Just back from my 11th or 12th trip to the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. As always, it was a great time, seeing old friends, making new ones, renewing professional contacts, and even sitting in on a few learning sessions, too. Not to mention staying up way too late talking writing. One of my facebook posts drew a common question:
I'm always wondering if I should go to a con like this. I've written a couple of practice novels, but over the past several years have focused on short stories. I've written over 60 short stories and I'm getting tired of creating a new world for each one, so I've decided to start writing novels ... I like the look of the PPWC, but wonder if it'll be worth the expense.First off, PPWC is not a con like a science fiction convention where information is presented via panel discussions by a mix of authors and fans, alongside, gaming, art shows, masquerades and costuming and so forth. Writers' conference presentations are 90% workshops featuring skilled presenters who cover either craft topics - like creating richer characters, strengthening plots/scenes, making your prose more clear or more vivid - or writing business topics - like how to pitch your book, how to write good synopses or queries, how to create book trailers or how to use social media more effectively. Writers conferences are not focused on sf/fantasy, though they might include some specialized workshops like my Fantasy Fundamentals presentation last weekend. (But good plotting is good plotting, good characters are good...ad infinitum) Guest editors and agents will talk about what they are looking for submission-wise, and also what the market is doing. They will usually talk about flaws that make them pass on a submission, or how their particular publishing house or agency works with authors. Attendees get the opportunity to socialize with the guest authors, editors, and agents, and also sign up to read their opening pages for one of them or pitch their books to someone who might be interested. There is lots of informal networking as well. So there is a lot of bang for the additional bucks. Most writers conferences are focused on novel writing, but of course, the craft aspects can apply to all lengths of work, so it may or may not be right for you.
I love both sf/f/ conventions and writers' conferences (PPWC and the Colorado Gold Conference in Denver are particularly good ones) but they are very different events.