Posts Tagged ‘writing conferences’

Are Writers Conferences Useful?

For a general answer, I would say yes. There’s a lot of useful things that can be gotten out of a writers conference: networking with other authors, the opportunity to see where your genre/the industry seems to be heading, and the ability to get feedback from other authors and agents. Plus there’s normally a wide variety of panels available, often ones that are genre-specific, or can be useful for publishing or marketing.

For a long answer? Maybe.

The main problem with writers conferences is that they’re ungodly expensive. The big one near me (this weekend, in fact!), Pikes Peak Writers Conference, is almost $400, without hotel costs and the like. I’ve seen some that are closer to $600. Our smaller conference, Colorado Gold, is close to $400 as well. That amount of money can be hard to justify, especially year after year.

And it’s up to the individual author as to whether this is money well spent or not.

I would argue that the people who get the most out of writers conference are either beginning writers, or people who are actively submitting/publishing. While there are a wide variety of panels, some get repetitive, or cover information that experienced authors already know. It’s good to network at any stage, but it can be hard to keep in touch with some people if you’re at very different stages or if you’re not actively producing.

Getting feedback from authors, agents, and editors can be invaluable, but if it’s the only thing you hope to get out of a conference, there may be cheaper ways to do so.

Remember that there are other avenues outside of conferences. Local writing groups often host exercises, panels, and critiques, or there may be authors in your area that teach classes. Some writing groups also host speakers such as authors and agents.

So it’s up to you whether the money is worth it. I’ve done Pikes Peak twice and had a good time both times, but I was also actively looking for agents at the time. I haven’t been able to justify the money since then, not with where I am and what I’m doing at the moment, though I may look at doing a conference in the fall or, more likely, next year. I’ve also made some good connections through my involvement.

If you are looking at attending a writers conference, take a look to see what people who have attended before have said about it, and if it seems like a good fit for you from an experience and genre standpoint. I recommend taking a friend. That way you can divide and conquer if two interesting panels or events fall at the same time. (Preferably a friend with similar writing interests as yourself.) And if you do go, don’t hang back from trying something because it sounds scary. Get your money’s worth. Remember that everyone feels self-conscious about their writing sometimes, and they’re unlikely to laugh at you.

Have you been to a writers conference, Squiders? Yay or nay? Best one you’ve attended? Planning on going to any soon?

(If you’d like more writers conference information, try the following entries:

These are my personal experiences with conferences and might be interesting for people who are considering going to one for the first time.)

Broken Promises

(Aha, I automatically typed one of my titles above instead of what I meant.  Whoops.  Guess I’ve been working on that project a little too much lately.)

One thing I’ve come across a couple of times in workshops and classes is the idea of making promises to your reader.  A promise is something that the reader infers that you need to follow through on or you risk their disappointment.

Promises vary from the very small – give an object or a character too much description and a reader will assume they’re important – to the large, encompassing things such as theme and genre.

When you start a project, there’s some hint of the overall promise from the very beginning.  If your first chapter/blurb imply a humorous, comedic romp but, in the end, you deliver a tale of betrayal and darkness, you’ve broken your promise.  I’m not saying you have to give things away at the beginning, but you do need something so the readers are inferring the proper things.

As an example, I recently finished a paranormal novel.  The beginning was amazing, full of hints of ghosts and black magic, but then it settled into a fairly straight forward family mystery.  I won’t lie, I was disappointed.  The promises the beginning gave me were never fulfilled, and overall my experience was unsatisfactory.

Some of it is directly related to genre.  A romance is supposed to have a happy ending.  Take that out, and the readers feel cheated.  There’s a reason they’re reading what they are.  If you’re well-read in your genre, you’ll know what that genre promises, so hopefully that won’t be as big of an issue.  It can be harder in other areas.  If your first chapter is laugh-out loud funny, people are going to expect that humor to be prevalent throughout the entire story.  If you spend time describing the creepy house down the street, people are going to expect that house to be important to the plot.

Luckily, this can be a tool in your arsenal.  Writing a mystery?  Red herrings are just false promises.  The mere act of adding some description can cause an item to stick in a readers head.  Compare “the black book” to “an aged tome covered in blackened skin.”

