What do you do after a conference or a writers' retreat? Here's what happens to a lot of writers. You come home from a fantastic, energizing, motivational experience, ready to take on the big, bad world of publishing ,and your family still needs dinner, you still have to go to your day job, and your dog still has fleas. No, seriously, it is hard to keep that buzz going once you get home and back into your regular routine. Here are three things you should really try to do once you get home from a writers' conference. (I would say you MUST do them, but I really hate when articles or blogs tell me what I MUST do. Therefore, I am merely suggesting.)
1. Type up or organize your notes. Most likely, you listened to knowledgeable speakers at the writers' conference. You probably have a whole notebook full of notes. Don't let them go to waste. Some writers will type up their notes, print them out, file them, and save them on their computer. What I usually do is tear them out of my notebook, read over them to make sure they are legible, add any comments, and then file them under a name such as 2008 Missouri Writers' Guild Conference. I honestly do go back and look at notes from conferences, especially if I am going to send my work to one of the speakers. I read what he or she said before I send in my manuscript.
2. Follow up with contacts you made. One of the first things I do after cleaning out my conference bag is take all the business cards I got and write the name of the conference on the back. Then I put them in a business card binder. Then when I am looking for a contact, I will not forget where I met this person, and I will not lose his card.
I also email people I met and talked with for a long period of time. For example, at the retreat I went to in June (which you can read about in the July Issue of WOW! coming soon), I was in a critique group with two other attendees. We all three emailed each other once we got home, just to thank each other for critiquing our manuscripts and supporting us throughout the weekend.
I will also send a manuscript to the agent and editor who were at the June retreat. I received special stickers to avoid the slush pile, and I will make sure to use this rare opportunity to hopefully get closer to my writing goals. If you met some editors or agents at a conference who were open to submissions or interested in your work, make sure you send your manuscripts to them. Don't let these opportunities go to waste. Other writers will not.
3. Revise a manuscript, write a query letter, or write something new based on what you learned. You probably just spent hundreds of dollars to go to a conference, and hopefully you learned something new about your craft. Use this new knowledge to improve your writing. If you attended a session on Japanese poetry, then try writing a Japanese poem. I wrote a new picture book manuscript based on what I learned at the retreat, and I plan to revise the first chapter of my YA novel. One of the best reasons to go to a writers' conference or retreat is to improve your craft. So, do it!
I hope these three pieces of suggested advice will help you to avoid the "After Conference Let Down." If you have any more, please share with us!