10 Creative Things to Do Every Month as a Writer

1. Experience Art

Don’t just go and look at art—feel art. Embrace art. Study art. Art takes hard work, patience, silence, a flood of emotions, or a lack of emotions, lots of time. Realize the passion, the technique, the sacrifice art takes. Writers can learn to walk on a painting, a character from a play can inspire our creation for our own, music expresses more ways to say things in beautiful ways like poetry, and every writer can learn something from art. We are all kind of an artist except we paint with words. Museums, concerts, films, and theaters are all great places to seek inspiration.

2. Evaluate Writing & Self

I don’t think writers do this enough. Write a list of both strengths and weaknesses. Work on these, value yourself as a writer, and you should always be growing as one. Track your progress. Keep track of how much or how little you write every day.

I don’t write every day, I write in large quantities, and then I revise. It is a part of my process. Find a pattern and a process and then track whatever you do as a writer, look back at the month and see what you could do for the next month to help improve or better yourself. Things like increasing word count, or what is the difference from night-to-day? Do you write more in the morning or before bed? Do you not dedicate enough time to writing, where-else can you pull that time from? Give yourself goals to reach as a writer and as a reader.

3. Write a 2000 Word Story and Cut It Down to 300

Revision is the hardest thing the writer must do. Writers either tend to go over the word limit, or under the word limit. This challenges you to have a start and a finish. To consider the power of each word. To pay attention to style, syntax, diction, voice, scenes, actions. Everything the writer wants to include and exclude. Pay more attention to the art of your words and the beauty of the story unfolding in a short frame.

Flash writing is very hard for some writers, and easy for some. But finding the balance between word count and style is a goal to strive for.

4. Write in Another’s World

Use the rules of the world to write in. This will challenge your writing skill, we learn best as writers when we are just starting out to write like someone else. To understand the language the same way the author intended for the audience. Do you like the style? The bare language? The overloaded syntax? The rules of magic? The world building? The stage to set the setting? The introduction to the characters?

I still use this exercise to re-emerge myself in language. To follow the rules of someone else, it helps me get out of my head for a while. It helps me get past writer’s block for my own writing projects.

5. Look at and Revise What You Wrote for the Entire Month

I write everything by long hand and then type it. I date everything I write as well. I hate revision, it takes me a long time. So, I write for two weeks, let’s say about 2-4 chapters, and then I revise the last two weeks of the month. I usually rewrite when I revise, or send my chapters off to beta readers and revise based on their feedback. I rely on my beta readers for different things, and I switch between them for different projects.

Looking at what you wrote at the end of the month, and then revising, will improve time management when writing. It will be less work when you have completed the project and when the time comes for edits and publication. It will help ward off the dreaded manual overhaul, I promise.

Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.

Benjamin Franklin

6. Find a Club or Go to a Meeting

If you look online for local meetings, usually there are writing groups and clubs around town. Join one or go to a few group meeting/hangouts. Talking with other writers will teach you a lot if you already don’t do this. I have a group of writing friends and we meet once or twice a month We talk about what we are writing, any new techniques what we learned and what to try, or cool books to read. We also beta read for each other and discuss each other’s writings to help evaluate one another.

Other writers will make you a better writer, guaranteed!

7. Start a Blog or Post on Another’s Blog

Blogs are great because they are filled with advice, links, and current topics of the writing world. Blogs do take a lot of time and work, I won’t lie. But if you are a serious writer, and want to learn thing and want to share those things with others—this is the way to do it. Consider starting one if you haven’t already. It will help build your brand as an author and a writer.

Otherwise, follow a blog by signing up for the newsletter. Or if you know someone with a blog ask them to be a guest writer once in a while. A blog can also help exercise a different way of writing. Have fun with it!

My suggestion would be to post at least once a month and with insightful material and topics to keep your followers and readers interested. A blog is meant to be helpful to other writers and readers, to give encouragement, inspiration, and advice. Be truthful. Be generous. Be awesome.

