Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Developing good writing habits

Talk to a dozen writers and you're likely to hear twelve different approaches to writing. Some people write in fits and starts, all hours of the night and day. Others are as disciplined as robots, writing at the same time of day, cranking out the same number of words or pages. For example, Shirley Rousseau Murphy, author of the Joel Grey feline series, has a set system. "I write, or revise and polish, a minimum of 2,000 words a day, 3,000 on a good day."
My buddy Randy Cribbs, a St. Augustine author with 6 or 7 books under his belt, is more laid back in his writing habits. "I'm afraid I'm not a normal writer," Randy told me. "I don't set goals, don't make many notes, and never write unless it is in my head. I basically build the story—characters, plot, everything—in my mind and eventually, when it seems to be falling into place, I sequester myself in what my wife calls the man room, and usually write until it's done."
The moral to this story is to set your own pace and find what works for you. It does help to set goals, whether to write a certain number of words or pages per day. The object is to focus on your writing and not beat yourself up along the way. 
Which leads us to this month's FWA update. Let's take a look at what's in store at the various meetings coming up in NE Florida.
  • The First Coast Christian Writers group, FWA's newest Jacksonville chapter, meets each Thursday at 6:45 p.m. at Christ's Church off Greenland Road in room 513. Tomorrow night's speaker is Cheryle Touchton, a missionary and evangelist who speaks on her relationship with God and hands out cards containing quarters. Thus, she's known as the "Pocket full of quarters Lady." 
  • Visit the River City Writers on Tuesday, March 10 to hear Bruce Thomason, Jacksonville Beach Police Chief and author of the mystery, Body Toll. This group, led by Darlene Myers, meets at 7:00 p.m. at the SE Branch Library, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd. Contact Dar at
  • The Amelia Island Writers Group welcomes Annette Myers, author of The Shrinking Sands of an African-American Beach, as speaker at the Tuesday, March 17 meeting.  The meeting starts at 6:00 p.m. at the Florida House Inn, 22 Third Street in Fernandina Beach. Call group leader Maggie DeVries, 904-321-6180, for information.
  • The Ancient City Chapter skipped last month's meeting because the AARP moved into their meeting room to provide income tax assistance to us old folks. To make up for the loss of February, Rik Feeney will provide a double-whammy of a program, covering two topics—Developing Author Web Sites and The Right Way to Publish. They will gather at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday, March 21 at St. Augustine's Main Library. 
  • And the last meeting of the month, when, hopefully, March will exit like a lamb, takes place on Saturday, March 28 at the Ponte Vedra Library. The PV Writers Chapter is on a roll. Last month, John Byram, University Press of Florida editor-in-chief, talked to a packed room about some of the most common reasons why book proposals are rejected. For your edification, among the reasons are: 1) Picking the wrong press to submit your proposal to in the first place. Do your research before submitting. 2) Forgetting to spell-check. Editors are funny about misspelled words, especially if it's their name. And 3) Demanding unreasonable marketing and promotional support for your book. This month's guest is super-speaker, consultant and author Jon Gordon. He's the author of The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work and Team with Positive Energy, and The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work. Jon and his books have been featured on CNN, NBC's Today Show, and in a variety of national publications. He will be talking about "How to Build a Million Dollar Platform." The meeting starts at 10:30 a.m. Don't be late or you may not get a seat.
Other items of interest include...
  • The Royal Palm Literary Award Competition is now accepting your entries. This annual writing competition covers 23 categories of both published and unpublished work. The catch is that you must be an FWA member to enter the competition. There are new categories and new guidelines, so go to the RPLA Competition page on the FWA website for all the details. Winners will be announced at the RPLA Banquet at the October conference.
  • Here's another benefit for FWA members you might want to take advantage of. FWA will publish its first anthology, a collection of stories from FWA members titled From Our Family to Yours. The publication will feature all kinds of stories about families, both fiction and non-fiction. The selection committee will choose up to 60 of the best ones, and Suzette Standring, former President of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists will select her top ten stories. Read more about it on the website, and send your submission to
  • As announced in my last update, the Florida Sisters in Crime chapter was planning to move their meetings to the first Saturday of the month. You know what they say about best-laid plans. Unfortunately, the meeting room wasn't available, so the March meeting will be on the 3rd Saturday, March 21 at the SE Branch Library. Then they will revert to the first Saturdays.
  • Plans are being made for the next Florida Heritage Book Festival, September 11 & 12. Watch for information on the September 11 Writer's Workshop held at the Casa Monica Hotel, and the free reader's festival on the 12th at Flagler College.  The Literary Legends Awards dinner will take place several weeks before the festival (time and place TBA) to honor several of Florida's outstanding writers. Check the website for the latest news. 
  • The Amelia Island Book Festival is moving from the fall to President's Day weekend, February 11-13, 2010.  They will feature new events and activities.
  • UNF is in the process of planning a 4-day summer writer's workshop modeled after the acclaimed Iowa Writers Festival. More news as it develops.
  • Sharon Scholl has asked me to announce that her poet's group, A Gathering of Poets, meets on the first and third Thursday of each month at 2:00 p.m. at the Ponte Vedra Library. They welcome visitors and new members.
  • Mom's Choice Award Winners —  Pamela Bauer Mueller, a Gold Recipient in the Mom's Choice Awards for two of her novels, Aloha Crossing and An Angry Drum Echoed.  And to Jane Wood, Silver Recipient, for her two books, Adventures on Amelia Island: A Pirate, A Princess, and Buried Treasure, and Trouble on the St. Johns River. And Jennifer Swanson is a Silver Award winner for her juvenile fiction, Penny and Rio: The Mysterious Backyard Meeting. Congratulations to all.
  • Kudos to Mary Jane Hayes, whose children's book, Emma's House of Sound, will be performed as a play at the Limelight Playhouse and the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind.
  • And one more big pat on the back to Rodney Hurst, a Florida Book Award Bronze Medal winner for his non-fiction book, It Was Never About a Hot Dog and a Coke
  • Chris Berman's new SF book, The Hive, has been released and he's out doing signings. As is George Prom, with his new book, The Thrift Store. Congratulations to them both, and to all of you about to do great things.
That's it for now. Send me your good news and items of interest for area writers.