Friday, June 23, 2017

4 Things to Do When You Can't Go to a Writing Conference

by Lori Hatcher @LoriHatcher2

You’re about to die. Every second post that pops up in your Facebook feed is from a writer friend. They’re gushing about how excited they are to attend the writers conference—you know, the one everyone who’s serious about writing attends. The one where agents and editors and publishers gather. The one where relationships form that lead to book deals, contracts, and writing partnerships.

And you’re stuck at home.

Maybe life circumstances prevent you from attending. Or financial constraints make a conference impossible this year. Perhaps illness, a needy family member, or an unsupportive spouse is keeping you close to home. Whatever the reason, you’ve swallowed the bitter pill of reality and choked down your disappointment.   Maybe next year, if the Lord wills.

But what about this year? Should you unsubscribe from notifications and email loops until after conference season so you don’t have to think about the party that’s happening without you? Stick your fingers in your ears and lalala to drown out the sound of the social media buzz? Lock yourself in your room with Prozac and chocolate until the conference is over?

You could. But if you did, you might miss some of the greatest opportunities of the conference season. I’ll let you in on a secret—you don’t have to attend a conference to benefit.

If this is a year you’re unable to attend a conference I have some tips to make life better. 

4 things you can do to redeem the time:

1. Pray. If you believe in the sovereignty of God, then you understand that he orders the details of your life. For reasons unknown to you but known (and allowed) by him, he has placed you where you are for his purposes. Perhaps one of those purposes is so you can pray for the conference and those who will attend.

Why not dedicate a part of every day during the conference to prayer? Pray for the hard-working conference leaders and for the health, safety, and travel of all who will attend. Ask God to give editors, agents, and publishers wisdom in their decision making and for frightened writers and workshop leaders to present their work with excellence. Pray for all in attendance to come away with vision and direction for how God wants to use their writing for his glory. And pray for yourself, asking God to energize, inspire, and direct your writing.

2. Set new writing goals. After you’ve prayed about your writing, jot down a few measureable goals for the next year. (Writing them down makes them more real.) Set a daily or weekly word count, and ask a writer friend to hold you accountable. If you’re a non-fiction writer, commit to query at least one new publication a week. Research the latest tips for social media and make plans to update or refresh your pages.

3. Self-educate. Just because you can’t attend a formal writing conference doesn’t mean your education is hamstrung. The blogosphere is full of excellent material on writing, marketing, and social media. If your Pinterest page is struggling, Google it. If your characters are flat or your prose is pedantic, visit a reputable agent or editor’s blog and read what they have to say on the topic. If you need in-person help, invite a writer friend over who’s good at what you’re struggling with and work on it together. And don’t forget one of the best resources of all, The Write Conversation blog, which has hundreds of archived articles only a Search box away.

4. Dig out your old conference handbooks, MP3 recordings, workshop notes, and writing books. Attending a writing conference is often described as drinking from a fire hydrant—material overload and not enough time to process it. A non-conference year is an excellent time to review, refresh, and revisit material already in your possession. Remember those writing books your conference leader recommended that have sat on your shelf since you returned? Dust them off, read them, and apply what you’ve learned.

Not every year is a conference year, and that’s OK. Non-conference years don’t have to be wasted years. If you’re unable to attend a conference, I encourage you to prayerfully implement the suggestions I’ve listed above, then ask God to bless your efforts.

While you may feel like you’re standing on the platform watching everyone else get on the train, God has you where you are for his good purposes. You can trust him with that.

4 Things to Do When You Can't Go to a #Writing Conference - @LoriHatcher2 (Click to Tweet)

Not every year is a #writing conference year, use these 4 tips to make use of the time - @LoriHatcher2 (Click to Tweet)

Lori Hatcher is the editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine and the author of two devotional books, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women and  Joy in the Journey – Encouragement for Homeschooling Moms. A blogger, writing instructor, and inspirational speaker, her goal is to help women connect with God in the craziness of life You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time . Connect with her on FacebookTwitter (@LoriHatcher2), or Pinterest (Hungry for God).


  1. Great advice indeed! Thank you, Lori.

    1. I've put these tips into practice, and, I promise, they've helped non-conference years become equally productive. Thanks for stopping by, Ingmar.

  2. Wonderful advice. Thank you.