8. Listen to a New Song, Watch a New Movie, New TV Show, etc.

This is all about inspiration, creativity, and imagination. Write a prompt from a song title or from the lyrics. Use a TV show to write in an author’s world different than your own. Or a movie to spark a possible plot twist in a story you are writing, or write a trope used in the movie.

Explore a video game with one of your own characters. Instead of just reading a book for your pleasure, look for literary crafts the author used, and try to implement them into your story. Use anime for imagination. Write a short story based on the theme of the anime, or the daily life of a character, but them doing everything the opposite. Where does the story take you then?

9. Find a New Author or Blog to Read

Constantly expand your horizons as a writer. Maybe even try reading outside your favorite authors and genres, and explore other blogs. They will have tips and that can be unique to add to your skill set. Every genre has a set of techniques, and crossing genres is thrilling for both the story and the reader.

The tools you can add to your writing toolbox will always improve your style and story.

10. Write a to Do List for the Next Month

Some writers are organized and some aren’t. It doesn’t matter if your writing process is organized or messy, keep track of what needs to be done. Once you start writing a list, it may become overwhelming, but call it a master list. Take 3 or 5 things off that list to do every month. It increases productivity as well as positivity. Your brain releases endorphins when you check a box down, and it feels good to accomplish things.

Here is an example of my list for the month:

·         Revise chapter one based on critiques

·         Finish writing chapter two

·         Finish writing chapter three

·         Send both two and three to Amber for beta reading

·         Write and publish a blog post

This is an article from my blog on HubPages and you can click on the link below to read it or check out my other articles!

10 Creative Things to Do Every Month as a Writer

The Roller-Coaster Poem

So, what is a roller-coaster poem?  “Roller Coaster” would be a pretty good title for a poem, story, song, movie, anything (I’m a sucker for short or one-word titles), but that’s not what I’m talking about.  You may have read that title and thought to yourself “what the heck?” but I’ll explain.

First of all, I don’t actually like roller coasters.  That feeling of rushing down a steep drop where your stomach seems to be floating somewhere in your chest and your palms are cold, yet also sweaty, is not a feeling I enjoy.  I avoid riding roller coasters, but I love when a good poem is a roller coaster.

I’ve mentioned a few times before that I love finding something unexpected in a poem.  This comes from a poetry class I took in college that completely blew my mind and focused on collaborative poetry.  I’m not necessarily one for collaborating on work other than to get feedback and exchange ideas, but this class introduced me to the beauty that is two different trains of thought colliding together (I suppose you could call a poem written this way a train wreck poem, too, if we are going with that metaphor.  But for now, I’ll stick to roller coasters).

This class taught me that some of the most amazing literary genius comes from unlikely comparisons.  From gangly language put together with lyricism, from opposite words being clashed together, from two divergent roads unexpectedly converging out of the blue.

When this happens, I like to think of it as a roller coaster.  When riding along on a roller coaster, there’s always some sort of hint of where you are going.  You can, after all, see what’s in front of you. You may have gazed up at the metal monster you were about to hop aboard while in line and memorized some of the curves and drops.  Yet, when those curves and drops happen, and you get that feeling of your gut being suspended in air, they’re still unexpected. You can’t prepare for that feeling, even if you have felt it a million times.

I like to think that the best poems are a bit like riding that roller coaster.  We’ve all read poems before—we’ve studied sonnets or been shocked by the vivid simplicity of a few lines of free verse.  We’ve all probably tried our hand at writing a poem. Some of us would call ourselves poets, and some of us thought “never again” after writing the final line.  But what separates poems from the “never again” category and the breathtaking category?

It’s the roller coaster of reading that takes place in a good poem.  I love when I’m reading a sonnet, but it’s written in the most un-Shakespeare like language I’ve ever seen.  I love when I’m drawn into the voice and lyricism of a poem only to have it change and morph as I go (…almost like two different people wrote it…)  I love when I’m riding along with a poem up, up, up and suddenly, the bottom falls out from under me when an unexpected comparison comes to life or the so-called plot suddenly jeers left.

