The romantic image of writing is that it’s a solitary task, but much like any other professionals, self-employed writers can enjoy strong work relationships and continuing education. Attending a writers’ conference is a great way to meet fellow creatives and learn how to treat your craft as a business. No matter the stage of your career, you can, if it’s your style, use writers’ conferences to gain insight from people who know how to succeed in tough industries.
What Goes Down at a Writers’ Conference
Writers spend a lot of hours alone staring at a screen or scribbling away in journals. The more time you devote to personal writing, the easier it is to forget there’s a whole world of people who share your passions and woes. Writers’ conferences are a meeting of minds. They bring together writers, publishers, editors, and agents to discuss ways to hone your craft and navigate professional hurdles. Common topics at these get-togethers include:
- Tips for writing specific genres or content styles
- Strategies to improve plot and character development
- Methods to work through blocks and storytelling obstacles
- Tips for networking and pitching
- Advice on self-employment, marketing, and time management
- Ways to leverage trends shaping your industry
Conferences also give you a chance to check out new books written by your peers. You can participate in workshops, where there’s a chance to listen to live readings and talk one-on-one with editors and agents. You never know, any of these contacts could be the source of your next job.
Where are the Best Conference Events?
The best writers’ conferences for you to attend largely depend on what your goals are. Genre-based conferences cater to creative writers, since these they usually either want to pitch book and article ideas or write for clients looking to get published. If you’re a blogger or copywriter, it’s smart to choose events tailored for web and marketing writing. The Canadian Authors Association and Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs are great resources for finding events and lists of niche membership organizations.
Make a Name for Yourself in the Community
Networking is the maybe the key reason you would want to get involved in conventions and festivals. Writers can easily lose out on the camaraderie of traditional jobs. Conferences surround you with a focused community that can offer support and share experiences, teaching you how to achieve better results. For careers such as journalism, copywriting, and ghostwriting, making friends is a primary means of landing well-paying gigs and referrals.
Make Industry Connections
Agents and publishers are bombarded with unsolicited submissions every day. Most don’t even bother with pitches from freelance writers with no insider connections. Fortunately, these same industry experts love finding promising talent at conferences. Rather than trusting any random writers who send manuscripts and proposals their way, editors and agents prefer to meet in person and feel out your ideas before getting more details.
Going to conferences sets you apart as a serious writer, making other professionals more receptive to your pitches. Not to mention, pitch clinics are a staple of a writers’ conference. Writers get expert coaching on how to propose a story and chances to test their skills on real editors.
Fuel Your Creativity
Are you facing writer’s block, losing your passion, or questioning your skills? Writing is mentally exhausting, and you can get so lost in a maze of ideas that it’s easy to write yourself into a corner. Stepping away from work and talking to other writers can lead to breakthroughs. All writers deal with similar problems, and bonding over mutual frustrations and triumphs is a useful way to recharge your energy and creativity.
Find Entrepreneurial Guidance
Conferences arm you with an arsenal of entrepreneurial tools to manage just about every situation you encounter as a professional writer. Exceptional writers fail at freelancing every day because they don’t strategize and distribute time and resources as efficiently as possible. Seminars and panel discussions expose you to a wide range of professionals, all with insightful stories to tell about pitfalls and lessons learned throughout their careers. The point is to spare writers like you from making the same mistakes, so you can develop a profitable career with fewer setbacks.
Build Your Skills
Working in a bubble doesn’t get you far. Learning to self-edit and look at your work objectively is essential to being a great writer. First and foremost, writers’ conferences are educational resources that show you how to get better at uniting the elements of a story. Use these events to see what works for your genre, resolve hurdles in your narrative, and figure out which ideas have potential.
There are Tax Deductions to Be Found Too
Professional writers can get back some of the cost of going to conferences. Canadian tax laws let you deduct expenses for up to two conventions a year, as long as they relate to your profession and occur in the general region where the organization operates. These deductions typically apply even when you attend an event run by an organization in another country.
Get Real Value From Writers’ Conferences
If you come to these conferences with the right mindset, you can get a lot out of them. You can usually get a list of attendees ahead of time and plan which industry types you want to meet, which gives you time to draft top-flight pitches for them. It’s also generally a good idea to bring business cards to hand out as you make new contacts.
People often think of freelance writing as a low-paying career. The truth is many writers struggle because they don’t have the clear guidance and advancement model common in most career paths. Writing frequently begins as a hobby, and you travel a semi-unique path to success. Use conferences to take actionable steps in your career and graduate from an amateur hobbyist to a seasoned professional.