Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

Welcome. It’s first Monday again, when I answer questions about any aspect of the writing life.

Recently I attended the national conference of Romance Writers of Australia, one of the largest gatherings of writers in the country. Headliners included New York Times’ best-sellers, publishers, agents and writers of all kinds. I presented a workshop on drawing readers into your fictional world.

In the breaks, talk ranged around contracts, submissions and other professional concerns, but also about lesser-known aspects such as the courage needed to write, and how hard it is to diet in such an unpredictable business. This made me think it was time to look at what this crazy business really means.

If David Attenborough wanted to make one of his celebrated documentaries about writers, where would he start? Would he find us in herds like gazelle, or stalking alone like tigers. Would we be fearful or confronting? Do we use protective coloration or can you spot the breed from a distance?

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Confusingly, the answer to all the above would be yes. Writers – call us Scribblopithecus – do gather in herds such as the RWA conference. But more commonly, they hole up in their writing caves, struggling to deal with the real world.

Protective coloration goes by the name of jammies, short for pyjamas, the species’ unofficial uniform. In writing mode, Scribblopithecus can stay in this camouflage for days.

While Scribblopithecus doesn’t actually hibernate, they frequently enter a torpor, a state where they are unresponsive to family and friends, reluctant to initiate communication, and focused entirely on their internal world.

Locating Scribblopithecus is challenging because their habitats are so varied. You find them in every country of the world, existing like cuckoos in a range of settings known as “day jobs.” In these, you may be hard-pressed to spot the writer, so well do they disguise themselves. They’re wonderful mimics, copying the calls and behavior of their day-job counterparts.

But in their natural surroundings they spend hours mesmerized by computer screens and tablets on which they make their characteristic scratchy markings. They’re fussy, though. The markings must be just so, or they will be removed and Scribblopithecus will start over, sometimes dozens of times.

Despite this preoccupation, Scribblopithecus also collects objects called notebooks, the more stylish the better. They seldom defile notebooks with scratchings, but will treasure and fondle them as their collection grows. An environment such as Office Works or Kikki.K can induce an ecstasy state as the species rushes to acquire every object around them.

Scribblopithecus is an omnivore but has a particular fondness for chocolate, despite its effect on their generally sedentary lifestyle. If anyone raids their stash, they can become aggressive, although few specimens engage in physical confrontation.

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Interpreting their scratchings can be confusing. The amount of mayhem, death and destruction represented can lead one to assume that aggression is a natural trait. In fact, Scribblopithecus tends toward shyness, preferring to communicate via its screens rather than face to face. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter are their natural homes and #amwriting is one of the latter’s more distinctive calls.

So what is to be concluded about this species? No two are alike, they alternate between herd and solitary behaviour, experience long periods of torpor and express their aggression passively, through their scratchings. They are also an enduring species, their scratchings being found on cave walls throughout the ancient world.

Should you encounter Scribblopithecus, it’s advisable to offer chocolate and back slowly away lest you find yourself represented in their scratchings and killed off in an unpleasant manner. This symbolic violence is characteristic, along with talking to themselves, mock aggression when they wish to be solitary, and a complete lack of time sense.

It’s safest not to try to placate an aroused specimen. Misuse of apostrophes and terminology such as, “there, they’re, their” has been known to induce an attack frenzy which few outsiders have survived.

So there you have it. Have you met Scribblopithecus? Are you one of the species yourself? Please leave a comment here, moderated unless you click Sign Me Up at right. Or better still, leave chocolate to avoid being killed symbolically.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
AORW cover
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Check out Valerie’s online course, Free the Writer in You

at http://valerieparv.com/course.html

Welcome to the first Monday in August when I open this blog to your questions about writing. They can be on creative issues or business, such as dealing with agents, editors and publishers, or anything to do with the writing life.

Next week I’m presenting a workshop at the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference in Sydney, and I’m bound to come across one or more writers who intend to start writing “as soon as…” I don’t expect to be reading their books any time soon if at all, and here are three reasons why.

1. “As soon as…” never comes

What these writers mean is they will write as soon as everything in their life is under control. And guess what? Life is never that co-operative. If you truly want to write, you need to start now, no matter what state your life may be in.

Writers are good at what Oscar-winning screenwriter, William Goldman, calls, “putting off doomsday.” Yes, writing is hard. But it will never get any easier while you tap dance around the process.

