Here is my last piece of advice for a successful conference. This answers the biggest quandary writers have at conferences.
Note Taking Needs
I had a friend email asking me how many notebooks she should take to the writer’s conference. My response—one. Think back to high school. It took a few weeks or longer to fill up a spiral notebook with notes from any given class. Most conferences run from two to four days. Often handouts are given with many of these classes. I’ve been given a three ring binder at conferences with outlines to fill in. One notebook or some loose leaf paper to slide in the binder under the classes you are taking is usually enough. If you’re still afraid you won’t have enough paper, then buy a larger notebook. Some people prefer legal pads or steno pads. Whatever you’re most comfortable with.
I’m seeing more people bring laptops and tablets. I find myself editing my notes as I type so I haven’t taken the leap to technology for note taking. But those who have lightening fingers on the keyboard do well with it. This is especially nice if a website is recommended. Once typed in your notes, it usually creates a direct link.
Paper or tablet is up to you. What you do with those notes after the conference is the key. Do you review them throughout the year? Rewrite them to help you remember. Or shove them in a file folder or on a shelf marked 2015 conference and never look at them again? Hold that thought. Determine to take more thorough notes on the things you really find helpful and fewer notes on things you’ve heard before. Hit the highlights and new revelations. Why? You are more likely to review those notes again.
Buying the CDs of the conference are a great way to review your notes. A wonderful thing to listen to in the car and if you get MP3 format you can download them to other devices. But as I said in a previous post, don’t buy them if you know you will never listen to them. I have a few of those on my shelf gathering dust. Although you can get a great deal by buying the whole conference, it’s of no value if you never listen to all of them. Buy the ones you really feel you will benefit from.
Some conferences offer CDs from previous conferences. That’s a great way to get information on subjects not covered in this year’s agenda. And the cost is considerably less. Some speakers offer sets of CDs on the subject covered in their class. Often it covers more than the time they were allotted at the conference. Great chance to really grasp the topic.
Books, Books and more Books
There is always a bookstore at conferences. They contain books on every aspect of writing and marketing. Books by the speakers, teachers and other authors attending the conference. I have acquired a large number of books on writing craft as well as autographed copies of novels, devotionals and other fun books. Writers are readers. Successful writers are avid readers. This is a great place to stock up.
Now that you are salivating over the prospect of purchasing books I’ll add—rein it in. Choose carefully the books you buy. Take time to examine the table of content, read the back cover blurb, and check out examples in chapters. Otherwise you may be spending money on duplicate stuff. There are lots of how to books out there. Many contain the same information just presented differently. If you have a book on writing proposals you love, you probably don’t need a second one unless your first one is outdated, you really enjoyed an instructor and he mentioned a book on a related subject that you feel must be great because he said so. Still check it out. Is his writing style as engaging as his speaking style? Do you think the subject would be helpful to you?
If you are on a budget, decide which books you really want to purchase at the conference. Put others on a list to buy later from the author’s website, online or your local bookstore. Sometimes those books on your list never get purchased. Which might prove you really didn’t need all those books after all. And some may come on sale later. Who doesn’t love a bargain?
Rather than sweat bullets as a novice attendee, here is a short list of must haves. Some are general because there are lots of books on the same subject by wonderful authors. But the first few are must-have titles.
2015-2016 Christian Writer’s Market Guide by Jerry B Jenkins (Tyndale)
Writer’s Market (Writer’s Digest)
(These books list lots and lots of markets to submit to.)
The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style edited by Robert Hudson (Zondervan) Similar to the AP and Chicago books of style. A great reference regarding grammar, sentence structure and punctuation and other details in professional writing which change with time and cause confusion. Clarity is at your fingertips.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. & E.B. White (Allyn & Bacon) Some feel this book is outdated, but this small volume still has a lot of useful information about grammar and sentence structure.
The rest of my list has no recommendations. Talk with others at the conference and get their suggestions on which books in the following categories they prefer and why.
- A book on how to write proposals and query letters. Preferably one with examples and step by step instructions. (I showed pictures of two books I recommend in a previous conference tip post.)
- Fiction writers should have books on POV, character development, plot structure, and other techniques for writing fiction. You may have a favorite author who has published this sort of book.
- Non-fiction writers should have at least one book on the nuts and bolts of putting together a well-written book.
- A book about self-editing and rewriting.
- Marketing book that covers lots of different avenues for selling your work. This area is in constant flux and not everything works for everybody. You might decide on more than one if they come at marketing from different angles.
- If you write poetry, screen plays, greeting cards or are looking for help on your speaker’s platform then add a book on those subjects to your list.
- Fiction writes should buy at least one novel. Studying the style of another writer always helps improve your own. I never buy only one. (grin)
- Non-fiction writers should also buy at least one book for the same reason. Choose a book in a similar topic to the one you are pitching -devotional, Bible Study, parenting for example.
- A book on how to research.
- Pick up a magazine or two either on craft or ones you would like to submit to in the future to study the content.
Let me mention to fill your tote with anything offered free. Usually its publisher’s catalogs and writing guidelines, bookmarks and backlog magazines. Take one of each and sort through it later. Sometimes it is autographed copies of books.
Don’t feel obligated to buy a book because the author is standing there when you look through it. Same goes for CDS. Enjoy the sale table and keep your notebook handy to create your buy later list.
What do you like to buy at writer’s conferences?
Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog by signing up on the right.