Monday, January 7, 2013

Cue Up For Conference Season

Dave Farland's Writers Death Camp - November 2010
It's time to get ready for this years round of writing conferences. Like the man said, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." And, honestly, if you already haven't been looking at the 2013 season, you're already missing out.

So as you take a moment to sit down and consider which writing conferences you're interested in (check out some of the ones listed on my conference page), I'm going to blog this month about elements you'll need to keep in mind.

What Do You Need?
First off, lets talk about what your needs are for choosing a conference. If you're just starting out in your writing career, you're going to be bumping around the conference scene for a bit, but let me help you cut through some of the clutter and point you in the right direction.

You will attend conferences and workshops that make you feel lost. Sometimes presenters will say things that seem irrelevant to you. Just take it all in and let your mind chew on it. Some presenters may suck, but when you're looking for knowledge, look for what you can take away from each presentation. At some point you'll be able to skip the lessons on story structure and move on to the editing and submitting ones. But recognize where you are in your writing and don't push yourself into a presentation you won't need anytime soon.

So for starters:
  • Pick reliable conferences that have good track records with lectures on writing
  • Pick lectures/classes that are pertinent to your level of writing
  • Avoid conference activities that don't improve your writing

A Special Note on Fandom
"Fandom (consisting of fan [fanatic] plus the suffix -dom, as in kingdom, freedom, etc.) is a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of sympathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest. Fans typically are interested in even minor details of the object(s) of their fandom and spend a significant portion of their time and energy involved with their interest, often as a part of a social network with particular practices (a fandom); this is what differentiates "fannish" (fandom-affiliated) fans from those with only a casual interest." ~ Wikipedia
Admit it. We're all fans to some degree. And when you become a hotshot author, fans are going to be your bread and butter. But your purpose in attending conferences and workshops is to better your writing. If you're geeking out in the game or dealers room, you're not improving yourself as a writer.

Conference, Workshops, and Retreats
Each of these have different features and may even be considered synonymous to each other. Generally though, I've found these differences:

Conferences tend to be held at hotel conference centers and have hundreds (if not thousands) of people. The bigger ones will have multiple authors from every genre in addition to publishers, editors and agents. Throw in a horde of fans that only want to meet their favorite authors and... well... With the smorgasbord of people, presentations, and awards, conferences can be confusing and intimidating. You HAVE to do your homework to make conferences successful.

Target the visiting guests on the list BEFORE you arrive and know what questions you would like to ask them. Just remember, a couple hundred other people want to chat them up too, so don't monopolize their time.
Fandom Level: High - Astronomical
Vendors: High
Writing Opportunities: None - Low
Writing Presentations: Low - High
Networking Opportunities: High
Workshops can still have hundreds of people, but they're more focused on the writing craft. Most people attending workshops are there to work at becoming better writers. Fandom may be present, but they better be serious about the craft or they'll be ostracized quickly. Vendors tend to be of the 'author selling their works' variety.
Fandom Level: None - Low
Vendors: Low - Medium
Writing Opportunities: Medium
Writing Presentations: High
Networking Opportunities: High
Retreats let writers get away from their daily lives to put some serious focus on their work. Usually they're held in a hotel, writer's home, or some scenic location. Presentations and review sessions are the only things that will usually distract you from putting some serious ink to paper.
Fandom Level: None - Low
Vendors: None - Low
Writing Opportunities: Medium - High
Writing Presentations: Medium
Networking Opportunities: High
Get excited!
Writing conferences are exciting, and if you have the right attitude they can be very productive. Just know what you're signing up for and go prepared. You'll be glad you did.

Check back on the following dates for these conference related blog posts:
Jan. 14, 2013 - Hunting the Wild Writing Conferences
Jan. 21, 2013 - Planning Your Conference Expenses
Jan. 28, 2013 - Making the Most Out of Conference Networking


  1. I did not give my permission for this picture to be posted. Expect a call from my barrister.


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