Diamond shaped yellow sign with four-way screws at the top and bottom. The sign reads Work In Progress Writers' Conference in black with a black feather pen under the words.

6 Reasons Why You Should Attend Conferences

No matter what you are interested in writing, chances are there is a writing or book conference that covers it. Attending an event like this can be one of the most exciting, invigorating experiences for writers of all levels. New and experienced writers both benefit. Here are six reasons why you should attend conferences.

  1. Community – I can’t stress this enough, writers need a community of other writers even if it is just for a day, weekend, week, or whatever. Being around other writers who know and understand the creative process is a must. The common goal to learn and explore can inspire new works.
  2. Variety – Conferences come in all shapes and sizes. Some focus on specific genres or types of writing; others have a mix of everything from craft to the business side of being a writer. Some conferences may offer workshops or panel discussions or a blend of both. Conferences that provide a wide variety of topics also has a wide range of speakers. The people presenting or sitting on panels may be other writers like you, or they could be agents, publishers, editors, or designers.
  3. Exploration – With the variety, comes an excellent opportunity to explore. When you attend a conference, you should attend at least one session that is on a format, genre, or method you usually don’t write. For example, I write genre fiction. Over the years, I’ve attended poetry workshops and panels on writing biographies. I’m not a poet, and I can’t imagine taking on a research-intensive project like a biography. However, I was able to pull pieces from each that improved my writing.
  4. Discovery – The conference will most likely have authors on the schedule to speak or present that are unfamiliar to you. Do a little research on the author beforehand and pick a couple to see. It’s a great way to learn what worked for them and what didn’t. Try those things, both what worked and what didn’t, in your writing to continue discovering your style.
  5. Availability – There’s a writing or book-related event going on every single week of the year. Ok, maybe not every single week, but there are a lot of them. Check your local library, independent bookstores, visitors bureau, colleges or universities, national or state parks, and more. There are several book festivals throughout the United States that feature writers talking about their books and writing process. Additionally, many states or regions have writing organizations that host conferences. National or state parks are often overlooked, but they will sometimes bring in authors as part of the entertainment for campers or are the site of various conferences.
  6. Camaraderie – Most conferences also include mixers or signings where you can engage with the people who presented or talked during the workshops, panels, and discussions. Conferences are a great way to network with other writers, publishers, editors, or others. The word of caution here:  Don’t pitch your work unless it is an actual pitch session. Your goal is to be authentic and have an open dialog with the presenters and panelists.

No matter where you are in your writing journey, attending a conference can be the inspiration you need. Spend time with other writers, readers, and book people to refill your creative well. Conferences are a great way to explore different aspects of writing and discover new authors. I only list six reasons why you should attend a conference, but there are so many more. Feel free to add your reason in the comments.

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Black background with white text in all caps saying I challenge you

9 Reasons Why You Should Try a Group Writing Challenge

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others:  read a lot and write a lot.” -Stephen King

Writing can be a lonely, hard thing to do. First, you have to find the time to write, and then you have to protect that writing time. Once you get a writing routine going, then questions start to come up that you need a tribe to help you answer. We’ve talked about writing groups as a way to add some accountability and support to your writing routine. Now, let’s take a look at another way you can find your people:  group writing challenges.

Here are nine reasons why you should try a group writing challenge:

  1. Built-in Community: A group writing challenge is full of people who have usually signed up and committed to a similar goal. This shared goal already puts you on a level playing field with like-minded teammates. Each person is striving to hit a word count, a page count, a specific number of new poems or story ideas or whatever. 
  2. Variety: There are as many group writing challenges as there are writers. Ok, maybe not that many, but there are a lot out there. Each one usually does a pretty good job of explaining the challenge parameters to let you pick what is going to work best for you.
  3. Duration: You can find group writing challenges that last a week, a month, a quarter, a year, or some other length of time to fit a theme. Experiment with what works best for you and your schedule. Challenges that happen over a short period are typically repeated a few times throughout the year. Weekly challenges may happen every week with different themes allowing you to participate when you want and sit out when the subject doesn’t inspire you.
  4. Accountability: Most challenges include a process for checking-in or giving updates on your work. These updates from the participants provide a way to cheer each other on to the finish line. Seeing others move steadily closer to the goal is a great motivator. Not to mention that needing to post your progress will help you stay on track.
  5. Freedom: The purpose of most group writing challenges is to write. Write quickly. Write without your inner editor making you stop to question where the commas go (or don’t go). You are free to write badly in the interest of getting the idea and words onto the page. Let your mind take over and write or type or talk the story onto the page. You can always go back later and edit.
  6. Customization: You’ve researched the various challenges out there and picked the one that best fits your needs. From that point, you may still need to tweak the assignment a little to make it fit your specific project. That’s perfectly fine. Go ahead, do it. Yes, there may be challenge rules or guidelines. There may be people participating who insist you have to do everything by the challenge rules or fail. Never mind all that. Do what makes sense for you and your process. Do it respectfully and don’t demand everyone else participating do what you are doing to bend the rules.
  7. Pajamas Encouraged: Most challenges are based entirely online. There may be chances for face-to-face meetings for people in the same area, but those are typically not required for participation. You can write in your pajamas or whatever makes you feel the most comfortable and creative.
  8. Budget-Friendly: Most challenges are free to join and participate. Of course, you sign up with your email address which means you are on their mailing list, but most have an opt-in/out option when you sign up. The freebie challenges may ask for donations or have merchandise that you can buy to help support things like websites and hosting, guest authors, or other costs involved in running the challenge. There are a few challenges with low-cost membership fees that may also give you access to other writing resources or services.
  9. Rewards: Yes, there may sometimes be prizes (especially in pay-to-participate challenges). For some of the larger group writing challenges, you can win prize money or discounts on writing software and books. Smaller groups may offer reward points or tokens that can be traded in for critiques or other writing services. All challenges award bragging rights and a feeling ofaccomplishment for hitting the goal!

Who’s ready to try a group writing challenge? You are welcome to use Google to find your own, but I’ve listed a few below that you may want to check out.

  1. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts in November
  2. Camp NaNoWriMo happens in April and July
  3. YeahWrite has new challenges each week (Looks like a paid membership is needed.)
  4. A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) starts four different times throughout the year (Not to be confused with Around the World in 80 Days.)

Thanks for reading!