I’m just back from the New Jersey Romance Writers’ annual conference and it was great! As a new writer, I went there with no friends, no experience and absolutely no idea of what to expect. I came back with a first place plaque for Blank Canvas, a request for a full manuscript from an Agent and, most importantly, a bunch of wonderful writer friends.
For unpublished authors still hesitating as to whether or not to attend next year, I highly recommend this event. Here are a few important things to remember, before heading out.
Rule #1: Bring a big bag. For all the swag, of course! I’ve been to conferences and trade shows before, but never to one where the swag was exactly what I wanted!
Rule #2: Rest up. Get some sleep before you go, because at the conference, you’ll be too busy to rest.
Rule #3: Make friends. For every person who’s confident, there are about seventeen who are not. Just remember that. Talk to them and they will be forever grateful. I know I was!
Rule #4: Ask questions. Learning sessions are great, especially for us newbies, because you really do learn a ton about writing, marketing and even surviving. The presenters have lots of valuable information to impart and they’re happy to chat. Don’t hesitate to approach them after a talk.
Rule #5: Finish your book. Even if it’s not completely ready to go, it’s good to have something to shop around once you’re there. This may be your chance to get some feedback from peers, published authors, editors and agents.
Rule #6: Volunteer! If possible, spend some time helping out at the conference. This is a great way to meet other writers. It also gives you an in at, say, the pitch sessions, where the volunteers are the first to know when a slot opens up!
Rule #7: Pitch, pitch, pitch. Take advantage of those pitch sessions offered at many writing conferences. Where else can you immediately gauge reactions to your story and see if your log line works?
Rule #8a: Bring wine. At the end of the evening, when everyone else is spending exorbitant amounts at the bar, you and your new-found friends can retire comfortably to your hotel room for more chatting, pitch-practicing, plotting and everything else under the sun.
Rule #8b: Bring painkillers. See rule #8a.
Rule #9: Go outside. Oxygen is really and truly good for you. Don’t forget to head out the hotel doors every once in a while and get you some.