Part of the beauty of poetry is that you can make those sudden drops and roller coaster turns.  Throwing in a crazy word that doesn’t make any sense can make your poem come to life in a way that it didn’t in the first line.  Not all writing can handle this change, but poetry can. Poetry allows for an obscure and crazy roller coaster ride—the scarcity of language in a poem leaves room for the unexpected.

So, try it yourself!  Pretend you are two different people writing a poem.  Add in a drop here and a curve there. Take your reader on a wild ride—and send us your roller coaster poem once you’re done experimenting!

Cover image courtesy of PixaBay.

Comparison: The Death of Creativity

Something I have been ruminating on lately, especially now that we are in a new year and I am coming up with new goals and new ideas, is comparison.  Comparison is an easy trap to fall into in life—she’s much more successful in her career than me, he’s much more motivated than me, I haven’t even thought about buying a house yet and they bought one straight out of college, they’re using their degree and I’m not—there’s a million different things that I think everyone is constantly comparing themselves to, even if subconsciously.

What I’ve been thinking about lately, though, is comparison with writing.  I am constantly falling into the trap of comparison when it comes to both my actual writing, and my writing life.  It’s hard not to feel discouraged when you see authors being published left and right and all you are getting is rejection, and when you hear about some of your writing friends who are halfway through a new novel and you are struggling to get through the first few chapters of your own idea.  Writing is hard, and comparison makes it even harder.

As with comparison in all facets of life, though, I am coming to learn that it’s the complete opposite of helpful.  Unhelpful isn’t even a strong enough word for how unhelpful it is (but hopefully you get the picture). 

Comparison can steal your joy—joy about where you are in your career right now (maybe it’s not so bad if you’re not focusing on where everyone else is), joy about your little apartment that isn’t a house, but is all yours, and joy about the writing progress you are making, even if it is slow going.

Most importantly, comparison can slowly kill off your own creative energy.  We all only have twenty-four hours in a day, so try figuring out how you can divvy up yours to include more time for writing, or reflection, or whatever it is that might help you move forward.  If you are spending too much time contemplating what you don’t have and others do, you are not going to have time to accomplish your own goals.

Constantly comparing yourself to other writers and other creatives is undoubtedly helpful.  It’s why we study the craft of writing in classes and celebrate literary giants who write so eloquently their words make you want to cry, but there’s also something to be said for what you have that they don’t.

It’s okay to be a little different.  It’s okay to search for years and years for somewhere to publish your favorite story and not be accepted by the more mainstream publishers.  It’s okay to never publish and just write for yourself—for the joy of writing. It’s okay to do your thing and find your niche and it won’t (and shouldn’t) look like anyone else’s, so stop comparing!

This is something I am constantly trying to remember myself, and it’s not easy, but its so important!  Don’t let yourself give up, and I won’t either. We are in this together and can’t compare our own journey’s.  Don’t kill your own chances at success—whatever that may look like for you.

Happy New Year!

We are posting this blog early this week in celebration of the New Year! 2020 is going to be different right?! Wink, wink, hint, hint… It’s what we all say and what we all would like to believe. As for the journal, we are always experimenting, always thinking of what could be new, what theme we want this year, what kind of podcasts to record, what theme the coming journals will have. Will print finally arrive this year? Will our digital footprint expanded to something new? Will we add an editor to the board? Are we (editors) going to travel to the West and see more of the United States? An entire year of 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes and 31,536,000 seconds is a lot of time that goes by way too fast.

So here are some writing prompts and cool ideas to continue for this year, or to kick it off!

