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The Write Life: Prepping October

October is always a busy month for me because it’s all about the NaNoWriMo Prep. As a Municipal Liaison for my local region, I spend less time prepping myself and my project, and more time prepping events and social media posts and coordinating with local writing groups. One of the biggest events I handle in October is the NaNOrlando Writers Conference.

This is the third year I’ve put on this conference with the help of the Orange County Library System and generous writers who have willingly let me bully them into donating their time and experience to teach wrimos about quick drafting, preparing their characters and world, and using conflict and inspiration to fuel their novel throughout the month. (I’m mostly kidding about the bullying. If you ask a writer to talk about writing, it’s harder to get them to stop talking.)

Since this year was a virtual event, I reached beyond our usual stable of local writers and drew in my friend Karen Osborne (whose awesome science fiction novel debuted in August) and Pitch Wars mentors Sofiya Pasternack and Emily Colin. I loved getting to have a few new ideas about writing conflict and approaching world building, and Emily tackled a topic on inspiration that has been on my wish list for a while. Joining our distanced instructors were Jenny Broom (Developing Your Main Character), Elle E. Ire & José Iriarte (Finishing Your First Draft), and Jennie Jarvis (Basic Plot Structures). With these six workshops we covered pretty much every basic element of storytelling and every trick to help writers get through a 50,000-word draft of a novel in a month.

I took a lot of notes throughout the conference, tweeting some of the best quotes and advice to our NaNOrlando Twitter account (some of which also appeared on our Facebook and Instagram), but I figure the best way for me to talk about the conference is to leave you with some of my favorite quotes. So, here’s what I learned or was reminded of during the 2020 NaNOrlando Writers Conference:

  • Considering why was a recurring theme in developing worlds and characters.
    Sofiya suggested that every time we answer a question about the world, ask
    why to learn more about the underlying structure of the world.
    Jenny also reminded us that the
    why of a character’s choices says a lot about the character.

  • Karen compared story conflict to a three-lane highway, with the story-car weaving in and out of these lanes to switch between conflict with the self, conflict with others, and conflict with the environment. Considering that I always think of story threads as braiding, this description really appealed to me.

  • I’ve heard José and Elle talk about writer XP in other presentations, but I always love this quote from them, “You don’t get those points until you finish writing the book.” I think about this every time I leave a story half-finished, or when an outline stops without an ending. I have to keep going if I want to level up!

  • Emily reminded us to revisit what first excited us about our projects when we feel blocked or bored. José also noted that when he feels blocked, it means his subconscious knows what he planned doesn’t make sense. Both thoughts made me feel better about going back to planning in the middle of drafting—sometimes you have to go backward to go forward.
“Aristotle believed that the whole reason we engage in stories to begin with is because we’re able to experience something vicariously that we can’t experience in our own life.” — Jennie Jarvis
“We write to get into a story, so even if you don’t use it, it helped you get into the story.” — Jenny Broom
“Nano is a hot mess while it’s happening, but you get words on the page and you can turn it into awesome stuff.” — Sofiya Pasternack
“The things that make you feel bad about sitting down to write are the killers. Forgive yourself for what you did not do yesterday. Every day is a clean slate.” — José Iriarte

 

 

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The Write Life: Reconvening May

One of the worst parts of quarantine for me is giving up going to conventions. I love conventions. I love being around people excited about stuff, geeking out with professional geeks, and seeing people display their obsessions in all manner of creative ways. But the convention community is creative, perseverant, and bold as all hell, so it shouldn’t have surprised me to see conventions not only move online but do so in a way that made me feel like I was actually at a con!

In mid-May I attended Flights of Foundry, a streaming conference for sci-fi and fantasy writers. The conference was genuinely amazing, packed with great content—much more than I would have expected for a free conference—and spanning enough hours I was rooted to my computer for more or less 12 hours a day. Was I fatigued by the end? Certainly, but in the good way.

The thing that impressed me the most about Flights of Foundry was how they recreated an in-person experience with virtual tools. The conference operated through several different panel “room” streams, which stayed open between panels. The schedule directed attendees and panelists to the different streams, the same way you might shuffle between panel rooms in a hotel. The rooms didn’t disappear when the panel was over, and if you wanted to just stay in one stream/room, another panel would start in a moment. That aspect alone was enough to make me feel more like I was visiting a conference room than a video stream.

To facilitate the conference atmosphere, Flights of Foundry had a corresponding Discord server. Each panel stream had a Discord channel where you could “attend” with everyone else. This allowed for discussion between and during panels. It allowed the audience to have secondary conversations, questions, and sharing outside of what would have been possible in the in-person format. (I pulled so many book and article recommendations from the Discord.) It was a little like the experiences I’ve had live-tweeting panels, except everyone responding to commentary had the relevant context without me having to also tweet the context.

Outside of the panel room channels, the Discord offered additional places to chat and meet people with similar interests (editor-chat, comics-creator-chat, writer-chat, for example). I didn’t play in the non-panel channels during the convention, but some of them have stayed active, even a couple weeks later.

Suffice it to say, I was extremely happy attending Flights of Foundry as a virtual conference, and if this is any indication of what the convention season might be like for the remainder of 2020, I’m not worried. I’ll miss seeing my friends’ faces in person, but many of the other aspects of conventions can be reproduced virtually, and I’m excited to continue visiting more conferences than I would in a normal year. (Travel is so much easier when I just have to walk from my bedroom to my office.)

 

 

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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: 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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