Review of Florida Writers Conference
This past weekend (20th to 23rd of October) I was fortunate to attend the Florida Writers Conference from the Florida Writers Association. You can find more information about the organization here: https://floridawriters.net
The conference had a few evening workshops on Thursday and a few morning workshops on Sunday, with the main chunk of events taking place on Friday and Saturday.
I attended in total 16 lectures – one on Thursday, seven on Friday, six on Saturday and two on Sunday.
Overall, I believe that there were a nice variety of topics discussed. I would put the talks into three following categories:
1.The craft of writing
2.Getting published/self-publishing and marketing
Below are all of the workshops I have attended and a brief explanation of what the speaker discussed in the 60 minute session (The Ally Machate session on successful self-publishing was a 90 minute session).
1. The craft of writing
1.1. Acting out- how to write believable fight scenes
Ben Wolf is a stage combat instructor, whose workshop was of a practical nature. After Ben demonstrated the correct basic fighting stance, he then went on to show us the main punches and kicks, as well as how to block them. This workshop was helpful in improving one’s craft of fight scene writing and understanding how a smaller opponent can gain leverage over a heavier opponent.
1.2. Hiding in plain-sight: writing believable villains
Joanne Lewis walked the audience through a checklist of villain characteristics. She brought various examples to demonstrate how the villain contrasts and compliments the hero. Additionally, the talk focused on how important a properly developed backstory is for a villain to make him/her multi-dimensional, interesting and a worthy opponent. Finally, the different type of villains and their motives were explored.
1.3. How to write dialogue like a pro
Elizabeth Sims elaborated the aspects of dialogue, how to write natural dialogue, and basic punctuations rules. Since dialogue makes up at least 50% of present day novels this was a not to be missed lecture that reminded seasoned writers what to pay attention to as they create their first draft and polish their rewrites. It also informed novices on how to avoid stilted and meaningless dialogue.
1.4. More than just a love story: writing real life romance
Tawdra Kandle has written forty-five novels in the last five years (!). She watches the romance genre closely to stay on top of the trends. After explaining the main elements of a good romance novel, Tawdra shared her main marketing strategies as an indie author.
1.5. The Scoop on backstory
Nancy Quatrano discussed the various ways how to put the backstory into your novel. She also shared her 40/60 rule, which states that while the author should know 100% of a character’s backstory the reader gets to see less than 40%, just enough to understand the behavior of the character but not too much to drag the flow of the action down.
1.6. YA is more than just the huger games
Mimi Williams talked about trend cycles in the YA genre, how YA books differ from books written for adults and pitfalls to avoid. The talk had practical suggestions on how to make a YA book authentic, such as remembering how one felt as an adolescent, and going to high school to watch actual teens interact.
2. Getting published/self-publishing and marketing
2.1. 6 tips on how to reach your publishing goal
Keith Ogorek stressed how important it is for aspiring authors to set deadlines and create a timeline, to track ones progress step by step. He also talked about writers determining their best time to write and subsequently blocking this time slot out. Finally, he emphasized the importance of starting marketing efforts before the book comes out (e.g. defining a target audience and deciding how to reach them).
2.2. Polishing your work for publication
Ally Machate highlighted the key points to watch out for during rewrites. They included checking one’s dialogue for soundness and naturalness, ensuring most of your work is showing and not telling, using nouns and verbs effectively (always be specific and use the strongest noun/verb possible. E.g. she ran fast vs. she sprinted.) She also cautioned writers to watch out for repetitions and filler words, passive voice and the use of clichés.
2.3.Successful self-publishing: 5 steps to a plan that’s right for you and your book
In her 90 minute presentation Ally Machate discussed the importance of perfecting your product, creating a marketing plan before launching your book, building relationships with readers and writers, paying attention to your book layout and cover, as well as understanding that a writing career does not happen overnight. She suggested writers go through several rounds of extensive editing (with beta readers and professional editors) before publishing their work and that they try different marketing strategies to see what works best for their niche/genre.
2.4. The gong show pitchfest
All kinds of writers pitched their novel to a three-person panel, who then scored the work on a scale from 1 to 10. The key take-away from this session was (1) to always begin by introducing the title of your novel, its genre and word count, (2) to start with the hook (instead of back story or extensive description of the protagonist), (3) end the pitch at an exciting point to intrigue the listener.
2.5. The query letter: taking 360 pages and compressing them into one
Jose Iriarte elaborated what to put into one’s query letter and what to avoid. The session also focused on advice on how to avoid creating the perception that the writer is a novice/amateur (don’ts: listing your age, comparing your book to major block buster movies or calling/visiting the literary agent).
2.6. The Three Phases of an Effective Book Marketing Campaign
Keith Ogorek’s talk focused on what to do before you publish your book (design effective cover and build an author platform), when you publish it (organize online and offline celebratory events) and after you have published it (collaborate with bloggers and traditional media outlets, if applicable, to promote your novel).
3.1. Changes in latitude
Vic DiGenti illuminated various methods on how to stir creativity when a writer faces writer’s block (e.g. change where you write, do physical activity, write without any mental restrictions).
3.2. The Writer’s Personality
Linda Gilden broke down the writer’s personality into four categories: peaceful phlegmatic, purposeful melancholy, powerful choleric and playful sanguine. She described the strengths and weaknesses as well what motivates each writer type.
I hope this blog post gave you a better understanding of the workshops presented at the Florida Writers Conference and will make it easier for you as a writer to decide whether it would be helpful to attend a writing conference.
In my next post I will present my key take aways from the Florida Writers Conference.