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2. You will always have an excuse not to write
Do you recognise any of these? I’ll write when:
I have more time
I know what I want to write about (you find out by writing)
The weather is not so hot/cold.
Christmas/New Year/School holidays are over
I finish my research
I’ve defrosted the fridge
The world becomes perfect

Nobody ever has all the time, money or clear head space to start writing. Some of the most successful books were written under the most difficult conditions. I’ve written while moving house, when family members were sick, and when writing was the last thing I wanted to do. Writers write.

3. Writing is like housework. It expands to fit the time you have.
A meme going around the internet says that we get the most housework done in the five minutes before unexpected guests drop in. The same can be said of writing. Have you noticed how you can fiddle around all day trying to get something written. Then as soon as you know you have to be somewhere else at a set time, the words seem to flow?

If only you didn’t have to leave now.

This is your creative brain tricking you into thinking the writing is suddenly easier, knowing perfectly well that you have no choice but to leave it soon.

One solution is to pretend you have to leave the desk an hour or more before you actually do. If this spurs your writing brain, you’ll get as much done as if you’d been there all day.

Another trick is to set a kitchen timer. Tell yourself you’ll write for the next thirty minutes then you can stop. But don’t stare at the blank screen. Write something. Write garbage. But write words. This act of starting is almost magical, making it easier to keep going. You may not even notice when the timer goes off because you’re already caught up. And if you are ready to stop by then, at least you’ve put in a solid thirty minutes at your chosen task.

Remember, the world doesn’t care whether or not you write. You are the one who’ll feel you’ve let yourself down by not writing the project burning inside you. And unless the words are burning inside you, you may never write at all.

Set deadlines for yourself. Even writing one page a day (about 250 words) every day for five days a week will give you a 65,000 word manuscript – the length of a genre novel – by the end of a year. And that’s with weekends off.

How do you get past the “as soon as…” challenge? Comment using the box below. I moderate posts to avoid spam. If you want your comment to appear right away, sign up using the button at lower right. I don’t share your email addresses with anyone. Happy writing.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

AORW cover
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Read some reviews of Valerie’s first Beacons novel, Birthright, at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

It’s the first Monday in July, when I open this blog to your questions about writing. They can be on creative, craft or business matters. For starters, here’s a common question: what happens after you finish a book?

As I write this, I’m in the best possible place – at the end of a new book. Even more importantly, I’m at the end of a 300,000 word trilogy, my Beacons series for Corvallis Press, Oregon.

As of last night, all the tales have been told, the loose endings wrapped up, and the big finish I wanted for the series is definitely there.

Fittingly, it’s also just after the Fourth of July for my American friends. Although I’m in Australia, my book had fireworks and lots of celebration. As it should be. As suspense writer, Lawrence Block, put it in his excellent book, Writing the Novel from Plot to Print, no one brings your manuscript a squeaky toy, as they do when a baby is born. More often, you finish in a haze of exhaustion and surrounded by catch-up work screaming to be done.

Yet writing “the end” doesn’t mean the book is truly finished. There’s anything from a few months to a few years’ worth of work remaining. Sometimes a book is never done. Among the 83 books I’ve written, one still niggles because of a glitch in the opening chapter.
The title is among my most popular, although no reader has noticed the issue and I’ve had no emails, but the niggle bothers me to this day. I’m in good company. Hemingway was said to hang around the presses as a new book came off, wanting to make changes even at that stage.

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So what are the four things you need to do after writing the end?

1. Step away from the manuscript.
Perfect though it looks now, there will be flaws. Sometimes continuity issues, questions, typos, facts to check, and the writing to polish. Now is not the time. Bathed in the beatific glow of having written, we’re too close to the work to be objective. Give yourself all the time you can to separate yourself from the material, then put on your editor hat and revisit the work. You’ll be astonished what sneaked through in the interim.

2. Catch up with everything you neglected
I once asked the amazing Nora Roberts what she does between books. She told me she ploughs through all the tasks that piled up while she was writing, catches up with friends and family, then she wanders around the house, wondering what people do with their time when they don’t write. And she starts writing again.
I won’t depress you with how fast she goes through this cycle, but it’s obvious from the quantity and quality of her output. Some writers need more time between books than others. Take what you need, and start writing again only when you’re ready.

