Writing Conference Rules

St Pete's Beach

It’s the NINC writer’s conference this week (that’s Novelists Inc.), and with beach and folks talking writers as the lure, seemed a good thing to do. But I’ve learned over the years that writers conferences are always a mixed affair. It’s great to get together with other folks and talk writing–and at a good conference you actually do learn things. But these things can be exhausting, too. Being an introvert means being around people all day drains me–add in being around folks all day and most of the evening and I start looking for some place to hide. So I’ve had to learn how to do conferences in a way that works for me. So here are my rules.

1 – Bring the computer and make time to write. This one’s very important. While it’s fun to talk about writing, too much talk and I start to forget what matters (the writing). So making a little time to write every day helps to ground me back into what matters most–the work. It also keeps me from getting surely with others.

2 – Scope out the quite spots early and use them. Twenty minutes of solitude and I can go back and face the world. This can be time in the afternoon to just sit and enjoy the world, or it can be time in the evening in a hot bath where I can soak myself back into sanity.

3 – Pick roommates with care. It’s great to have someone split the costs, but the wrong personality can drive you up the wall–or you’re driving them nuts. Sometimes it’s serendipity to find a good roommate–and it can lead to lifelong friendships. And sometimes it’s just a learning lesson (as in never go for the four to a room split–it’s going to lead to tears for someone.

4 – Pick conferences with care and only do one or two a year. This one is tough because there are so many writing conferences. You can break the bank and exhaust yourself–and, even worse, eat up writing time with conference time. I try to do a local conference and then a national one, too–it’s nice to have the mix of small and big.

5 – Know what you want from the conference. Over the years I’ve figured out that if I learn one good thing, and have some fun, I’ve gotten my money from the conference. Coming with big expectations can lead to a big letdown once you’re back to regular life. Going with a clear idea of what I want to accomplish always leaves me feeling satisfied rather than disgruntled–and it helps keep me focused.

6 – Enjoy the scenery. It’s too easy to make it all about the conference–meaning you get a view of the airport, a lot of hotel, and no idea about anything else. I like to plan at least one trip out to sample some local fare–some entertainment or culture or just to take in a few sights. Writers need new experiences.

7 – Don’t stay too long. It’s tempting to take that extra day to unwind, but I find I’m usually ready to go home early. I am trying something new of a day early to unwind and actually get a little extra writing time in, but when I’m ready to go, I am so very ready to go.

8 – Don’t drink too much — particularly with folks you don’t know. You really do not want to do stupid things in public. Save that for when you’re with friends who will forgive you for being an ass.

9 – Start with a budget in mind and keep close to it, but don’t sweat it too much. Plan the trip like any vacation with a few indulgences, and a few cost savings — it’s nice not to break the bank, but it’s also nice to have a meal out with friends (or a massage).

10 – Do make time to visit with old friends. That’s the very best part of any conference.


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