Are Writing Conferences Worth It?

It seems like a lot of people have been living somewhat vicariously through my writing conference experience. I am one of only a few of my writing friends who have ever been to one.

That part’s not rocket science. Writing conferences are expensive. It’s hard to justify spending so much money all at once. Well, maybe not if you’re a millionaire. And if you are, we should be friends. Yeeees.

(For those of you who are wondering how much writing conferences cost, well, it’s in the multiple hundreds of dollars, not including hotel or airfare if it’s not in your home town.)

So, are they worth your time and money? The answer is: maybe.

1. Beginners
If you’re a beginner writer, I would tell you to save your money for later. The conference may have panels aimed at beginners, with explanations of how plot or characterization work, but I’ve found that until you’ve got at least a completed first draft under your belt, a lot of it goes over your head. Writing is the best teacher at this point, figuring out how your personal writing style works and where your problem spots are. Wait.

2. Intermediate
These are people who have a few books under their belts, perhaps have sold a short story or two. If this is you, you will probably find a conference helpful. You know where your weak spots are, so you can attend workshops aimed at helping those areas. Plus, if you’re getting ready to start submitting, you can learn how to write or have your queries and synopses critiqued.

3. Those Who Are Submitting
The single most-useful thing about a conference is it allows you to interact with agents, editors, and published authors, all of whom are willing to give you a hand. And, in the cases of editors and agents, listen to your pitches. It gives you the opportunity to either bypass the query process or, when you do query, maybe have made an impression before hand so the agent/editor kind of remembers who you are.

4. Published Authors
I am not traditionally published, so I cannot tell you if attending a writers’ conference (as an attendee, not a workshop-leader) is useful or not. I’m going to lean towards no – you already have an agent and/or editor, and they probably tell you where your weak spots are.

5. Indie Authors
I’m going to go on “depends” for this section. Self-publishing and indie publishing is generally becoming more accepted, so whether or not you run into militant traditional people varies. It is a good way to network, but it might be easier (and cheaper) to find a critique or writing group in your area. But if you’re looking to improve your writing craft, it’s probably worth it.

Your mileage may, of course, vary.

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