I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, July 1, 2011

Three Reasons Why Writers Conferences are Important for Beginning Writers

And smile! Having fun at the 2010 ACFW conference.
"Is it really important that I go to writers conferences?"

A relatively new writer asked me that question. My answer? Yes!

I understood why she asked the question. She didn't have a completed manuscript--not even close. And the idea of putting a book proposal together for the work-in-progress (WIP)?? Forget about it.

So, reading between the lines, her question was: If I don't have a book to pitch, why should I pay big bucks for air fare and a hotel room and conference registration? It's a waste of time and money, right?


Let's be honest: Writers conferences are expensive. Air fare, a hotel room, and conference registration can easily hit the $800+ range--and increase from there if you add on the early bird teaching session or if you buy the CDs of the conference or indulge in the book store goodies.Notice I didn't mention any pre-conference clothes buying spree . . .

So if you're not going to take advantage of editor and/or agent appointments and pitch your bestseller-to-be, why go?  I'll give you three reasons:

  1. You need to learn the culture of the writing world. Writers have their own language--and I'm not talking about the voices of the characters in their heads. We talk about our work-in-progress (WIP), our voice (there's that word "voice" again and it means something completely different!), point of view (POV), hooks, black moments, inciting incidents . . .  and I haven't even mentioned social media and marketing. Attending writers conferences allows you to immerse yourself in the writing world. You get to hang out with other writers--people who understand you. People who know more than you--and can teach you. And people who know less than you. Imagine that. Maybe you can help someone else.
  2. You need to hone your craft. Every writer needs to strive to be a better writer. This is one goal that never goes away. Writers conferences are a wealth of information with workshops taught by experts on topics like dialogue, building tension in your story, managing the muddle in the middle, how to handle the financial realities of being a writer, developing believable characters--the list goes on and on.
  3. You need to network. Writers need to push away from their computers and connect with real live people. Networking isn't using another person for your gain. Conferences are a fun way to meet other people, to build relationships. Introduce yourself. Not sure what to say? "So, what do you write?" is a great conversation starter. Bring business cards and hand 'em out--and make sure you ask for others' cards. 
What about you? What would you say to a new writer if she asked you about writers conferences?

Recommended conferences:


  1. Yes, yes, and yes. Go to a conference. They are so valuable and so much fun. Anyone in the Pacific Northwest is invited to check our my conference in Spokane, WA. Here is the website:
    Next one is March 2012. Keynote speaker is Tracie Peterson and it's very reasonably priced.


  2. To me, conferences give you what email and snail mailing can't--face to face connections.

    Meeting with editors, agents, and mentors allows you to form personal connections that become valuable relationship as you further your writing career.

    Even if you don't have a manuscript complete, go and practice pitching, ask questions about an editor's guidelines or an agent's policies, cement those online relationships with writing support groups, and like Beth said, immerse yourself in the writing world. You won't regret it.

  3. Totally agree! Conferences are where you make lifelong friends, discover what you're doing right with your wip and what you're doing wrong, and just a great learning experience. One thing I love is to be able to sit down with someone and talk about the voices in your head and the other person totally understands instead of looking for the nearest exit. lol Great post, Beth.

  4. Great post, Beth! Thanks for also listing other writer's conferences that happen during the year! Though I can't go to ACFW this year, maybe I'll be able to save my pennies and attend a different one. I appreciated the practical things you shared about the value of writer's conferences.

  5. Yes!! I loooove conferences. Each of your reasons for attending are spot-on. Here's another: To meet people like you. It is such a spectacularly wonderful feeling to sit with a group of writers and realize, wow, I'm not the only one...:)

    I've told so many people about my first MBT retreat...how during the Saturday morning session, I suddenly found myself with tears in my eyes at such a feeling of being exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing...meeting exactly the people/Ponderers/lifelong friends God had in store for me.

    So yeah, my word to the conference-questioning writer: Go! It's so worth it...

  6. One more thing! Because I'm so not a numbers and dollars person, and because I'm not exactly raking in the mullah at my ministry day-job, my mom recently helped me develop a budget. We included a "writing expenses" category...each month I save just a bit toward writing conferences...probably this is common sense to anyone else, but to me, it's made all the difference in being able to invest in my writing and not feeling like I'm taking funds away from something else important when I go to a conference. (And yes, I include pre-conference clothes buying in that expense column!)

  7. So fun to log on and see all the pro-conference people chiming in!!
    Jan, I'm going to check out your website.
    And M-Tagg, love your budget and that you included writing expenses!

  8. Just read about the NCompass Writers Retreat, led by my friend Edie Melson an Vonda Skelton. Check it out here:

  9. Count me in the "pro-conferences" column!
    It was at writers conferences that I met the editor who acquired my one-year devo on the names of God AND the editor who acquired the two children's books I co-authored. But I had been attending long before either manuscript was ready to pitch. There's no substitute for developing face-to-ace relationships.

  10. Agreed, Ava. Nothing matches the value of face-to-face interaction.