  • Write a letter to yourself for the year 2020. Include resolutions, goals, or predict the future of where you will be, seal it in an envelope, place it somewhere safe, and don’t open it until the next year. Will you be right and have done what you wanted? How much did you change since writing that letter? You won’t know until Jan. 1. 2121!
  • Buy a large mason jar or even a photo box, and some paper and cut them into squares, and everyday write something that was good or bad, a joke you learned, a pun you heard, a book you finished, a mile you ran, a puppy you got, a baby you bore, a place you ventured, a new recipe you created, a person you were grateful for having in your life, seeing your life flash before your eyes being stuck in a public bathroom stall, a piece of wisdom you got from karma, that ho, a thing you mastered, a moment you learned, a person you decided you would hate until the bell struck midnight, or a wizard you met while on the yellow brick road of life. Store them in this jar or box and next year, open it to reread your year.
  • Cut a headline from a newspaper or magazine a day, store them in journal or book, map out the year that is and will become.
  • Write down a resolution, a habit to change, a goal that was a dream on a sticky note, place it where you will see it every day, and then do it!
  • Write down three resolutions on a slip of paper, but two of them are a lie. One of them you must keep. Keep this somewhere safe until next year, which are the two you won’t do?
  • Take a photo in the same place every day for the year of 2020. Replay it back, what did the year look like? This is a great idea if you have kids or puppies that grow!

To all you go-getters and planners, or those moving like me at a snail pace and procrastinating until my world dies, I hope you have a great year to come! May the universe sprinkle a little luck on the planet named Earth.

Reflecting on Writing

At this time of year I always find myself reflecting. As the year comes to a close, I remember what happened this year–the changes that have occurred, the growth I’ve seen, and just what, exactly, happened.

I know for many people 2019 was a tough year. I get that–I wouldn’t say 2019 was an overall tough year for me but it had a lot of tough moments. Some might say that 2019 was an amazing year full of exciting changes and joyful new experiences.

Whichever way your 2019 falls, I’m sure you at least wrote in 2019!

I wanted to take this post to encourage you to remember all the amazing work you put into writing and developing your craft this year. Maybe you were published in borrowed solace this year–congratulations! Maybe you finished a draft of that novel along with Nicole in NaNoWriMo this year–great job! Maybe you remembered to actually write something creative this year other than emails–good for you!

Whatever your writing wins were this year, celebrate them! As we take stock of what 2019 was for each and every one of us, don’t forget writing in your end of year review, too.

I know one of things I feel most accomplished about this year is my writing. I feel like I’ve finally figured out what my voice is when it comes to poetry, and I’m so glad for that! I published several pieces this year–poetry, nonfiction, and more. Even though right now I’m writing while I’m not writing (more about that here), I know that progress was made this year, however small.

So even if 2019 was a terrible year for you, take stock of the writing accomplishments you made this year–little and large. I’m sure you are better off than you know…

A Writing Update

Hi writing folks!

This week has been terrible for me as I have a horrible cold and I am going through training classes with my puppy! We only lasted three classes and then we were kicked out. German Shepherds are known to bark, and my boy has a deep and super loud bark. Too much for the trainers there to handle. Nothing stops him from barking, so here I go finding another place who can help. So with that being said, to calm myself, I have been writing. I am pretty steady at 1,000 words a day, which they recommend 1,600 a day to stay on top. So, some days I go over, and some I am under. Right now I am at 14,000 words.

I have been working on this novel. I started with the idea from a short story in college, a story that most of my classmates thought was a part of novel when it wasn’t back then…not yet. But the writing idea I had was to imagine if one day you woke up with your grandmother by your side telling you to take over the family business…the business of being a grim reaper. I actually got ripped apart for that story in class, so I came back with a different version of how to become a grim reaper. I am nineteen chapters in and I am so ready for the novel to be written and over.

My tip (and struggle) is to keep writing, you can always edit later. Only stop to fix corrections of words from typing fast—because those pesky red lines are so distracting—but keep going. Just get it on paper. Get it done. You can do it.

And here’s a photo of Thunder because having him close helps too! He is as black as Grim.

So now a bit from Addey on how she has been making out (spoiler from Addey–it’s nowhere near as good as Nicole has been doing!)

Nicole challenged me to also try to write this month.  I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with lots of random other things on my to do list, so writing has fallen to the wayside a bit, but the idea of so many others around the world using November as their excuse to write like crazy has inspired me to at least try to write more for this month—even if it’s not 1,000 words a day.

I have also been working on an idea for a novel that I have written and re-written again and again.  It’s an idea that came from a German movie I watched in a class in college.  It’s a source of pretty random inspiration, but so far everyone I have talked to about the plot line and story idea think it’s a great idea, and something unique.  That’s part of the battle in and of itself when it comes to writing—getting the idea just perfect—so I am rolling with it.

