As a writer, you probably spend a lot of time sitting at your desk, banging out words, pondering your story. You do some research online, write out a chapter, do some revising. Sure, you spend some time emailing friends to try and see what else everyone is up to, but for the most part the things you do as a writer are done alone. Writing is a solitary job. Every successful writer I know spends a lot of time along with their thoughts, sitting at a computer, creating worlds and conversations in their head.
If you're a novelist, that's exactly why you need to think about coming to the ACFW conference next weekend in Indianapolis. Because all of those solitary writers out there also feel a need to meet with other people who love books and words. A writing conference is a chance to connect, to learn, to network, to hear about opportunities, to see old friends, and to make new ones. Let me suggest five benefits to attending the annual ACFW conference...
First, it's a chance to LEARN. Just take a look at some of the workshops being taught at this year's conference -- information on creating strong proposals, on developing better characters, on using humor, on writing to specific niche audiences (there's even a workshop on "how to write Amish"!). There are a couple dozen workshops you can attend, and most are taught by bestselling novelists or experienced industry professionals (for example, I think the concept of listening to the editorial team from Thomas Nelson talk through what an editorial meeting is like sounds tremendously valuable).
Second, it's a chance to POLISH. The conference offers continuing sessions, where you'll be able to get more in-depth on a topic. Multi-bestselling author Tracie Peterson is there to talk about crafting novels. Famed writing instructor Dr. Dennis Hensley will be talking about symbolism and structure. Bestselling novelists Susan May Warren & Rachel Hauck of My Book Therapy (which has some of the BEST material on creating good fiction) will be helping you craft better scenes. Jim Rubart, a 20-year marketing veteran, is offering his experience to help you know how to market your books. And there are a bunch of other in-depth tracks you can take.
Third, it's a chance to NETWORK. You'll see hundreds of other writers there -- people who love books and words as much as you do, and who want to explore how to get better at what they do. There will be editors there, representing a wide variety of publishing houses. You'll be able to set up one-on-one appointments, just to talk with them about your manuscript. There's also a chance to talk with several agents -- in fact, a writing conference like this is one of the few place you can go and connect with literary agents. Between sessions, at meals, during the social times, and in the hallways you'll be surrounded by industry professionals. Make sure to use those opportunities to meet people and get to know other writers.
Fourth, it's a chance to CONNECT with friends. You'll see some people you know, and be introduced to some folks you've read but never met. There will be an opportunity to link up with a critique group, or to simply meet other writers from your area. When I was a young writer, I went to a conference and introduced myself to people. I made friends that helped me get connected with the local writing scene, and that led to my first paid book-writing gig.
Fifth, it's a chance to REFLECT. There will be time to think, time to sing, time to talk, and time to laugh. Part of the value of being away at a conference is that it forces you to get out of your normal routine -- so you can use that to think through what you'd like to be writing, and how you'd like to approach it. You can join a small group for a quiet night of discussion, or you can grab friends and sit laughing in the lobby until all hours of the night.
I'm a huge fan of the ACFW conference -- in fact, I'm on record as saying it's the most practical conference for Christian writers to attend. I'll be there again, meeting with authors and wearing my kilt and appreciating friends and trying to think of something to say in a one-on-one appointment that doesn't sound trite and shallow. Make sure to say hello.