The Write Life: October 2019

October is NaNo-prep for many people. The last few years I’ve been working on the same novel, so prep usually consisted of me spending the month re-reading what I’d already written, taking notes on what was missing, and tweaking the outline. But this year that novel gets a break and I’m using NaNoWriMo for a major rebellion.

The main project I’m working on is drafting three to four sample chapters of a nonfiction book on writing communities. The outline was mostly complete before October, but I spent a little time cleaning up and refining the outline and confirming exactly which chapters I wanted to write during November. (I’m actually really excited about five chapters, so I might draft all five just to get them out of my head.)

A handful of chapters won’t get me to the NaNoWriMo 50K (also I’m in a challenge to write at least 100 words of SFF every day this year), so I needed to figure out what else I could write during the month to hit that final word count.

I’ve been playing with short stories on and off this year, and decided at least one thing I could do was put ends to some of the beginnings I have. I went through my collection of WIPs and picked which ones I wanted to work on during the month. I jotted some thoughts about where these stories were going and how many words it would take to get me there. In the end, I picked seven short stories, which should net me around 20,000 words.

(I also picked a handful of prompts from The Short Story Starter so if I feel inspired to start something new, I have a place to start from.)

Lastly, I have a blog project I’ve been wanting to draft in one fell swoop, which should be somewhere around 10,000 words. If I’m short on the 50K word count, or if I stall out on one of these projects, I’ll start writing character sketches and scenes to help me understand the world and characters of the next novel I’m planning to write. Will this material make it to a novel? No way! Except in the iceberg sense of novel writing, wherein I know 90% more than what I’m showing the reader, but it’s work I need to do in order to understand the characters and how they interact in their world. (Also it’s words for NaNoWriMo!)

So that’s my NaNo Plan-o. A little more complicated than in previous years, but extremely flexible in terms of what I’ll be working on day to day and how I’m actually breaking down my 50K words.

Are you writing for NaNoWriMo? What are you writing?

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The Write Life: September 2019

You might think The Write Life is up a little later this month because of the absolute insanity that was my life in September (revisions, editing projects, falls, and escaped cats, oh my!), but it was really so I could wait and post about the NaNOrlando Writers Conference.

In 2017, I hoofed it to the Orlando Public Library each week for a weekly NaNoWriMo prep session. The sessions were great, the participants beautiful, but the turnout was relatively low and the time and stress on me was intense. And then I thought, there must be a better way.

Last year I reimagined our weekly workshop series into a half-day writing conference. This year we grew that conference to include twelve local authors, editors, and professors to prepare writers for National Novel Writing Month. Our panels included strategies for finishing a first draft, developing characters and their arcs, basic plot structures, worldbuilding and more. We offered nine workshops in total, spread across three meeting rooms, and afterwards offered one-on-one sessions for about twenty writers.

Aside from making sure everything ran smoothly, I was responsible for speaking at NaNoWriMo 101 as one of the region’s three Municipal Liaisons, and moderating the panel Rebels: Not Writing a Novel, for anyone, y’know, not writing a novel for NaNo. (Which this year I am not writing a novel—ask me about my other projects!)

We had sixty-three NaNOrlando writers come out to participate, asking great questions and confidently sharing their story ideas and problems. NaNaWriMo is a huge undertaking, and even the Orlando region is pretty large, so I love getting to connect more personally to local authors, help them through a problem, and generally support them in completing their novel. Having such a great turnout for this event makes me feel particularly good about the time I spend investing in my writing community. ❤️

I want to take a moment to publicly thank all the instructors and OCLS staff who helped make the NaNOrlando Writing Conference happen—

Sarah Fisk from OCLS
Racquel Henry, L.E. Perez, and Arielle Haughee from Writer’s Atelier
Elle E. Ire & José Iriarte
Ella Martin
Jenny Broom
Catherine Carson
Jennie Jarvis
And of course my co-MLs, Brad Shreffler and Nicole Dennis

Many thanks to Aly for letting me use one of her photos after I completely forgot to take any.

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The Write Life: August 2019

Yep, you guessed it: it’s the annual post about DragonCon.

