Have you ever had the opportunity to go to a conference in your area of expertise, but you chose to stay home? Why? There are many reasons people don’t attend conferences and conventions. Here are a few.
1. Finances… Not everyone has the money to pay out hundreds of dollars for an event they aren’t even sure will help them. If you look around, you’ll find some events are more affordable than others. Check into them.
2. Fear of looking stupid… Don’t even allow this one to bend your brain. It’s not worth it. Everyone who attends a conference has a first time. Why do we keep going? That’s discussed soon enough. But fear of looking stupid is not an allowable excuse.
3. Fear of being found out… All of us feel a little under-educated in our field in the beginning, and sometimes later on. If you’re afraid you won’t know things others know, don’t worry. Plan on letting everyone else answer any questions at your first conference, unless you are absolutely certain of the answer. Silence while paying close attention to the speaker looks good on anyone.
4. Fear of not knowing anyone… Ask around to see who’s going. If you can’t find anyone you know who’s going, and you don’t like to go alone, bring a friend–even if you have to share a room or pay for part of their expenses.
5. Fear of big places or crowds… This one is a little harder to help you through, but if attend with a friend, it will help you focus more on learning and sharing with your friend and less on feeling swallowed in such a big atmosphere.
6. No time… Make time. Most conferences are worth every penny you pay and every minute you give up. Ask a family member to watch the kids for a couple of days. Find out which events are the best in your industry and region. Make it a point to attend one or two of those a year. If you can manage a trip to one or two of the best known national or international conferences, go.
What will you gain if you attend a conference that you can’t gain through a workshop or discussion with friends in the industry? Why do so many others attend conferences? Why do they keep going, again and again? What makes it worth all that?
1. Vital connections… Even if you don’t speak to them (but you should!), you will learn who makes things happen and has achieved the highest respect in your field. When you have questions or needs, you will feel more comfortable contacting them and asking for advice or references.
2. Surprises… Most likely, you’ll know more than one person at the event, especially if it is local. It doesn’t matter if you’re only acquaintances. If they know it’s your first time at that particular event, they’ll often introduce you to other professionals you need to connect with. You may have new friends when you return home.
3. Special offers… Sometimes, just being at an event gives you an opportunity to take advantage of special offers only given to those who attended the conference.
4. Support… A conference is about helping others achieve their highest goals in the field. It is about learning, sharing, and friendships; being part of a camaraderie in a larger field than the one you have been playing in, so far.
5. KNOWLEDGE… When you leave, you will most likely know much more about some things than you knew before. At the very least, you have gained confidence in your own skills and insight and that’s worth the trip, in itself. And that confidence will show in your everyday work, too.
If you’re a writer, editor, publisher, or even a reader who wants to know more about the field, you should attend a good conference or two each year. If you’re around northeastern Oklahoma, I have listed a few of the area events on my LINKS page. If you want to go to the same conferences I’m attending, you can find them listed on my EVENTS page. Let me know if it’s your first time and I’ll gladly spend a little time helping you adapt to the format and meet others who will help you along.
If you’re into people-watching, try sitting near the sign-up tables at a conference and watch as attendees walk near, but seem to be taking in too much at once. It makes many of us look lost, even if we’ve been there for the past three years. So, don’t be afraid to walk up and look lost with the rest of us. We’ll never know you’re a conference newbie unless you tell us. And since we’ve all been there, we understand how overwhelming it can seem compared to how simple it really is.
See you at the next conference!
I am currently packing to attend the Arkansas Writers’ Conference, in Little Rock, Arkansas, this weekend. Will I see you there? I hope so!
The Adventures of Dayton Barnes anthology is taking short story submissions to entertain ages 9-12. Multiple stories may be accepted per author. If you’re interested in writing middle grade stories / chapters for this anthology, check out the website at
Deadline for submissions is February 28, 2015.
Getting ready to tackle the 2013 NaNoWriMo Challenge? So am I. I wrote my first 50,000+ word novel last year. I was shocked, but thrilled at my own success. I had so much fun I’m doing it again.
