5 Tips to prepare for a Writer’s Conference

canstockphoto6504670It’s open season on authors, which means that writer’s conferences and critique groups are on the calendar.

I’m attending the Florida Heritage Book Fair and Writer’s Conference this week, and looking forward to it. This is my second year to attend, which gives me an advantage. I know what to expect and how to prepare. Last year, I just showed up and, well, listened. This year though, it’s game on.

So here’s what I suggest doing to prepare for a writer’s conference:

  1. Bring a tote bag with a new notepad and pencils (or to carry your tablet)

Plan on taking notes, lot’s of notes. You’re also going to be collecting a lot of handouts and sometimes there are even door prizes. You’ll probably buy a few books. So plan accordingly. And even if you use a tablet (like me) it’s still a good idea to have a few pens, pencils and notebook on hand. You’re going to be looking for pen and paper at some point. Trust me.

  1. Plan to network

To me, that means two things: First, bring a stash of simple business cards with your name, contact info and name and genre of the books you’re writing. Include your social media, website and blog info, if you’ve got it. Second, have a note pad and pen in your tote bag for people to write down their contact information for you.  You’ll be meeting new people from around the state, if not the country, and making new friends. Make exchanging contact info as easy as possible.

  1. Be prepared to purchase some books

That means budget. Almost every speaker will have at least one book available to buy, not to mention books written by your fellow attendees. And, like the FHW, there will be a book fair with even more book buying opportunities. You’ll want to own a few of them. Personally, I like to have some cash on hand.

  1. Dress like a Professional Writer

This isn’t a trip to a Home Depot Saturday morning workshop. You’re meeting writing professionals in a professional setting. There will be authors, publishers, and agents there. You need to represent.  Business casual is generally the most appropriate attire, and leave the torn jeans, flip-flops and t-shirts at home.

  1. Wear your name tag 

Honestly, I lost mine on the first day during last year’s conference and it made me a little unapproachable. Everyone attending will be meeting a lot of new faces. It helps your fellow attendees (especially if you’ve already been introduced) to recall your name. So, plan on wearing your name tag every day, all day. As an author, your name is your brand.  You want people to see it and see it often. Registration may require it as well.

Violence escalates between debating writer factions

Stillwater, Florida (AP) – The murder of Janice DeStoppalace put police detectives on high alert last week. Discovery of her body was worse than anyone expected, especially since the victim led such a quiet life. She was a receptionist at a downtown insurance agency. She was a loving mother and wife who wrote amateur detective novels in her spare time. Now she’s the face of a hate crime that is growing in intensity.

The fervor is raging across the country: at writer’s conferences, book fairs, local critique groups, even between couples who are both writers.
outline
Friends and family are saying that Janice DeStoppalace, 34, lived openly about her beliefs.

“I like to pick out the villain when I get to the end of writing my mystery novels,” said DeStoppalace at an Amateur Mystery Writer’s Meet-Up Group she attended on the night of her murder. “I let the characters decide who did the dastardly dead and why.” Those were her last words. She was murdered in her home by a gang of Outliners who held a rally in a neighboring residence on the same evening.

“I’m not saying that the murder of Janice DeStoppalace was right,” said Andrea Ferngroves, 61, a representative of the D.O.R.I. organization (Detailed Outlines ‘R’ Imperative).  “But I find it a little disturbing that people like her can just start writing a story without any clear direction where it’s headed. You must first outline, then start the initial draft. That’s just the way it’s done in a civilized society.”
old couple
News of DeStoppalace’s murder has had a profound impact on her friends and neighbors.

“This is definitely a problem that we’re struggling to get past,” said Angela Whiddle, 42, a wife and mother. “I’m just like that poor, innocent woman. I’m a wife, a mother and write in my spare time. And I too just start writing on the first page and let the story flow where it wants.”

“But it’s put a strain on our marriage,” said her husband, Barry Whiddle, 44, a novelist who is adamant that an outline must be written first. “How does your story have direction? How do you keep the characters from running off on tangents without an outline to follow?”

A fellow writer who knew DeStoppalace and frequently attended the same Amateur Mystery Writing group attempted to explain. “I find an outline too restrictive. It limits my creative muse.”

However, there are many who oppose that viewpoint.

“You know that big reveal at the end of my mystery novels? I planned that out 300 pages earlier,” said Barry Whiddle. “It’s hard to imagine all that falling in place on its own or developing within the natural flow of the story.”

“We will never agree on outlines, but we don’t want to end-up in a situation like that poor woman who was murdered,” his wife Angela added. “A mixed marriage is tough. I’m not saying it isn’t. So, we’re currently working through our issues with professional help.”
Married Couple
DeStoppalace’s mother, Alice, spoke publicly for the first time after her daughter’s tragic death.

“I’ve always heard that there are two kinds of novelists: those who free-flow and those who outline,” she said in a statement released through the family attorney.

According to the attorney, “Free-Flowing” is a street term that describes a process where writers begin a story without any type of prepared outline. The story reveals itself as it’s being written. “Outliners” determine the major plot points, the narrative structure, and the ending before they begin writing.

“Isn’t this world big enough for both free-flowing and outlines?” Alice DeStoppalace pleaded in her public statement. “Obviously, there is no right or wrong way to write. And, I’m going to guess that a lot of people fall somewhere in the middle; they start with an outline but tend to veer off it once they delve into the writing process.”

Memorial services are currently scheduled for Janice DeStoppalace, but per her final wishes, no initial preparation has been made.

Couple in bed
All names are fictitious and no resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is intended. Photos are from canstockphoto.com and used with permission per the licensing agreement. Hopefully the members of my writers group don’t kill me for making fun of this week’s (and previous week’s) discussion.