Conferences are exciting. And overwhelming. When you look at the list of classes and offerings, it can be difficult to decide what you'd most like to attend at a given time.
First of all, unfortunately, unless you're a master of quantum physics, you can't be everywhere and you can't attend every class. But that's okay. Sometimes too much information is worse than not enough. You don't want to overwhelm you body and your brain. You want to get your money's worth.
Here's my suggestion: Be honest with yourself about where you are in your writing path. Then select your classes accordingly.
Here are some examples:
---Ms. Rookie is still working on drafting her first novel. She hopes to finish it sometime in 2010.
***Ms. Rookie should consider taking classes on character development, plot and editing.
---Mr. Hadsome Sucess is polishing his second novel. It's nearly finished and he wants to start querying next month. He's freelanced for several regional magazines and he wants to move into the fiction market.
***Hadsome should considersessions on query letters, synopses and social networking. He should also be sure to attend any panels or Slush Fest sessions that match his genre.
----Ms. Got An Idea loves to read and she has a great idea for a novel. She's scribbled some notes but hasn't actually written anything yet. She loves the idea of being a novelist but she's not sure where to start.
****Ms. Idea should likely take a mix of classes: some on craft and some on the business side of things. Since she's not sure this is the business for her, it might help to hear a little about the money-making side of things. She should be sure to attend the Chapter and Genre mixers. This would give her a chance to meet other writers, in her genre and geographical area.
We all want to be multi-published, sucessful writers, but you have to start somewhere. By being totally honest with yourself about what you need to be successful you can make better choices. It's okay to be in the first leg of the race. Don't put the cart before the horse and try to force yourself to write a query letter when you're not even finished with your book. In order to produce a good book, you have to complete each step. There are no shortcuts, so don't kid yourself.