Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hip Tips and Tid Bits: The Writers' Conference

What induces more anxiety and fear than the dreaded synopsis? What has you sick to your stomach with nerves and keeps you awake at night with a reoccurring nightmare? What can possibly be worse than a query letter? That's right... you guessed it... going to a writers' conference and actually talking to a real, live agent!

Sounds fun, doesn't it?

There are tons of writers conferences every year and since this is the beginning of a new year I figured what a great resolution to FIND A CONFERENCE near you and face your fears!

For those of you who have never been to a conference, let me tell you a little about what you should expect. (This is solely based off my own personal experiences but I think most conferences run very similarly.)

1.) Get ready to learn! Writers' conferences have lots of classes (you normally get to pick and attend which ones appeal to you) on a plethora of subjects. Based on which conference you attend will make a difference on classes. For example, if you attend a romance writers conference, they may or may not have a class on police procedural. Some writers conferences cover everything: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, screenwriting, etc.

2.) Teachers include agents, authors, and editors. Intimate settings allow for more one on one time. Class sizes are small and therefore you get more time with the instructor. Many classes help you make your query letter better, learn how to pitch, perfecting your synopsis, or making your first pages stand out. These classes are great for a writer who has a finished project and wants to take the next step.
3.) Networking Galore! If you yearn for a writing partner that shares the same love of imaginary characters and make-believe worlds, this is a perfect place to find them. If you attend a conference, make sure to make some business cards with your name, email, phone number, blog or website, and maybe even a picture. Hand them out when you mingle. This is a great way not just to make friends but also connections in the writing world.

4.) Pitching to Agents isn't as bad as you'd think. After all, they are people, too. (Even though they are sometimes seen as scary, rejecting, coffee-drinking, desk-hovering, mean and vile people- don't let that deter you!) If you have a finished project that just can't get past the slush-pile, pitching to an agent is the best way to get your foot through the door. You only get several minutes to pitch your idea so you have to make it great! There are lots of blogs and agent advice on how to make your pitchs worthwhile.

5.) Feedback is key. A lot of times, there will be classes that you can submit some of your own work that will be critiqued from people who know what they are talking about. This is priceless!

If you have ever considered going to a writers' conference but never actually made it, let me be the one to push you. In my opinion, it is the best thing you can do for your writing career. The first time I went to one, I was so overly-prepared and utterly scared. The drive there was vomit-inducing and the check in made me want to pass out all in anticipation of what was to come. If you aren't ready to pitch to an agent or editor, I think the whole thing would be a lot less stressful. It's actually funny because you stress about pitching and then in five minutes your interview is over and you think, 'Wow... that wasn't bad at all!'.
And when it's all said and done, it is just an overall great experience.

For those of you who have attended a conference, do you have similar stories? Were you as nervous as I was? Any conferences you'd like to recommend?