Conferences. Conferences. Conferences. Many writers attend them. Many authors recommend them. But when is a good time to go? Should you jump right in before you’ve
written your first book? Should you wait until you’re ready to query? Maybe you shouldn’t go until you have a novel to pitch. Perhaps you should hold off until you have an agent and can meet her there. Or maybe it doesn’t even make sense to go unless you have a book to promote.
Of course, you could go to a writing conference at any one of those times during your writing journey. But the easiest way to make the decision, other than finances, is to decide why you’d like to attend a conference. Once you know why you want to go, you can figure out when would be the best time to fit a conference into your busy schedule.
If you’re a beginner, you might want to postpone a trip to a conference because they can be quite expensive. Most workshops are an hour or two long. While there are often many to choose from and you can keep yourself busy for days going to these classes, at some point, you’ll hit information overload. And, depending on your ability to take notes and whether or not the presenter has a decent hand-out, you may not retain as much as you would’ve
liked. If you’re looking to learn the craft of writing, you’d be better off taking online classes, reading books about the craft, and joining writing or critique groups.
If you’re an intermediate writer, you may have learned as much as you can through online classes and books, and now need to ask specific questions to experts. Unless you hire a writing coach or an editor, or know a published author, you won’t really have the opportunity to get an expert’s advice. Attending a workshop at a conference could give you the chance to talk to an industry expert either during or after class.
If you’re an advanced writer, you might be more interested in going to workshops about the industry. What’s hot in the market? Who’s buying what? Often, you’ll be able to attend panels with publishers and agents, who’ll reveal what they’re actively searching for and what’s been overdone. You might even want to schedule a pitch or two.
That being said, writing conferences are a lot of fun. If you have the opportunity to attend one and can afford the entrance fee, the hotel bill, the cost of eating out, and travel expenses, you should go.
When did you go to your first conference? When do you think is the best time in a writer’s career to attend a conference? Tell us about your experience at conferences.