So you want to be a writer? Get thee to a convention!
Conventions are fantastic networking and educational opportunities, and they cost a fraction of what many writing conferences charge.
Most conventions have some kind of writing track where you can hear published writers talk about writing and ask them questions. This is a golden opportunity to learn about the craft from people who are already doing it successfully.
Writing track panels also often include panels on creating characters, writing a good plot, building dialog, etc. There are panels with agents and editors sharing tips on how to find an agent or submit a manuscript. And if you’re lucky, there’s Alan Wold’s wonderful two-day writing workshop. There are also panels on promoting your books, publishing e-books, self-publishing and other aspects of the writing life.
Cons are also a great way to meet authors and get to ask your own questions. Make it low-key, and don’t be a stalker, but you’ll find that many writers are very approachable at cons because they go to connect with people. Use common courtesy, but don’t be afraid to approach someone and ask a question (try to make it a reasonably quick one). You’ll do best if you’ve obviously done some homework ahead of time, so don’t ask obvious questions like “how do I find an agent?” (Writers Digest Books have whole books on the topic—read these first and ask a more advanced question.) Don’t ask a writer to read your manuscript (he or she really doesn’t have time), but it’s OK to ask short technical questions. Many genuine and long-lasting fan/writer friendships have begun with a conversation at a con!