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The Bane of Every Writer’s Existence: Procrastination

September 29, 2014

By CP Bialois

CP Author PhotoOkay, before I get started I admit I can be the ultimate procrastinator. There is nothing as fine-tuned as the ability to effectively put off till tomorrow what you can do today. At the same time, I hate it beyond description. It’s an evil, vile thing that’s on the same level as liars, cheats, and taxes. Yet, we all happily do it on a regular basis.

We all have our reasons for procrastinating. Others may do it to heighten their senses as a deadline closes in, or the thrill of the rush down the homestretch, many may even just hate doing anything. For me, it’s a simple matter of putting off what I don’t want to do.

I know it’s a trait I developed when it came time for me to mow the grass, shovel snow, or do anything besides play and make a mess as a kid. Making the mess was fun, cleaning it up wasn’t. Still isn’t, at least not to me.

As I grew older and stepped into the work force, I had no problem in switching that part of me off to do whatever job I was assigned. I figured I was being paid to do something and it was my job, so I did it. Nothing could be simpler to me. My mentality was something my coworkers and friends dubbed, “The Machine”.

Switching into Machine Mode was easy at work, but when it came to writing it proved an elusive beast. When it switches on everything in the world is great. I can edit about a hundred pages a day and write from sunup to sundown without a second thought. It’s a funny experience as nothing can piss me off when in that frame of mind. It’s when I’m out of it that I get cranky. Especially when I’m trying to switch it on.

Have you ever seen those old cars that had to be cranked to start? Or had a lawnmower that refused to fire up no matter how many times you pulled that damn cord? That’s exactly what it’s like getting into Machine Mode. There are days when it refuses to kick on no matter how much coffee, chocolate, or pleading I do. And it’s because of that, I’ve grown to hate procrastination.

As the years moved on, I grew to accept that I can’t switch on the machine mode in the house. So, to break free of procrastination and get into the groove I started going to the library to write and you know what? Once there I switch into Machine Mode without any effort. It’s a tremendous feeling which has led to another of one day wanting to live above a nice, small town, country library. I don’t know if that’ll ever happen, but at least I managed to find a way to break free of the procrastination cycle.

What tips or tricks do you have to get yourself motivated?

Get a young writer off to a good start

September 28, 2014

–by Kristen Stieffel

Attending a writers conference is one of the best things one can do to kick a writing career into gear. Many of us, I’m sure, only learned there was such a thing as a writers conference pretty late in life.

One of the best things we can do for our next generation of writers is introduce them to this wonderful resource early. Florida Writers Association’s Youth Writers Program offers a Youth Writers Conference in conjunction with the FWA conference next month.

On October 25, young writers from around the state will gather to learn, critique, and develop friendships. They’ll hear from bestselling YA superstar Trisha Leigh, bestselling romantic-suspense author Mary Burton, and literary agent Saritza Hernandez, among others.

The Youth Writers Program is designed for kids of middle school and high school age. If you know a young writer who qualifies, consider bringing them to the conference.

We’ve planned a full day of learning and networking, and we’ll also honor the winners of the Youth Royal Palm Literary Awards.

The conference will be held at the Orlando Marriot Lake Mary October 25, 8 a.m.–5 p.m., alongside the FWA conference. Registration for the youth conference is only $50 for members and $65 for nonmembers—an investment that will provide immeasurable returns for a young writer. The registration price includes a conference goodie bag, all conference materials, two refreshment breaks, and a full banquet lunch.

For more information, visit to register.

Kristen Stieffel 1 in wide

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. Kristen has edited a variety of projects, including business nonfiction and Bible studies, but she is a novelist at heart and has edited novels for both the general market and the Christian submarket. Kristen is a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers. Her fantasy novel Alara’s Call is under contract with OakTara, along with three additional books in the Prophet’s Chronicle series.

Conquer the Conference with Confidence

September 26, 2014

Conferences cost money, but are they worth it? A resounding yes from 2014 Florida Writers Conference Faculty Chairperson Jennie Jarvis, who discusses the upcoming Florida Writers Annual Conference in Orlando, October 23-26, 2014.

Jarvis, Jennie

Check out the podcast, “Conquer the Conference with Confidence,” on Words that Matter hosted by Eric Sheridan. Jennie lays it all out: what to expect, what networking really is, how the Florida Writers conference is different, insider tips, and more. Listen…

Exercise Wednesday: So…what are you wearing?

September 24, 2014

If you watch Mad Men, then read Tom and Lorenzo’s Mad Style blog, you can get an idea what clothes and color schemes can bring to the table in stressing underlying themes. Reading the posts, you can get a sense of how you can use clothing and color choices to support the themes and underscore plot points in your work.

But, as a writer, you can’t just give Christina Hendricks a black dress with roses on it to wear and let it make your point. You have to do the work.

Today’s exercise involves that work and it comes in two parts–you can do these parts in whatever order makes sense for you.

Part 1.

