One advantage we writers living in Britain have is the wide choice of writing conferences available within reasonably easy reach all over the country. Whatever your interest, be it poetry, nonfiction, script writing, the short story, the novel – even conferences dedicated to specific genres, there is something for everyone. There are informative seminars, creative workshops and an increasing number which offer one-to-one sessions with experts who can give specific advice and feedback. Some conferences even provide the chance for attendees to discuss their work with agents and publishers. Apart from the large conferences offering a selection of pick-and-mix activities, it’s possible for writers to spend a week working in a small group on their work in progress guided by an expert.
Over the years, I’ve been a regular at the Winchester Writers’ Conference, the Writers’ Holiday – both when it was held at Caerleon and at Fishguard – and attended many conferences all over the country. They have all been very different, but all valuable and well worthwhile. This year I decided to try the Writers’ Summer School at Swanwick held a couple of weeks ago. It was my first time but many of my friends had been there and recommended it. I chose it because, despite it being a long drive up to Derbyshire, it offered a course on Scrivener. I’d bought this software package designed specifically for writers and used it for the first draft of my latest novel Blood Flows South last November. I haven’t looked at it since and certainly hadn’t mastered its technical aspects.
The Swanwick Experience
Swanwick Writers’ Summer School proved an excellent choice. We writers are generally introverts by nature and it’s daunting venturing somewhere new where you are about to spend six days with a group of absolute strangers. I needn’t have worried. Everyone was very friendly and happy to chat.
Among the options for the specialist course was one on crime scene investigation. Although I don’t write police procedural novels, the opportunity to learn from a practising CSI and a former senior detective and police commander was not to be passed up. I’ve attended several such courses before but I can honestly say these two were the best. Not only were they informative they were fun.
The Unexpected Gem
As often happens at such events, everyone finds two workshops they’d dearly like to attend which are scheduled at the same time. All the more frustrating when you discover a slot where the options don’t appear to be relevant to your needs or interests. However, this may well prove to be far more valuable than you ever imagined. This happened to me. I was familiar with mind mapping but had dismissed it in the past as not for me, especially in the area of creating fiction. I fancied the other options available at that time even less so I went along to the session on mind mapping anyway. I spent a fascinating hour. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy it, I learnt a lot and will use the technique in the future. It pays to keep and open mind!
A Must for Writers
People choose to attend a writers’ conference for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps because of a specific course on offer, a favourite author is one of the speakers or the chance to meet agents or talk directly with publishers. Writing can be a very lonely business and the chance to spend four or five days in the company of like-minded people recharges the batteries, stimulates the enthusiasm and helps focus that creative spark. Without doubt, this is what keeps most writers coming back year after year. If you’ve never attended a writing conference, give it a whorl. You’ll make a host of new friends to help you on your writing path. You’ll never regret it!