As always, DragonCon is a magical place in which time doesn’t flow correctly. It is both so long and way too short, wherein on Friday you’re thinking about how much time you have to do everything and on Monday you’re begging for one more day of con. (Even when I’m ready to go home on Monday, I’m still half-slumped in my chair, ready to go to the next panel.) On the way home I was basically two hours out of synch and was very confused when the sun set at what felt like 6pm.

This confusion of time fits perfectly with the fact that my theme this year was clearly time travel since I was on three different panels dealing with time travel.

Let’s move on to some highlights:

  • I was on two separate panels in which time travel was the main topic. With the Alternate & Historical Fiction Track we discussed time travel in general, hitting favorite time travel stories in TV, movies, and books (and not-so favorite stories as well). Since this was an open-ended discussion, it meant I still got to talk about Stargate: SG-1 which is always a plus.
  • Over on the Military Sci-Fi Media track, in the panel “How Do YOU Time Travel?” we focused more on the mechanics and science of time travel since I was on a panel with two PhD astrophysicists!

    Let’s pause on that for a moment. Here was the panelist line up for that panel:

    PhD astrophysicist
    PhD astrophysicist
    me, MFA Fiction

    Both astrophysicists were fantastic about explaining complicated real and theoretical physics in succinct and understandable ways, which kept the conversation from getting bogged down. I was able to interject on story-related motivations for time travel and got to explain why I prefer the Many Worlds theory of the multiverse as it relates to story consequences and angst.

  • American Sci-Fi & Fantasy Media invited me to a fan panel about The Umbrella Academy, in which, yeah, I also got to talk about time travel. I wound up being the only panelist who was introduced to the comic before the series and provided a lot of insight about the source material. (Many thanks to those in the audience who assisted with remembering single panels that contained relevant details!) The discussion was one of the best fan panels I attended all weekend, and I appreciate how much enthusiasm everyone brought to talk about this family of misfits.

  • I spent Saturday night camped out in the Alternate & Historical Fiction Track learning about the history of séances and phony psychics, pirates, and women in history. I have a long list of books to add to the TBR pile and a renewed itch to work on Gay Airship Pirates. Nothing is more inspirational than listening to how other authors worked through the same problems that are plaguing me.
  • On a personal note, I had completely forgotten that David Blue (Eli Wallace from Stargate Universe) was from FL and attended the University of Central Florida. This resulted in both of us dredging our memories to try to figure out how he recognized my face. No definitive conclusions, but our selfie game is A+.

Many thanks to Lisa for being a photographer while I was on panels.

 

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The Write Life: July 2019

This month was all about workshops—workshops I attended and workshops I presented.

My first stop was the Orange County Library to learn about world building from Arielle Haughee. Her approach to world building starts with creating maps, ranging from the broad to the more specific aspects of the world. I tend to make maps late in my drafting process—you know, after I’ve written the location of the main character’s house and then written something else that completely contradicts that. With Arielle’s process, I could have those details knocked out in advance and have some potential ideas for conflicts and obstacles presented by the distribution of resources in the world and difficulty of the terrain and transportation. Basically, her presentation knocked my planning socks off, and has encouraged me to go play with the mapmaking app I found a few months ago.

The next stop in my writerly education was the Central Florida Inklings where I hosted Saritza Hernandez, Senior Literary Agent at Corvisiero Literary Agency. Saritza talked to my writing group about preparing your manuscript for submission to a literary agent or publisher and shared tips for writing a query letter and synopsis. Saritza broke down the need for a literary agent (even for self-published authors) and clearly described what will encourage an agent to keep reading your submission. She also talked about ways to research the market, giving me a few additional ideas to work into my process.

My last workshop of the month was back at the Orange County Library, but this time I was presenting. I shared my love of steampunk, breaking down the essential elements of the genre and helping other writers figure out what makes a story steampunk. (Hint: it’s more than just cogs and corsets, gears and goggles.) I covered 19th century aesthetics, technology, and social issues, as well as character and story tropes specific to steampunk. This and other presentations will be available by the end of the year on Patreon for patrons pledging $7 or more.

