Ten Things I Learned from Attending a Regional Writer’s Conference

By Lynne Marshall

This blog originally appeared at the Savvy Authors’ blog February 2, 2013.

For those who may have missed it, I wanted to share here at my website.

With the cost of national writing conferences often being out of our reach, there is much to be said for attending conferences closer to home.  If you’re writing genre is romance, there are many opportunities throughout the year to attend something educational, yet doesn’t require airfare.

This past October I attended the Emerald City Writers’ Conference inWashingtonState, and I was amazed by the level of planning, professionalism, and production that went into this event.  To prove how worthwhile attending smaller regional conferences can be, I’d like to list ten things I took away from this conference. (Though I could include at least 150 things, I edited down the list to ten.)

  1. I don’t have to blog!

In a cozy workshop setting, I was able to hear Liz Pelletier, from Entangled Publishing, say “Blogs are a pointless waste of time.” I asked if I could quote her and she said yes.  So now we know if a writer doesn’t enjoy blogging, they don’t have to.  The bottom line, as with everything in the novel-writing biz is – spend the time you’d put into writing your blogs and getting frustrated feeling as though you’re spinning your wheels, on writing that next solidly good book.

  1. When going Indie – writing and promo are 50/50

Four highly successful Indie authors, Gerri Russell, Carolyn McCray, Anne Charles, and Taylor Lee all sell more than 5K a month self-publishing.  They said you need to have 4 books out a year, and should utilize the free books days from Amazon for promo.  Also, don’t be afraid to fail 30% of the time.

  1. It’s Okay to Cry Into Dog fur

Susan Wiggs said we all need to use our personal theme when writing.  The character’s desire drives the story, and we should have our characters “bump up against” each other for contrast.  Most importantly, make it clear what the emotional hurdle is our characters must overcome. When writing new scenes, know the goal and create an obstacle for each one.

  1. Take Inventory from Time to Time

Jane Porter spoke candidly about the need to tune up our careers, to ask the hard questions such as: Is this writing career getting me where I want to go?  If not do some hard thinking about what you want to change, how to change it, and also what you’re proud of and the things about your writing you’d never change.

  1. Finally Got the Lowdown on Concussions

Dr. Crista McHugh, M.D. by day and paranormal/fantasy author by night, ran a fabulous and extensive workshop on trauma and medicine for writers.  Her frustration with authors giving their characters concussions and not following up with the physical consequences was of particular interest for me as I’m often frustrated by the lack of accurate detail in books.  I also walked away with a list of ER terms you won’t hear your doctor repeat in front of you, but you can use in your books to make them more realistic.  If you ever have the chance to take this workshop – sign up!

  1. We Must Seduce the Reader into Turning the Page

Darynda Jones, fabulous author of the Grave novels, said the key is to create empathy for the main character, because it is paramount that the reader likes your character.  Give the reader some indication of the character’s needs and longings right off.  Be sure to orient the reader, draw them in, set the stage, or you might lose them in a sea of confusion.  Detail and description help set the stage.  Important rule:  Keep language simple and vocabulary clear.

  1. How to Reach Readers (Indie style)

From the creator of Smashwords, Mark Coker, I learned some secrets of e-book publishing.  Key importance: A great cover image – we need to “arrest” the reader with a thumbnail.  Be everywhere!  Give books away.  $2.99 is the sweet spot for books.  Don’t be negative on social media.  Think globally.

  1. Character and Backstory go Hand-in-Hand

Dynamic Cherry Adair imparted her tricks of the trade, such as – plot the action first.  Start at the end of the book and work back with the adventure.  Know the point of each scene before writing it.  Get in late and leave early.  Layering and texturing is what colors in your story.  Write the basic story with draft one, then go back and fine-tune the book with each draft after that.

  1. The Conference Committee Puts Their Heart and Soul into the Event (and it shows.)
  2. Even if you attend the conference solo, you’ll soon feel a part of the local scene with writers you’ve heard of and perhaps interacted with online.  All you have to do is extend yourself, smile, be friendly, welcoming, and maybe buy someone a drink, and you’ll feel like you belong at that regional conference, no matter where it is held.

I could go on and on about everything I learned, but these cliff notes should give you an idea of the value of local/regional conferences when the budget can’t manage National Writing Conferences.

There are many regional conferences to choose from in every season of the year.  I have been to Moonlight and Magnolias, Desert Rose,EmeraldCity, New England RWA Conference, San Diego RWA Conference.  I also have high hopes about attending the New Jersey RWA conference one day, as well as so many other conferences around the country such as next spring’s SoCal RWA California Dreamin’ which is right in my back yard.

Here’s the takeaway from this blog – If you’ve been on the fence about attending a local writing conference, find one near you and attend!  You won’t be sorry.

Have you attended regional conferences?  What was your experience?

Until next week, make it a great one!

Lynne

 

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