Sunday, September 26, 2010

What Do You Do at a Writer's Conference?

The North Carolina Writer's Network is holding a writer's conference the beginning of November in Charlotte.  I've never attended one of these before, so this will be my first one.  As I might have mentioned before, I have no idea what I'm doing.  I have no idea what to expect at a conference.  All I know is what I've read - that if you're a serious writer, then these conferences are a requirement.

Why have I never attended one of these before?  Boy, do I have a list of answers:
  1. Money - these things are expensive.  Supposedly it's possible to get published without spending a penny (other than mailing costs), but it's clearly not working for me.  I'm one of the majority who operates on a tight budget.  It would be nice to have royalties pay for these conferences - but you have to get published to get royalties!  Basically, we aspiring writers will have to come up with the money out of our own pocket.  Think of it as an investment.  Now that I have a small budget set aside for "publishing," I can plan for these things.
  2. Ignorance - yes, a year ago I didn't even know what a writer's conference was.  I had heard of them, but never knew these were a "rite of passage" for aspiring writers.
  3. Pride - like most aspiring writers, I used to think I was perfect.  "Everyone loves to read my stories, so why would I need to go to a conference?  What could a writer's class teach me that I don't already know?  Why should agents require an aspiring writer to meet them at a conference?  My books will sell themselves."  Then in the past year I've learned that there are no perfect writers.  I've been learning a few things through researching the net, and I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.
  4. Meeting People - I'm such an introvert.  I could see myself going to a writer's conference, attending seminars, and talking to absolutely no one.  Then what would I have accomplished?  If I learned nothing from the seminars, it would be a complete waste of money.
Well, now I'm ready to attend one of these things.  I've overcome the issues listed above, but still - what am I supposed to do at this conference?

I see three main goals.
  1. HAVE FUN - no matter what happens, I must resolve to enjoy myself - even if I approach an agent and fall flat on my face.  If I make having fun my #1 top priority, then I should be able to accomplish the next two goals.  If I show any fear, it'll be sensed, and established authors/editors/agents will just eat me for breakfast and spit my bones in the garbage.
  2. LEARN SOMETHING - even if I fail miserably in goal #3, nothing can stop me from learning something in the seminars.  Maybe I'll learn a new trick that will help me write better (which will increase the chances of me getting published later).
  3. NETWORK - there it is - the ultimate goal for the aspiring writer.  If I can get just one agent to look over my stuff and give me feedback, then I will have met this goal.  If I get a good agent to sign with, then that's an extra bonus.
Finally, there are decisions for me to consider over the next few weeks.  I'm sure that when you go attend your own writer's conference, you'll have similar choices to make.

  • Do I sign up for the whole event (Friday evening to Sunday morning = $350 + hotel stay of $200)?  Or do I only go for one day (Saturday = $300 + no hotel)?
  • Do I sign up for NCWN membership?  It saves $100 on registration.
  • What about signing up for a $30 Master Class?
  • Do I enter a manuscript pitch in their Manuscript Mart?  For $150, I would get helpful feedback from a editor, publisher, or agent.
  • Do I enter a sample of my writing in their Critique Service?  For $150, I get feedback from a writer.
  • Which "concurrent" workshop seminars do I want to attend?
  • Do I want to try for one of their scholarships?
  • Which agents do I want to approach - and how does that work?  Do I need to get business cards?
I'll be going over these topics in more detail over the next few weeks. 

Until then - happy preparing for your own next writer's conference.

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