Conference Hacks if You Want to be a Better Writer

For all of you who are asking, “what makes a good writer?” “Can I become a better writer” or “Can I be a better writer?” Yes you can – just like any business or skill, it takes dedication, hard work, some training, practice and study. And lots of reading and writing. I highly recommend, as one of your first steps (especially if you’re asking, “I want to be a writer, where do I start”), to join local writers groups and attend a good writer’s conference every year. You may have to try several writer’s groups until you find just the right fit. There are major writer’s conferences all over the country, and the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference in Colorado Springs is considered one of the best writers conferences.

Here’s several hacks to help you become a better writer and attend writers conferences.

Originally, I felt I shouldn’t go to the big writer’s conference, held every Spring in Colorado Springs, until my first novel was completely
finished (something the conference lists as a requirement for pitching).
So I missed several years and kept putting it off, thinking “next year
I’ll be able to afford it and hopefully my story will be done.”

Then a writer friend urged me to go, even if my novel wasn’t finished.
Because going to conference will grow your training in the craft so
much, it’s important to start going, every year if possible, as soon as
possible. It will help you be a better writer.

Well, she gave me the bug and I wanted to go. But that year, 2017, the conference was already a month away and I couldn’t come up with the money on time. So my writing friends gave me this vital advice (and here are other conference hacks, too):

  • If you can’t afford to attend the conference, at least show up to Barcon. Barcon is when everyone hangs out around the bar Friday and Saturday evenings, networking and having a good time. I had friends who were attending, so I showed up Saturday night, met up with my friends, then started circling the room, meeting and networking with writers, published authors and agents. I prayed and utilized the Law of Attraction before entering, asking God to direct me to meet exactly who I should. First, I met a published author who told me he wasn’t able to get published until he read and applied the principles in My Story Can Beat Up Your Story. So I put that on my list to read and apply to my revision process (I wasn’t quite finished with my novel yet). Then the magic moment happened. My friend from my
    first writer’s group, who knew my story well, introduced me to the agent he thought would be interested in my story. I spoke with her briefly, got to pitch my story, and she immediately asked me to send her the full manuscript! This was a miracle in itself. She was the first agent I ever pitched to, she was the only one to immediately catch the vision of my unusual book (an idea that’s never been done before), and eventually Natalie Lakosil became my agent. At the moment, though, I told her nervously that I would get the story finished as quickly as I could. “Take your time,” she told me. In other words, don’t rush it, do it right, and send it when it’s done. I had no idea it would take me another year and a quarter to get through the revision process, after finishing the first draft. (You know how it is, you have to spend time earning money and work on your writing when you can.) But in the end, after pitching and querying my story to quite a few agents and receiving several rejections, Natalie became my agent. I sent her the full manuscript, just as she asked, with an email: remember me? She did.
  • Apply for Scholarships. For the 2018 Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference, I was able to apply for scholarship and received a partial one, covering two-thirds of the cost. My extended family helped provide the rest of the money, and I was able to attend the conference, including the Thursday Prequel (which I highly recommend). For receiving the partial scholarship, I wrote a blog post for their website and volunteered at the conference, which was fun.
  • Speaking of Volunteering… One of my writer friends signs up as a volunteer every year for conference, reducing her costs by about half!
  • Budget and Plan to Attend Conference every year. And while you’re at it, attend as many of the monthly workshops and
    classes as you can. I had tried to become a freelance writer on Upwork, with no success, until I attended a workshop on being a freelance writer. The tips and tricks I learned there got me my first contract the following month and I’m now working as a freelance writer – ghost-writing, to be exact. I LOVE it and am earning a decent income as a novelist before my own novel is even published.
  • At Conference, stay at the hotel if possible. In 2018, I was there on scholarship and couldn’t afford any extras. At the 2019 conference, I was able to plan and budget and work it out to not only attend extra activities (like the Write Drunk, Edit Sober session to raise scholarship money and also got my author head shots photographed at a discount), I was able to, last minute, book the hotel to stay on site. This was so worth it – it allowed me to keep my extra stuff in my room (like Saturday night’s dress-up clothes for the banquet), take quiet rest breaks when needed (between the end of classes and dinner), and, most importantly, stay up as late as I wanted at Barcon, networking.
    It was so great to be able to have a drink or two and not worry about
    driving or having to get a ride home on someone else’s schedule.
  • At Barcon, branch out and meet as many people as you can.
    Don’t fall into the trap of just hanging out with your current set of
    writer friends. Get a drink, be bold, join clusters and groups, meet new members of your growing tribe, ask published authors lots of questions, rub shoulders with New York Times Best-Setlling authors. I did, it was easy and fun, and they love it too.

Do you know some hacks to become a better writer? Have you attended a writer’s conference or local writers groups? Do you have tips on what makes a good writer? I’d love to hear them – let’s collaborate – and leave your comments below. 🙂

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