My issue was that when I have had the first several chapters critiqued I have been told time and time again that the beginning just wasn’t grabbing the reader.  I didn’t have a good beginning.  So I think I was putting off working on the idea anymore because I didn’t know where to start.  But I decided to tackle a new beginning—to start of a chapter or two into what I had before.  It meant cutting out a lot of already written work, but the book will be better because of it.  I think I’ve come up with a killer first line, too, if I do say so myself.

So that’s where I’m at.  Only a few chapters into my new version of the same idea, but better off than I was in October.

Are you taking on NaNoWriMo to the full extent like Nicole, or using it as inspiration to set aside more time for writing without an end goal in mind like Addey?  Let us know by commenting below!

Jump On Board for NaNoWriMo!

As most writers know, November is a special month because of NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. We here at borrowed solace do not accept novels, but have in the past accepted excerpts that were not used in novels, but came from one.

So what is this challenge? Basically, you have to write 50,000 words towards a novel (or complete a novel) or large writing project within 30 days. But why can’t this be a collection of short stories, novellas, and poems that make up 50,000 words like our very own journal?! It’s up to you!

So our challenge to you, as some of us editors will participate in this challenge as well, is to write 50,000 words–whether it actually ends up as a novel you have always wanted to write, a memoir, a journal, a chapbook, or a collection of short fictional or nonfiction stories is up to you. Writing is hard when you have a full-time job, school, life, pets, family, friends, clubs, groups, and so much more, so here are a few tips from us editors on what we do for this challenge:

Tip #1: Get organized.

First, know what you are going to do, how you are going to do it, and when you are going to do it. The where and why really don’t matter right now. Some people can write anywhere and some people have a designated writing spot and most writers just like to write. So, are you going to write a brand new novel, finish a novel left hanging in your literary closet of unfinished ideas, or a collection of stories or poems? Once you decide on what, then you can address the how–meaning, how are you going to piece it together? Are you going to write in order of the chapters, write a bunch and then piece together how the stories or poem should follow each other? You need to figure out where to start off from if you are completing a novel. Make an outline, or an agenda day by day if you are a planner like me. I think the biggest challenge for me is finding the time to sit down and actually write!

Tip #2: Set goals you can achieve every day.

The purpose of the challenge is to write—not edit. To put words down on paper to total 50,000. It may seem like a lot, especially to achieve in 30 days, but managing what you can do in a day can really help. Maybe take a few days to plan and devise an attack, then write and keep track of how many words you can write in a day. Some people are fast writers and some are really slow…like me. I write slow, it takes a full day to write two chapters for me.

Tip #3: Get it done!

No excuses, no distractions—except for research or world developing–and no hesitation. For some writers we hesitate to write because we may not have inspiration. Not having any inspiration is not a good excuse, procrastination is not an excuse (though very real), and not being good enough is definitely not an excuse (we’ve all been there, full of doubt). Wing it or plan out a strategy, but know that you can write 50,000 words in a month…in 30 days, and it can be awesome!

Tip #4: Don’t stop.

When you are tired, unfocused, and unsure where to go, just step back, look at what you already completed, and keep going. Most writers won’t challenge themselves with this opportunity, but a lot do. Be the one who doesn’t stop and can complete an amazing project that not a lot of writers can actually complete.

Tip #5: Don’t hesitate to step out into the community.

During this month, awareness of writing spreads, so a lot of people are writing! Don’t be afraid to reach out, talk, and interact with people doing this challenge, especially us here at borrowed solace. You can comment on this blog if you ever need a hand in this challenge, because we editors are struggling too.

We are writers, storm and tide makers, playing the dramatist on stage, the quirky fashion designer tailoring our words, and we are the humans willing to jump into the sea to see what kind hurricane we can create. So don’t be afraid—jump with us!

