What to Do After Attending a Writing Conference

Jun 02, 2021

Writers attending conferences tend to react to the experience in one of two ways: despair or elation.

Camp #1 is overwhelmed with information. Too much of the advice they absorbed seemed contradictory or overly complicated. They’re not sure they even like agents and editors anymore. And dammit, if all those other attendees are trying to get published, how do they stand a chance? 

Camp #2 is galvanized and ready to conquer the world. They gleaned lots of information; got answers to specific questions; and were thrilled to discover that published writers can be just as befuddled as mere mortals.

Whether you’re coming off a high or a low, what now? How do you make sense of your experience?

1.    Take time to reflect
Spend a moment thinking in some detail about the various experiences you had over the course of the conference. What were the highs and the lows? Were you clear about your goals going in and did you achieve them? If not, why?

2.    Dig out the gold "nuggets"
Go back over your notes and pull out highlights. Type up words of wisdom or inspiration and hang them above your computer. Make use of those notes.

3.    Organize your contacts
Were there a few authors or instructors you particulary admired? Buy one or more of their books and make a note (mental or otherwise) of this person so you can watch out for future opportunities with him/her. You never know when you’ll be dreaming of a new class to take, hunting for an editor, or desperate for an idea for a new blogpost.

4.    Synthesize the main ideas
So they don’t get lost in the details, figure out what your top three or four take-aways are. How will these change the way you work on your writing?

5.    Follow up
If you managed to do a little mingling online, and promised to send someone a file, book recommendation, a copy editor’s name, or that old email explaining how to write queries, make sure you follow up. You never know when some unpublished writer you met becomes the next big thing in the literary world. You don’t want to be the flake who comes crawling back asking for a favor.

6.    Express gratitude
If a presenter helped you in any way or was particularly nice, consider sending him or her an email saying thanks (refrain from using this as an opportunity to sell yourself). Also, it never hurts to share your appreciation with the conference organizers if you thought a particular panel or approach was successful.

7.    Create a LONG list of to-do’s
Write it all down—every last option, possibility, action item that relates to your writing. Someday soon when you’re running out of steam, you can look at your list and rejuvenate yourself with some new ideas.   

8.    Create a SHORT list of priorities
You just spent hour upon hour soaking up writerly wisdom, spend just a couple more making sure you have an action plan. Put your to-do’s in order of priority and assign each one a due date.