How are you doing on your promises?  Do you find them hard to keep track of?

Tales of a Writers’ Conference Newbie – Fears

So, yesterday I signed up to attend the Pike’s Peak Writers’ Conference, held in Colorado Springs, CO over the weekend of April 29-May 1.

I have been thinking about attending a writers’ conference for about a year and a half.  I hear from fellow writers as well as agents and editors that they are rewarding experiences.  My mother, who wrote for a time about ten years ago, attended several and thought they were well worth her time. 

But to be honest, the idea of a writers’ conference kind of terrifies me.

I have been lucky enough over the years to find writing groups that have been beneficial and supportive, but, on some level, I almost feel like I’m not good enough.  Like, if I go to this sort of thing, if I talk to other writers and agents and editors, they’re going to laugh at me.

Is this an irrational fear?  Maybe.  I don’t know.

I admit I’m terrified.  Even filling out the registration was nerve-wracking.  One of the questions asked “What is your primary genre?”  I clicked on the pulldown, expecting to be able to select “Fantasy.”  Instead I found myself confronted with four choices: fantasy, YA fantasy, urban fantasy, and YA urban fantasy.  I write all of the above.  I had to ask my collab partner and my husband for their opinions before tentatively going ahead with YA fantasy.  I’m sure it doesn’t really matter, but I kind of feel like I’ve messed up before I’ve even made it to the conference.

The next question asked “What was your last published title?”  I stared at that one for a long time, debating whether or not I should put Hidden Worlds.  It is technically “published,” though I self-published it.  Because it was through Turtleduck Press, there is a level of oversight that most self-published works don’t have, but at the same time, I’ve been on enough writing communities to know how negative most writers’ opinions of self-publishing is.  For example, AbsoluteWrite‘s forums are a treasure-trove of information, but some members’ posts on the matter are so volatile, it makes me uncomfortable to be there, whether I’m discussing self-publishing or not.

What’s really pathetic about the whole thing is that I have no regrets about Hidden Worlds.  Putting it out has been a fantastic experience, and I shouldn’t be ashamed of a novella that has received universally four and five stars reviews across all the platforms it’s listed on.  I like having control of my own marketing and distribution.  Yes, I am still pursuing traditional publishing for other projects, but self-publishing has been rewarding.

In the end, I left it out. 

I don’t know why I feel like I’m sneaking into somewhere I don’t belong.  I’ve been writing seriously for eight years.  I have several drafts under my belt.  I’ve edited and polished, I’ve researched.  I’ve written queries and summaries and have been querying on and off for about a year.  I have short stories in anthologies.  I’m in the middle of submitting a short story to magazines and I’ve gotten several partial requests.  It’s not like I haven’t done my homework.  It’s not like I don’t want this.  Writing conferences are supposed to be for people like me.

Yet, on some level, all those fears remain.

Friday Round-up

Space/Science
Discovery Astronaut Hurt in Bike Accident (Poor shuttle astronauts.  They are having a bad month.)
Darkness on the Edge of the Universe
First Mammoth Cloning Experiment Officially Underway (Poor mammoths.  They are going to look around and wish they’d just been left alone to stay extinct.)
Dark Matter Galaxy Detected (bonus gorgeous picture of the Milky Way)
NASA’s Kepler Discovers First Rocky Exoplanet (Video)
How Deep the Universe
Business Case for Mining Asteroids

Scifi/Fantasy
Fantasy and Steampunk Debuts for 2011
Excerpt: Among Others by Jo Walton
Interview with Gene Wolfe
Science Fiction Musicals (Personally, I rather liked the Simpsons’ parody of Planet of the Apes)
What Apocalyse Scenario are You Best Cut Out For? (Terminator for meeee)
Vader vs. Voldemort

Misc Books
11 Books That Take Place in a Single Day
Babysitter’s Club: Where Are They Now?

Writing
Head-Hopping

Whatever Floats My Boat
Fractal!
You have an accent on Twitter

Twitter friends, don’t forget to track hashtag #wdc11 to keep track of the Writer’s Digest conference this weekend.