All About Submissions for Issue 3.1

If you’re thinking “Wow, they’re open for submissions already?  The fall issue just came out!” Then you would be right.  We’re thinking the same thing. But such is the life of a journal, and we can’t wait to start reading submissions for issue 3.1, which is un-themed and will come out in spring 2020.  That’s right—2020!

To get your creative juices flowing and give you at least a little bit of insight into what we are looking for, each of the editors has shared a quick summary below of what they hope to read in submissions for issue 3.1!

Fiction:

I’m looking for creative and gripping tales that will haunt the confines of my thoughts. 

Art: 

We are trying something different for art! For this next issue, there will not be an art section, but instead you can submit your art to be featured on our front and back cover! Any type of art can be submitted, though truly unique pieces that play with colors and shock us with how beautiful this world can be, and what people can create, is what will get you accepted.

Nonfiction:

True stories work when two things happen: they keep you wondering how the story is going to end and they make you think or feel (or both.) I want to read stories that have both of these things and that keep my attention to the end, spark my sense of wondering if the tale is real, and strike a place of sympathy—let me know how much the story wants me to care. Bring on the truth! 

Poetry:

With any un-themed issue, I’m never quite sure what I’m looking for.  With un-themed editions there really are no rules, which is what makes them exciting.  As always, I’m looking for work that is exciting to read.  Work that twists and turns as I read each word, and work that plays with the absurdity that language can be.  Give me your crazy poems, your somber poems, your sappy love poems, but make sure that there’s something unexpected contained within the lines on the page.

We hope this helps get you started—we can’t wait to read what you submit.  Happy writing!

All About Conferences

If you’ve followed us for any period of time you’ll probably know what we think about writing conferences—we love them over here!  For some writers, though, the idea of attending a conference with a bunch of writers is scary. 

Well, I think that things seem much scarier when you’re uninformed, so this week on the blog I thought I’d go over some conference dos and don’ts!

Do…

…research the conference beforehand.  All writing conferences are unique in their own special way (I sound like a Barney song here, but it’s true) and not every conference will have what you want.  Because of this, it’s super important to figure out which conferences create the type of environment you need.  If you’re new to the writing world, this might mean looking for conferences that focus on the craft of writing rather than the business of writing—you might not be ready to, say, sell your book.  And that’s fine!  There are conferences for you.  If you are at a stage where getting some face time with an agent is your goal, be sure to go to a conference that offers query one-on-ones or pitch meetings.  If you go to a conference that doesn’t offer these types of meetings and still insist on pitching your book, you’ll look out of touch and won’t have as great of a chance of actually hearing a “yes” from an agent.

…attend a genre-specific conference if you write genre fiction.  This is something I’ve recently been looking into a bit more.  I grew up reading Christian/Inspirational fiction and have decided that I want to try my hand at writing it, but I learned at the last Pike’s Peak Writing Conference (PPWC) I attended that not all agents/editors specialize in that category.  So if I wanted to pitch a Christian Historical Fiction novel at PPWC this past year, I would have been out of luck.  Admittedly, that genre is a bit more niche than say, science fiction, but it’s something to consider.  There are conferences for Christian/Inspirational writers (some that I am researching to attend in the future, see my first “do” above) and there are conferences for almost every genre you can think of!  If you want to learn the skills of your particular trade when it comes to the genre you write, try attending a conference with other genre-junkies just like you!

…create a mini-pitch about whatever your current project is.  Or, if you are in between projects at the moment, come up with a few concise words to describe what you write.  This is hands down the most common question you will be asked by everyone you encounter—from agents, to editors, to other authors, to keynotes, to the staff at the hotel front desk.  When people hear you are going to a writing conference—even if they aren’t writers themselves—their first instinct is to ask what you write.  Figure that out, and practice it a few times!  The best elevator pitches, as they’re commonly called, rely on few syllables but very descriptive words to paint a vivid picture of what it is you do.

