Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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September 21, 2020

5 Reasons to Review Old Conference Notes

by Julie Glover

I'm cleaning my office.

Not that straightening up, mild decluttering we all do from time to time, but that deep dive of purging papers and files we don't need anymore, sorting through office supplies and tossing bad pens, and asking will I ever read that book on my shelf?

As part of Office Cleanse 2020, I discovered a fair amount of story ideas and conference notes written on various pads of paper. I decided to save space, type them up, and keep only the digital versions. And oh, the epiphanies I've had!

Do you have your own pile of conference or workshop notes? Typed or written? Stashed away? It's time to bring them out. Revisit them. Here are five reasons why you should!

1. You don't remember what was said.

Usually, I returned home from the conference, my head filled with information, my heart swelled from seeing and meeting friends, my body exhausted from travel and/or extra stimulation. Sometimes I typed up my notes, other times I didn't. Regardless, a few key points stuck out and got applied to my writing, and the rest got tucked into the back of my mind and a folder in my office. You may have done something similar.

But we spent money and time getting that information. We picked and chose which workshops we attended and received tailored information that could be useful—if only we remembered it.

Take a look back and jog your memory. Let your notes inform and inspire you once again.

2. You have different takeaways.

Much like a book that you read more than once, you take away something a little different when you revisit your old notes.

As I perused my papers, I was struck by points I didn't remember having an impact before. Perhaps I was so caught up in a presenter's Point #4 that I didn't give Point #6 a lot of thought. Or I read the notes then with an emphasis on different words or meanings.

Regardless, this time, I discovered takeaways I hadn't seen before that I can apply to my writing and to my career.

3. You see how far you've come.

One of the struggles of being a creative is always feeling like there's a finish line you've yet to reach. Whatever you achieve, you see a new goal ahead.

In the beginning, you just want to finish that first book. Then you want to place in a contest, get an agent, land a contract, or self-publish the book. Pretty soon, it's the next book, the marketing campaign, film rights, foreign rights, what-have-you. We feel pressured to do The Next Thing, if not from our own selves then from our readers—a nice problem to have, but still a challenge.

It's important to breathe now and then, look back, and feel good about the progress you've made. As I perused my conference notes, it became clearer how far I've actually come. I instinctively use a lot of the writing craft advice.

Feel good about what you have used already and how far you've come.

Image by difisher from Pixabay

4. You made useful notes to yourself.

In one of the conference classes I attended, the speaker had us do a writing exercise to apply what we were learning. My paragraph was meh overall, but it had one fantastic phrase. I scooped that baby up and dropped it into my current work in progress!

But that hasn't been my only find: I've discovered character notes, story ideas, and resources I wanted to check out.

You may have jotted down ideas to yourself that you didn't do enough or anything with. Sift through your notes, and you may find nuggets of writing gold.

5. What didn't apply then applies now.

Some of the advice you soaked up wasn't applicable to you at that time, but now it's what you need. A fair amount of the marketing advice fell into that category for me. I hadn't self-published yet, but now I have.

Not every conference note stood the test of time—for example, Amazon algorithms change—but a surprising amount still holds up. Good writing and good business practices have some core themes that remain the same.

Cull your conferences notes for viewpoints, ideas, and data that works for where you are now in your writing journey and the direction you're moving. ake what you already learned and re-purpose it to today by going through your old conference and workshop notes. You'll never know what treasures you could find until you seek them out.

Have you attended writing conferences or workshops that stood out? Have you done an office cleanse like mine and found a goldmine you'd forgotten about? Please share the wealth down in the comments section!

* * * * * *

About Julie

Julie Glover is an award-winning author of mysteries and young adult fiction. She also writes supernatural suspense under the pen name Jules Lynn. Her most recent release is Curse of the Night, book four in the Muse Island series.

When not writing, she collects boots, practices rampant sarcasm, and advocates for good grammar and the addition of the interrobang as a much-needed punctuation mark.

Julie is represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency.

Top Image by Pexels from Pixabay.

24 comments on “5 Reasons to Review Old Conference Notes”

  1. Thank you for such sage advice! I have so many folders of old conference notes that I never open 🙂 A related project that I keep telling myself to make time for, but haven't, is to pull out all those conference notes by topic and re-organize everything into another set of files labeled by topic: e.g. ways to build tension, using back story effectively, and so on. Otherwise, if one never uses the notes, why take them?

  2. You are so right, Julie. I know Fae Rowen does this, too. I also have a digital file of great articles that inspired me, or taught me something new. Going through those digital files always spark ideas.

    1. Digital is the only way I find any damn thing. My fingertips have this weird opposing charge to paperwork. Swear...if paperwork is in my hand, it is very very likely to get lost.

  3. I have been harshly critical of my filing cabinets and drawers of notebooks, typed pages collected for years and have come close during lockdown, to removing them forever - but though many pages have been recycled, there are pearls of worthy writings that are now being used to add tasty lines to my stories. And now you have confirmed this is invaluable! I won't give up. Thanks.

  4. I keep a file of past conferences and am so happy that I do. Looking over the pages sparks new ideas.

    I met an agent at a conference and because of that I was able to query her even if she weren't officially accepting queries. My manuscript wasn't ready to send for over a year! Thank goodness I still had my notes.

      1. Alas, that was not to be for me. However, the connection is always great and she did send me the most glowing, love your writing but don't have anything for you right now--wish we could work together, email. Something will work out. Timing is a big deal, too.

  5. I had already been disabled for almost ten years when I found my first and only writing partner online, we hit it off, and went to Bouchercon in 1998, the only conference I've ever been at. Because it was in Philadelphia, driving distance for us even though we had to be home on the Friday to get the kids off the school bus.

    All kinds of interesting stuff, exhaustion, and a bunch of free books - and the tote bag the entry fee included - are mostly what I remember. And being at a panel where Stephen J. Cannell talked in a relaxed and open way about his long history in TV.

    I still have the tote bag and the writing partner (though we don't write together any more). And the sense of energy. I have no clue where any notes might be, but I wouldn't be surprised to find them in the 1998 notebook. Should go look.

      1. Thanks for the links; the one to his videos on his site doesn't work - I guess no one is paying for the site any more? The youtube one worked. I'll listen to it later - he was a cool guy and generous with his advice, and, as I remember, he seemed HAPPY.

      1. 1998! That's a lot of years ago. Nothing since.

        Maybe they'll have some virtual ones some day, but the socializing wouldn't be there, and the panels, while interesting, are more for beginners.

        Plus, I don't write mysteries or thrillers or suspense right now.

  6. I have files and files of past conference notes I sift through on occasion. Total gold mines, as you said. My biggest problem is reading my own handwriting! I scribble furiously, trying to get down every nugget of information that rings a bell in my head. My days of charting in the hospital start coming back to me and I end up writing like a doctor. It makes things very hard to translate, but on the plus side I can read just about any prescription my doc has ever written.

    1. I used to work for attorneys, and they have awful handwriting too. Learned a lot deciphering that code! Glad you've found gold as well in them-thar notes.

  7. Cool post! As a longtime Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America member, I accumulated literally thousands of pages of meeting and conference workshop handouts, notes on all manner of notepads and notebooks, lessons and tapes and craft books. Just before I moved 4 years ago I went through all of them and culled them down to a storage bin labelled "Best Workshops." Took me a year to do that because I went down a rabbit hole with each handout. I bet if I went through that bin today, I'd be looking at all that info with fresh eyes and glean more nuggets. Now where did I put that darn bin?

  8. I started putting my conference notes/business book takeaways/plot outlines etc on evernotes. it has worked really well for me when I want to refresh.

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