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
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.