Progress cannot happen without learning. True learning cannot happen in a bubble. For many of us writers, our art is a mostly solitary pursuit – typing away at a computer or, if you’re still old school, writing it out by hand. If you’ve ever done that, by the way, you have my sympathies. My first three novels were completely written by hand up to draft 2 and I still have hand pains to this day.
Regardless, we, as authors can’t make the connections we need in order to learn and publish in today’s world in isolation. True, we can sit behind out desks and send out a hundred thousand query letters a year. It works from time to time (Stephanie Meyer for example), but true progress and success comes from in-person meeting. And the best place to meet other authors, agents, editors, and cool people like Paul Genesse, Shelly Brown, Michaelbrent Collings, or Johnny Worthen, is at conferences and conventions.
My first experience with writing conferences was the 2014 LTUE Symposium. I had a blast, despite blowing my pitch session with an editor in the first 15 seconds of walking through the door. I met tons of awesome people, most notably the people who would become my writing group, Team Unleashed. I learned more in those three days and became more motivated to continue writing no matter what came of it than during the 10 years of learning on my own and self-motivating put together. It was a singularly important even in my writing journey. I highly recommend the conference and will be attending it every year that I am able for as long as I am able to go.
Due to some life events, I wasn’t able to make it to another conference until the 2015 LTUE the following year. The experience, however, was worth the wait. I met dozens of new people and made connections with authors, agents, and friends from around the country. I was able to speak to published authors about their craft and I was spoken to like I was a normal person. Authors as famous as Larry Correia, David Farland (Wolverton), and Tracy Hickman chatted with me as if I was a peer, rather than an unpublished nobody. And, through judicious wearing of a purple shirt and some sarcastic responses to polite inquiries, I also landed a full manuscript request that lead to my first publishing contract.
Conferences, conventions, and symposiums are where the magic happens. I will go to as many as I can as often as I can. If you haven’t gone to one yet, GO! If you don’t know if you’re ready yet, YOU ARE. If you’re sitting on the fence about a particular conference or convention in your area or are curious if they are worth the money, time, and effort – get off the fence and go. They are worth every penny. They are worth all the time. They are worth every ounce of effort. Go to a convention. You never know what could happen.