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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: November 2019

November means National Novel Writing Month. Instead of talking about word counts or impressive sprints and slogs to writing 50,000 words, I want to share a little about the various activities I participated in during the month because even though I was sick and homebound for a week, it was still a lot.

Weekly Write-Ins
My writing group once again opened its doors to welcome NaNOrlando writers to join us for our weekly write-in. The Central Florida Inklings is currently at capacity, but we figure for one month out of the year we can uncomfortably cram a few extra laptops at a table or spread out to fully take over our usual Starbucks. Every year a few extra writers join us, and we love having them for the month—it’s good to meet new people.

Hogsmeade Write-In
Early in the month, I lead a write-in at one of my favorite places to write: the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Five other writers joined me behind The Three Broomsticks to write some truly magical words and reap some butterbeer-flavored rewards. It was a completely gorgeous (and mercifully cooler) day in which we each wrote about 2,000 words. One family incredulously asked us, “You pay to come into the parks to stare at your computers?” Sometimes the benefits of an annual pass (or Universal employment) are difficult to explain to others.

Write Around Disney World
Right in the center of the month was the pièce de résistance concerning the NaNOrlando events. On November 16, I and the other Orlando region MLs lead 40+ writers around Disney property on boats, buses, and monorails to resort lobbies and cafeterias to write as many words as we could on this traveling write-in. 

This event is my favorite every year because it’s so unusual, so fun, and so big.

Descending on and taking over the lobbies at the Polynesian and Grand Floridian makes me happy. I love threading between tourists and seeing so many writers on their laptops, focus firmly attached to their novels. It’s also a great opportunity to say hello to writers I only hang out with once a year and also to meet new friendly faces. This year we even had someone come down from Atlanta just for the event!

Brad Shreffler and I have been working together to build the NaNOrlando region for the last four years, and while Write Around Disney World is a tradition on its own, Brad and I have another tradition that we partook in this year: our annual picture writing at the kids table. When NaNoWriMo tells you that you can write anywhere, they mean it.

Even though I was sick for a week, out of town for a few days, and had relatives visiting, I still managed to get to ten write-ins. Which is more than I would have thought given that crammed schedule. But my commitment to attending write-ins during November is a testament to how much I believe writing with people increases my productivity and fulfills an important need in my writing life. Writing is all too often a solitary endeavor, and I believe it’s important to connect to a community and remember that through all the private, quiet struggles I might be having with my word count, revisions, or confidence, I’m not alone.

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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.

For full access to The Write Life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.