Here is a list of ideas I wrote for myself in February. I hope it will also help you. Please share a link to this page if you know someone else who could use a little help.
Whatever you can do in advance to get a better idea who and what you will be writing about will be very helpful to you when you begin writing your novel.
1. Make a list of things you know a good deal about. Your list might consist of any of these or more:
- cleaning house
- sewing / knitting / crocheting / crafts
- family history / genealogy
- reading, writing
- teaching, learning
- raising animals – what kind?
- working on cars, boats, furnaces, pools
- tornadoes / earthquakes / storms / tsunamis
- murder investigation techniques
- making __________
- using __________
- finding __________
- motorcycling, bicycling, walking
- driving a truck, train, plane, trolly, bus, race car…
- photography, videography
- illnesses, vitamins, medicines, medical procedures, etc.
- wars / military / peacemaking
The ideas above will help you form story lines (sub-plots) you can use in your novels.
2. Make a list of things you want to know more about. Use ideas from the list above or others you can think of. These will be the things you want to study about before it is time to write your novel, so you can easily use them.
3. Make a list of ideas the main story line in your book might be about…
- the adventures of a neighborhood gang
- a couple of buddies who accidentally fall into unsolved mysteries
- a photographer who falls in love
- the life of an animal in the zoo
- a journal of someone’s travels
- life of a drug dealer
- a Christian who is looking for love
- a singer who makes it big and dives hard
- someone who wants to start their own business
- a series of murders in a circus company
4. Make a list of the main characters your story will be about. Give each person:
- color of hair
- color of eyes
- body type
- health – frequent issues, super-healthy, occasional issues, cancer, etc.
- personal history – neglected, spoiled, bullied, the bully, etc.
- results of personal history – needy, easily intimidated, pushy, etc.
- things they love
- things they hate
- habits – bites fingernails, leaves everything unlocked, etc.
5. Determine some other items, locations and other detailed info you will need for your main characters –
- car details
- neighborhood type – safe, dangerous,
- everyone knows everyone, nobody knows their neighbors,
- houses on a block, an apt. bldg., farms in the country
- job or school background
- favorite places to go
6. Make a list of your supporting cast.
- brothers and sisters
- partners – spouses, live-ins, same sex, opposite sex, etc.
- best friend(s)
- someone they have to see often – banker, store clerk, pawn shop owner, etc.
- Who are the good guys?
- Who are the bad guys?
If any of these people need a little more detail about who they are, what they do, etc., go ahead and make a list for them, too.
Basically, you want to get to know your main characters and begin to think of things that might happen in your story line. You will need a main plot — the overall problem and solution the book will be about, and many sub-plots — the smaller challenges or “chapters” that daily life offers us all, once in a while. Lists #1, #2 and #3 will help you design and organize those plots.
When you actually start writing, some of the things you have already decided will change. Don’t let this bother you, but be sure to make the changes in your notes, so you will still have a good reference when your book is almost finished and you need to refer to the info, again. Also, keep a copy of your notes on paper or on a thumb drive as well as on your computer. If your computer crashes, you want to have a backup copy.
Now that you’ve got your story background designed, let your mind wander along the story line you would like to follow until it is time to write. Feel free to make guideline notes (about what will happen when) to keep your story on track when you write it.
You will only need to write about 1,667 words per day to finish your novel in time. If you start doing some daily writing now, you will be conditioned to working in a specific time and place and your family will be used to accommodating your needs. By writing something almost every day, you should have little problem meeting your daily quota during the challenge month.
Don’t know what to write about on a daily basis until it is time to write your novel? Start a journal and write about how your day went. Or, write a fictional story every day. I try to write a factual journal entry most days and a fictional journal entry most days. I sometimes miss a whole week at a time, but I write as often as I can.
Keep yourself focused on private time when you write. No Facebook, no texting, no phone calls or company.
Here is a good place for more NaNoWriMo suggestions: Nano Prep: The NaNo Jar