Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dollars & Sense for Writers - Guidelines on Where & When to Spend Your Money - Part Five

This is an ongoing series designed to give writers guidelines on where & when to spend your money. 

If you missed the first four posts in the series you can find them here:

Writing Conferences—When Am I Ready for One & Which One Should I choose

I have my favorites, of course! But just because they’re my favorites doesn’t mean they are the best choice for YOU. I’ve tried to break it all down and give you some things to consider so you can make an informed decision.

The first thing you should consider is your experience level. You need to look at where you are with your writing, that will be the biggest factor in your decision. As you look at the categories realize that your experience may overlap.

  • Never submitted anything for publication.
  • Hasn’t told many people he writes.
  • Has submitted a couple of things, but nothing published.

Advanced Beginner
  • Has several rejection letters and a couple of acceptances.
  • Is a member of a local or online writing group.
  • Regularly reads articles or books about writing.

  • Has attended a writers event (either a workshop, conference or online class).
  • Has an idea of where he wants to go with his writing.
  • Has been paid for his writing.

  • Spends time each day working at the craft of writing and has an income derived from writing.
  • Has definite goals and aspirations for his writing.

Once you know which group you fall into, it’s easier to evaluate each individual event. There are 2 reasons to attend a writers event.
  • To learn more about the craft of writing
  • To network with professionals within the writing world

Here’s a general breakdown of what is usually offered at each kind of event.

These events vary slightly, so the following information is generalized. You should read all brochures and websites carefully to know what to expect.

Large, National Writing Conference
Expect lots of classes for a wide variety of writers - from beginner to advanced.
  • Continuing Classes – these are classes that last for more than one class period and concentrate on one subject. Even though they are continuing, they rarely provide advanced information on a given subject.
  • Workshops – these are classes that give an introduction to a concept (like dialogue, plot or setting).
  • Breakouts or Panels – these are groups of professionals giving instruction on a given subject. The information here is usually very basic.
  • Appointments with Faculty – most large conferences include a private appointment with a member of the faculty. This is where you would pitch a book or article idea to an editor. It can also be valuable to let a seasoned author look at your writing and give one-on-one feedback.

Regional or Local Writing Conference
These tend to have more classes for the beginner and advanced beginner writer, although there are exceptions. Depending on the length of time, the conference will follow the same basic setup as a national conference.

Workshop or Seminar
Many of these are very specific in what they offer. They aren’t for a large number of writers and generally target the intermediate or advanced writer.

The important thing to remember is that it’s never a good idea to write in a vacuum. I have always tried to attend one large conference a year—as a student—to expose myself to the writing industry, both for networking and education. I also try to attend at least one focused workshop or seminar each year I and I try to keep my eyes open for online writing courses and take at least two a year.

Let's share our experiences with specific conferences and events. Leave comments about ones you've attended and how they've helped your writing journey.

Don't forget to join the conversation!


Thinking about attending a writing conference? @EdieMelson has some tipsfor you on Dollars & Sense for Writers (Click to Tweet)


  1. A few years ago I attended a Christian Writers Workshop. In retrospect I was overwhelmed. I signed up for a 10 minute session with an agent, but...the agent was quite generous even though I was worse than tongue tied, he still gave me some good advice. I am still mystified at this world of writing. When looking over classes/sessions for workshops how does one decide what to classes to attend? I have a 'finished' ms, but now do I need a freelance editor? a critique group, or a psychologist? Most of my acquaintances would vote for the last item for me, but what about the ms?

    1. Deboraw, the best thing you can do to find your path with writing is to hang out with other writers—of varying levels of expertise—and learn about the publishing industry. A critique group or writers group is the best place to start. We writers are an odd lot - at least to the 'normal' world. Getting into a group of people who understand how your mind works and how you view the world can be very affirming. If you don't have a group in your area, look for one online. Read some of the previous posts in this series for tips on how to find a group.

      Writing conferences and workshops can be overwhelming, but they're also a great place to connect with other writers. I found my critique group at a conference. I hope this helps! Blessings, E

  2. Thank you. I feel there is so much I need to learn in this craft, and I've just begun. I'll have to live 500 years before I learn even close to enough. ;)

  3. ;) Thank you. Hopefully I'm not stuttering, but more embarrassing things than that have happened. Have a good day.

  4. My first writing conference was the Christian Writers' Boot Camp (Asheville, NC) conducted by Christian Devotions. This is a great conference for beginning writers (and for more experienced writers). They provided a great foundation of workshops and encouragement to get me started on my writing journey. This is where I first sensed God leading me to write for a wider audience.
    I also attend (& serve on the leadership team for) the Write2Ignite Writers' Conference (Greenville, SC). This is a Christian conference for those who enjoy writing for children - young adults. It's great for beginning - intermediate writers, offering a variety of workshops from how to write for magazines to marketing ideas for your books. One-on-one appointments with editors and publishers also provide great learning opportunities. I learn something new every year.
    The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference is much larger than the two mentioned above but very friendly and helpful. They offer workshops for all levels of writers--the fundamentals for beginners to specialized techniques for the advanced writers. More genres are represented, and you have a whole week to learn and network. Very inspiring.
    I've attended all three of these conferences and reaped wonderful benefits from each. I highly recommend them.