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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: 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!

 

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.