In news of other presentations, I’m working on finalizing my schedule for DragonCon where I’ll be on four or five panels across two or three tracks. Right now I’m confirming there are no conflicts across the track schedules, but you can guarantee I’ll be talking about time travel that weekend—maybe more than once!

 

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The Write Life: June 2019

Summer is convention season, which means that just a couple weeks after the OCLS Book Festival, I was driving over to Maitland for a weekend at OASIS, the Orlando Area Science Fiction Society’s annual convention. They were celebrating OASIS 30, but this was my first time in attendance. It’s kind of amazing what can be growing under your nose if you just haven’t looked around to find it.

While OASIS isn’t strictly a writer convention, its focus is on sci-fi and fantasy books, so there were a lot of authors to talk to and plenty of panel discussions geared toward writing. (And some that were geared more toward science, which were fantastic for inspiration and research.)

One of my favorite panels of the weekend was Brainstorming the Science in Your Science Fiction. A panel of experts in several scientific fields—everything from biologists to rocket scientists—were available to answer writers’ questions about their fictional science. I’ve been struggling with some details about what a character is doing outside of her spaceship when disaster strikes, and they had some fantastic suggestions for various things she could be fixing (and what would put the ship in the most peril).

I also had several great one-on-one conversations with authors about how they run their Patreon campaigns, experiences they’ve had in both traditional and self-publishing, and I received an actionable suggestion for how I might condense my ideas for short fiction and actually write a short story! Overall, it was a very useful convention and I’m so glad that I finally stumbled across their group.

(And thanks to the gentleman who asked before putting bunny ears on KL. Classic joke performed with class.)

 

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The Write Life: May 2019

In the middle of the month, I took a one-day vacation to the OCLS Book Festival. I’m calling this a vacation because even though I absolutely wrote that day, and even though I was taking notes in the pursuit of my writing career, the event, schedule, and whole day was a wonderful pause on my go-go-go anxiety and I was instead able to go-go-go with the flow and ended up listening to some wonderful speakers and renewing my motivation to write. 

The keynote speakers were Daniel José Older and Delilah Dawson, both authors who I’m only tangentially aware of (because they’ve written Star Wars books, ahem). Both keynotes were exceptional (Daniel’s was an especially fantastic way to kick off the day) and both left me jazzed to write. I left the Book Festival feeling recharged, more motivated, and more confident in my ability to do the work. Refilling my motivational and creative wells was exactly the kind of vacation I needed to get myself back to the novel planning I had put aside the week before.

Following the Book Festival, my friend and I decided to stay out longer to write and then get dinner. The continued flow of the day, the easy decisions and laid back attitude reminded me of what writing is like when everything is flowing smoothly. When I’m not worried about where the story will end, how polished it will look, or what I’m going to do when the story is done, everything has room to breathe. It’s a pretty different state of being from my normal setting, so the escape was welcome and, honestly, necessary. Living with anxiety as a writer and freelancer is a pretty harrowing thing (my disorder does not mix well with the uncertain, unstable life I’ve chosen), so having these moments of peace bolstering my career is essential to keeping myself moving forward.

 

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The Write Life: April 2019

Ever wonder what it takes to be an every day writer? It’s this: planning, determination, and prioritizing writing.

My friends and I decided it was high time we visit the Magic Kingdom for an epic 12-hour theme park day. I write every day and while I want to prioritize having fun with my friends and enjoying the happiest place on Earth, I don’t want to do that at the expense of my 1,200-day writing streak.

I came to Disney prepared to make sure I got my words in while having a rollicking good time. That meant: fully charging my battery, fully charging my back up battery, shifting an in-progress story to GoogleDocs and making it available offline, and brainstorming what happens in the scene I was planning to write.

Finding the time to write while we were in the park was a balance between knowing we’d have long wait times for ride queues and not being rude to my friends. I waited until the conversation lulled, or when everyone else seemed equally distracted (or exhausted) before pulling out my phone to write. Because I had thought about the scene beforehand, it was easier to turn a handful of disjointed minutes into productive writing time. In the end I wrote 387 words while at Disney, which is not a staggering amount—I didn’t even finish writing the scene—but my writing streak is in tact and I like some of the ideas that presented themselves in that land of distraction. (Also I will always think it’s funny to write on theme park rides.)

