difficult markets to break into. I’ll have a longer post on this in the future, but for now, let’s just say, “Wow.” I’ve got some research to do before I proceed on that title.
4. Everything is subjective. One of the presentations on the convention was an agent reading the first few paragraphs of some of his submissions. At the end, he revealed which novels he chose, and which ones he skipped. There were a few that made sense, but also a few where I was like “WTF? Why would he pick that?” It was a great exercise to show that every manuscript has a chance.
5. Characters! One of the presenters gave a talk on writing a story arc for your villain, and it really changed the way I will write the protagonist(s) of my next novel. This was one of those speeches where I was just pumped and ready to go write as soon as he finished talking.
6. It’s also worth a mention, that the most effective villains–just like the most effective heroes–must grow or change in some way to have the most impact in a novel. I’ll have more to say about this in a future post as well.
7. We’re all friends. I often mention how I view other writers as colleagues, and not competition. This belief was reinforced at the conference. That’s the thing about a writing conference; everybody there supports each other and learns from each other.
8. Not all writers are as…comfortable…with their writing as I assume they would be. I need to remind myself that even though rejections are not “big deal” to me, not everyone feels that way. I need to remember that some writer are very particular about where they send their work, and are heartbroken when it’s not excepted.
9. You can’t be afraid to say hello. I’ve been to quite a few writing conventions now and what I’ve learned so far is that most of the people attending are there for the same reason I am. To learn about the craft and to make connections. Approach a stranger at a convention and introduce yourself. You’ll never know where that will lead.
10. When it comes to groups like the Nebraska Writers Guild or the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, you get what you put in. If you’re not willing to step up and help, or make yourself noticed, and remain a “passive” member of the group, you won’t benefit from the group as much as the people who are willing to grab the opportunities presented.
So that’s it. Like most writing conferences, I came away with a brain full of new ideas for not only my writing, but also for this blog and the podcast. Also, like most conferences, it takes a few days to “come down” and get back to real life. While coming down isn’t always fun, the writing conference high is the best.
So make some writing friends, attend some conferences, and most of all–keep writing!
What writing conferences have you attended? Which ones would you recommend to attend or avoid? Leave a comment and let us know!