…make some business cards (and use them!)  Every time I’ve gone to a conference I bring at least 20 business cards.  Sometimes I only give out two, sometimes I give out fifteen (I’ve yet to run out, but I’m also not the best at remembering to offer them up!)  I think 20 is a good number because you can easily even print out your own since you aren’t going to need 500+.  I usually do order a big pack from Vistaprint or Kinkos, but if that’s not in your budget, printing some off is so helpful.  You never know when someone really important is going to ask for your card!  My best example is when I was explaining the concept of the book I was working on to one of the keynote speakers at a conference a few years ago, who also happens to be the founder of one of the biggest literary agencies in NYC, and he was interested enough to give me his card.  I’m so glad that I had my own to give in return!

…interact with fellow writers.  It can often seem like everyone is at a conference to only make connections with the professionals who are in attendance, i.e., the faculty and keynote speakers, but be sure to interact with other writers!  You can make some new writing buddies by chatting with others in your sessions and at late night hangouts at the hotel bar.  You’re not guaranteed to come out of a conference with a book deal (in fact, you probably won’t), but if you interact with the other conference attendees you could come out of it with a new critique group or beta reader.  And hey, you never know, that writing friend you exchange emails with a few times a year could end up on the New York Times best seller list one day (or you could!)

Don’t…

…go in with big expectations.  Attending a conference is a fantastic way to network and make some new connections, but the chances of selling your debut novel or becoming BFFs with a bestselling author is slim.  That’s just the reality of being a writer—the odds are not exactly in our favor.  That doesn’t mean, though, that there isn’t value in attending a conference!  The value comes from the way you frame attending a conference.  If you go into it expecting to learn, and grow, and come away refreshed, then you’re on the right track.  Go in with the mindset to have some fun and recharge your writer batteries.  If you by chance happened to come away with the card of an agent who said “send me your first chapter,” then take that as an unexpected blessing.  Don’t go into it with that expectation, though, or you could come out disappointed.

…pitch to editors and agents outside of designated pitch windows.  Take just a minute to imagine that you are a successful editor or literary agent.  It might be your dream job, or you might prefer to stay on the writer’s side of things, but imagine it anyway.  Now, imagine going to a conference where, for a long weekend (sometimes even a whole week at bigger conferences), you are constantly bombarded by people pitching their book to you.  At every turn you’re running into hopeful writers with big smiles and puppy dog eyes who might as well be down on their knees begging you to take a look at their book.  A dream job or a nice work trip could suddenly turn into something that more closely resembles a horror movie—instead of the creepy guy in a mask wielding a saw around every corner, it’s overly eager writers you can’t escape.  Okay, so that might be a little dramatic, but there’s a reason that most conferences have rules when it comes to pitching.  At PPWC, for example, you can sign up for a meeting with an agent or editor where you get their undivided attention and can pitch to your heart’s content.  Outside of that meeting, though, pitches are off limits.  Follow those rules if the conference you are at has them—don’t become known as the rule breaker (and not in the misunderstood-bad-guy/girl-trope kind of way).

…bail on the optional activities.  When I’ve attended conferences in the past, writing or otherwise, it can be tempting to go back to my room or head home after a long day and skip the afternoon or evening activities.  Despite the temptation to go change into pajamas and read whatever novel I’m currently making my way through before getting some shut-eye, I try to attend at least a couple after hours activities.  I make it a bit of a challenge to myself—pick a few activities that sound like the most fun and make a friend or two I can hang out with during the festivities.  Make said friend beforehand, or during, the event, and then use the time at the event to tag team it—work up the courage together to go chat with that author you’ve been dying to meet or the editor from that major publishing house whose job you’d kill for.  If you start off with the expectation that you are going to x amount of events, you’ll know ahead of time when you can plan to go get into your PJs, and you might even find that the festivities are more fun than sleeping, anyway.

…be afraid to put yourself out there!  Going to writing conferences is about selling yourself to a certain extent.  While that might seem intimidating, think of it this way: who knows your product (i.e, YOU) better than you?  You’ve got this—you’ve literally been researching your whole life for this moment.

I hope this gives you a bit of the inside scoop when it comes to writing conferences.  If you’ve never attended, I’d encourage you to try at least once.  You might find that you’re a repeat offender and go back again and again.

What other dos or don’ts would you add to the list?  Let us know by commenting below!