Think about your character and the situation he or she is facing. It can be any situation, good or bad. Consider their tastes and situation, and what’s going to happen in that scene. Is your character trying to seduce someone? Perhaps a red shirt would be appropriate?

Do they feel confined by a situation or a person? Maybe their clothes should be a little too tight and uncomfortable?

Are they out of sync with the people around them? Maybe they should be wearing a different color or different type of clothes.

Part 2.

Consider the situation you’re sending them into. How would they normally dress in that situation? Why might they dress differently this time around–for instance, if the clothes are too tight, why are they too tight?

Maybe your character yearns for the past, and that’s going to limit him or her? If so, maybe a slightly outdated style would be appropriate, or even–if your story can allow it–a t-shirt for an old television show or a replica jersey for a uniform style that got replaced.

Are they dressed appropriately? Underdressed? Overdressed? If so, what does that say about your character and about what’s happening around him or her?

Once you’ve considered those things, write the scene.

Time limit: Give yourself 25 minutes to consider the clothes and the situation, then another 25 minutes to write the scene

What’s in a Style?

September 22, 2014

By CP Bialois

CP Author PhotoHello everyone! This is something I’ve thought about a lot lately, and I finally decided it was time to put it on paper, er… I mean, cyberspace.

As a writer, I’m often asked what style do I use, and, to be honest, I answer with semi-formal. So far that answer has seemed to be the right one as no one has pushed further, but that’s when I did that very thing.

I’m a very complicated person in that I’m always thinking of the deeper meaning of something at any given moment. It’s also one of the reasons I give long-winded answers. Few things are simple to ma anymore and my writing style is a perfect example.

To better explain, let’s look at two of my favorite authors, Stephen King and Tom Clancy. Both are great storytellers, but when you look deeper at their works you’ll find their personalities. For both, their protagonists share their political leanings while the antagonists are usually those of the opposite ideology and are often shown to be evil or bumbling idiots that are easily used by the greater evil.

I know, I know, that’s nothing new. But it’s a start to something bigger, at least for me. How many of us look past the idea of writing a good story and actually realize how much of ourselves we put in there? I don’t mean in the characters, but in the structure of the story itself?

Believe it or not, it took me until I published The Last World to fully understand what I embedded in my stories. It was a topic I used to think about (And get into a great deal of arguments over) all the time. What is it?

Destiny versus Fate.

While the definitions of the two mirror one another, there is a difference. Fate is the belief a higher power controls our choices and actions to a predetermined end. Destiny is the events that necessarily have to happen to an individual or object in the future (Thank you Dictionary.com). I know, the differences are subtle, but that’s where my belief comes in. Hold on tight, this could get bumpy.

To me (And this is just my thought, so feel free to disagree), we are fated to be something like a scholar, scientist, evil mastermind, what have you. It’s the end result we really have no say over.

Destiny, is the sum of our choices to get to our fate. Think of it as going to the store. You have a handful of ways to get there, but you choose one over the others. Why? Is it easier, a longer trip to help you think or relax, or just the first thing you think of? Any way you choose will lead you to your goal or destination. To get there we have total control of what we do, including if we go there, hence my belief it’s more like our journey than a fixed path.

It’s a thought process I put into my stories, especially my Epic Fantasy series, The Sword and the Flame. My characters go through their lives, making their own choices, oblivious to the fact they’ve been chosen for something more. It’s a great way for me to create a mini conflict since, let’s face it, finding out you have no control of your life is a major kick to groin with a steel-tipped boot.

That idea is something I only recently became aware of when I had a debate between my characters over the topic. I seriously sat there and reread the exchange a hundred times. I couldn’t believe what my muse slipped in my writing and I was thrilled!

Since then, when I respond to the question, “What style do you write in?” I pause and consider throwing out Destiny versus Fate. I may just ask if they mean the nuts and bolts (Semi-formal) or other. It’ll probably save me a few headaches.

So now my question to you all is… What’s in your style?

Have a great one and remember to let your imagination fly!

10 Tips For Taking Notes at a Writer’s Conference  

September 21, 2014

by Jennie Jarvis

Jarvis, JennieLet’s face it: in the 21st Century, everyone is doing their part to save the trees (and the planet) by going paperless. Mortgages can be paid online. Statements can be emailed. And writer’s conferences are cutting down on the number of handouts they provide to their attendees.

The Florida Writers Association is just one of the many organizations “going green.” This year, we’ve made several steps towards using less paper, and you are going to notice one of those changes at this year’s Annual Conference in October: a reduced number of handouts.

This year, instead of requiring our faculty to provide a handout to go along with their various workshops, we gave them a choice. You’ll notice that many of the workshops you attend won’t have a corresponding handout available because some of our Agents, Editors, Filmmakers, New York Times Bestsellers and other Feature Faculty made the decision to “go green” and not have a paper handout.