Many thanks to Lara Eckener for being my in-line and on-ride photographer.

 

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The Write Life: March 2019

In mid-March my friend ran a mini-workshop on branding for myself and two other author friends. In addition to getting away for the weekend and spending entirely too much time browsing through the rooms and rooms of used books at Chamblin Bookmine, we discussed who we each are as authors, helped refine brand statements, and created vision boards to help guide our individual progress. (Spider-Man and Into the Spider-Verse sneaked into my vision board when I realized my cog looked more like a spider-logo—still on brand.)

Talking about who I am as a writer and trying to find a statement to encapsulate both writing about alternate history and writing about the future, as well as writing about robots and gender disparity and all the other bits and bobs of odd sci-fi that surfaces in my thoughts was a bit of a challenge. I had to strip down who I write about and focus on that more than on what I write. It was also a great experience to analyze why the things I write about are important to me. (I mean, I knew already, but being forced to articulate it in a non-glib way was a helpful step in taking myself seriously.)

Even though “branding” can be a scary business word that seems like you’re selling yourself as a product, it’s actually more about figuring out how to articulate what you do as an artist in a bite-sized way. That bite-size isn’t just helpful for selling yourself or your art. It’s also helpful for guiding your creativity and making choices about which opportunities to pursue and how to develop projects. It’s a way to capture who you are as an artist at this point in your career, and I think that’s the thing that I found the most helpful about the weekend.

In the end, I realized I write about various forms of agency. Whether that’s women reclaiming agency in alternate history worlds or robots shucking their programming or proving they are more than their overlords believe them to be, my stories directly deal with characters reclaiming agency and learning to be more human than they ever believed. Since articulating that, it’s been easier for me to write and to capture the story I’m trying to tell. If you’re struggling with your fiction, I apparently recommend working on your brand!

 

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The Write Life: February 2019

This month was the highly anticipated release of the Netflix adaptation of The Umbrella Academy. This weird little comic by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá has been living in my heart since 2007, and I was terrified and excited to see it come to the small screen.

The Umbrella Academy comicsNetflix has done all right by the Marvel superheroes, but The Umbrella Academy is a different sort of beast, with way more emphasis on the emotional dysfunction of superheroes than on the superheroic fights. (Like, even more so than the current age, which thrives off superhero dysfunction.)

All my expectations were exceeded and my fears assuaged because this is a beautiful adaptation of the source material. And it is truly and wonderfully an adaptation, not a reproduction (which would have been kind of a nightmare). It’s different from the original, borrowing from both the “Apocalypse Suite” and “Dallas” storylines and combining them into something that is both familiar and different. It has the right vibe, is both tragic and comedic (as all good superhero things should be), and it has these recognizably broken and beautiful characters at its core. (Also, it gave me more Ben Hargreeves, which is something I have been wanting for OVER. TEN. YEARS.)

Watching this series over the course of a few days while also putting the final revisions into my highly linear and much less dysfunctional novel reminded me of how much I love nonlinear storytelling about broken characters. (Not enough to change my novel again—it’s been changed enough!) I’ve been noodling over a sci-fi short set in space, not sure how to attack it, and I think the problem I’ve had every time is I keep trying to treat it like a linear narrative and I don’t think it is. The characters are messier and the dramatic motivation is murkier and I think I need to channel a little of what I love about The Umbrella Academy into writing it.

Here’s to the things we love and how they inspire us.

 

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The Write Life: January 2019

While I was addressing comments on my steampunk novel, Lara Eckener was kind enough to share Victorian drop candy with me! Drop candy is made by rolling heated sugar between brass molds. As it is pressed between the molds, the sugar cools and hardens. To release the candy pieces, the rolled film is dropped, breaking the thinner film away from the candy, thus making it “drop” candy.

The candy itself is from a confectionary in Tallahassee called Lofty Pursuits. They have a magnificent YouTube channel showing their Victorian rollers in action and other videos of their hand-made candy.

The picture here is the drop candy composed around a section of the novel in which the main character watches automated robotic arms roll out and drop nectar candy. (Lofty Pursuits was absolutely the inspiration for adding this world-building moment.)

 

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