This means, you will need to do things a little differently to take notes that will serve you long after the conference has ended. Here are Ten Quick Tips to be the best note-taker possible:

 

  1. Sit in the front of the room.

Don’t worry. No one will think you are “brown-noser” because you sit up front. The front is the best place because you can hear the speaker better and see the slides from their PowerPoint presentation more clearly.

  1. Bring an extra pen or pencil.

You never know when you are going to run out of ink. Always have a minimum of 2-3 pens to take notes with and pull them all out before the session starts. This way, if your pen runs out of ink, you can grab the next one and go without missing a beat.

  1. Don’t try to write down everything.

If you try to write down everything, your hand will fall off by lunchtime on the first day. Write down only the most important points the writer brings up. If you feel like you need more information than you were able to write down, ask the presenter if you can get a copy of their PowerPoint slides emailed to you after the presentation is over.

  1. Bring paper with you specifically for taking notes

The best way to take notes is by using a spiral notebook dedicated to that specific conference. Don’t use the tiny, odd shaped notepads the hotel gives you. Those are easily lost. And don’t expect any conference to have enough paper for you to use. Again, people are “going green” so make sure you bring the supplies you need to succeed.

  1. Think Before You Write

Don’t just copy down what people say because they are saying it. Process the information a moment and ask if you really need that tidbit of knowledge. If yes, then write it down. If not, then keep listening and thinking.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up

If a speaker says something that stands out to you, don’t be afraid to say, “I’m sorry, but could you say that again?” Sometimes, they won’t remember what they just said, but many times they will. Having them repeat it will make it easier for you to write it down.

  1. Establish a Note-Taking Structure

If, as you listen to a speaker, you realize the workshop is being conducted off an outline, try to write your notes as an outline. Look for larger points and then smaller facts or details that support those larger points. Writing it out like a novel will make it impossible for you to keep up, so really analyze the structure of what’s being taught in order to copy down the structure on the page.

  1. Organize to Prioritize

Label each section of your notes using the name of the workshop. Use lines across the page to separate thoughts or use asterisks to highlight important points. If all your notes run together, it will make it harder to keep your thoughts straight later on. Remember, you aren’t taking notes for now. You are taking them for the future.

  1. Date and Notate

Always put a date on your notes so you will remember where you first heard the information. Also, go back through your notes and clarify any points or rewrite words that made have been sloppily written while you were taking notes. Think of these as “notes to your future self.”

10. Review Your Notes After the Session

As soon as the workshop ends and the break begins, take a moment before you run off to get your cookie and soda to review your notes. Did you write down everything you wanted to remember? Is there anything you missed? Your memory will never be as strong as it is the moment the session ends, so review your notes right away and make any additions needed.

We here at FWA are working hard to create the best writing conference we have ever had, and we can’t wait to share it with you. We know getting used to fewer handouts might require some adjustment, but in this age of laptops, netbooks, and iPads, our notes can be the best organized ever. Going green means leaving a legacy behind for future generations to enjoy our stories for centuries to come.

My Argument for Cloning

September 19, 2014

By Anne Hawkinson

Anne Hawkinson - PhotoWriting is a solitary endeavor, at least for me. I spend hours alone in my office, at my computer, creating worlds that don’t exist for people who aren’t real. I challenge my characters, put roadblocks in their way, and fill their world with conflict and struggle. It’s a monumental undertaking, and takes more time, effort, and brain-wrangling than most people understand or would be willing to undertake. Such is my fate. I can’t help it. I’m a writer.

Gone are the days where a publisher promotes and publicizes an author (unless you’re one of the biggies, and even the biggies didn’t start out that way). A potential publisher wants to know all about you before you’re published and they want you to have lots of followers (Pied Piper, anyone?). So, while you’re pounding away at your keyboard, you’re also expected to be blogging, tweeting, maintaining your internet presence, and who knows what else. I attend writer’s conferences where it’s all laid out in front of me. My eyes glaze over and the miniscule section of my brain that knows anything about technology shuts down.

“How do any of you get any writing done?” I wonder. Perhaps they don’t need to work full-time like I do. Perhaps they’re blessed like me in that I have a fantastically talented daughter who maintains my website http://www.annehawkinson.com (shameless plug inserted) for me. Without her, I’d have no internet presence and in today’s world, if you don’t have one, you really don’t exist.

Which brings me to my argument for cloning. If there were more than one of me (some would say that one of me is one too many), I could assign myself all the other jobs that need doing so that I could focus on my writing, such as: laundry, housework, full-time job, yard maintenance, shopping for clothes (shopping for anything, really), errand-running, and car maintenance.

Then I need another me for the tweeting, blogging, and website maintenance (my daughter, dedicated as she is, has better things to do). I need someone to market me so that I can spend whatever spare time I can find getting my story written. The challenging part of this extra me is that I still know little-to-nothing about technology or how it all works, and to be honest, I really don’t want to know. I just want to be out there somewhere so this story I’m working so hard on will have a fighting chance. That’s all.

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