3. Get a life
William Shatner made this phrase famous when he did a comedy skit on Saturday Night Live, reminding Star Trek fans that it was “only a television show” and they should get a life outside their favourite program. The same can be said of writing. Unless we have lives outside writing, sooner or later we end up writing about writers. You need balance in your life. I’ve seen the areas recommended as work, family, spiritual and personal wellbeing. Between books is a good time to assess where your life is and what needs more attention.

4. Start dreaming
Most writers have more ideas than we know what to do with. Between books is the perfect time to let your imagination run wild. What book calls you to write it next? What marvelous idea fills you with excitement? It isn’t enough to start writing because you feel you must, or you’ve goofed off long enough. Your idea should drag you to the computer, desperate to capture the lightning. Play with your ideas. Read, think, explore, scribble notes. Scribble more notes. When the scribbling won’t stop, you’re ready to start again.

What do you do between projects? How do you know when a new book is ready for attention? Comment using the box below. I moderate comments to avoid spam. If you want your comment to appear right away, sign up using the button at lower right. I don’t share your email addresses with anyone.

Meanwhile, I have a life to catch up on. Happy writing.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

AORW cover
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Read some reviews of Valerie’s first Beacons novel, Birthright, at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

It’s First Monday again, when you can share your thoughts and ask me any questions to do with writing, editing or publishing your work. Today isn’t so much a question as sharing what I’ve discovered about writing in the last week.

Mostly I want readers to have the best possible experience through my books. Then there are the writers for whom I write this blog, and the entrants in the Valerie Parv Award run by Romance Writers of Australia.

Each year I mentor the winner of the award, and feel like a kid at Christmas when one of my minions (their own name for themselves as former VPA winners) lands a new publishing contract, wins a book award, or makes a bestseller list as they frequently do.

I see this as giving back to an amazing profession where I sometimes have to remind myself that this is work. So imagine my excitement when The Australian Society of Authors awarded me the ASA Medal 2014 in Melbourne last week.

Here’s what was said about the medal, and some of my response. As more and more people at the presentation, and many hundreds of online friends, offered congratulations, I was reminded again of why I write – for the joy of telling stories. That my stories and work with other writers should bring me such an extraordinary honour as the ASA Medal, I consider the icing on my writing cake.

Valerie with Executive Director of the ASA, Angelo Loukakis, after the presentation

Valerie with Executive Director of the ASA, Angelo Loukakis, at the presentation

“The ASA Board awards the ASA Medal bi-annually to honour members of Australia’s writing community who have contributed significantly to our literary culture. Your contribution has been judged outstanding across the board, from the quality of your writing to your hard work in support of other authors, the principles of authorship and this organization itself.”

“This is one award that has to be earned” – Angelo Loukakis

In accepting the medal, I said in part:

“As one whose first books were chiselled on cave walls, I am honoured to be given this award and would also like to congratulate my fellow honoree for 2014, Nadia Wheatley.

My first published book, Growing and Using Herbs (Ure Smith), caused little fanfare in my family, not being a blockbuster or even a novel.

It took joining the Australian Society of Authors to make me realise I’d done something that mattered, I’d written a book and had it published, the first of more than eighty novels and non-fiction titles. I’m proud to be that rare breed, a writer supporting myself through my writing since my twenties.

In the Australian Society of Authors, I had great mentors, not only in matters of craft but also in the importance of giving back to a profession that has been good to me.

As well as the ASA executive and membership, I’d like to thank my agent of twenty years, Linda Tate. She not only has my back, but my front and the top of my head as well, even if I’m still waiting for that body double I asked for.

Receiving such an important award decided by your peers has to be as good as it gets. Thank you so much.”

Now it’s over to you. Why do you write? What gives you the greatest pleasure in your work? Share your thoughts in the comments below. If you want your comment to appear without moderation, click on the “sign me up” button to subscribe. I don’t share your email details with anyone.

Valerie

About the author:
Valerie Parv is one of Australia’s most successful writers with more than 29 million books sold in 26 languages. She is the only Australian author honored with a Pioneer of Romance Award from RT Book Reviews, New York. With a lifelong interest in space exploration, she counts meeting Neil Armstrong as a personal high point. She loves connecting with readers via her website valerieparv.com @ValerieParv on Twitter and on Facebook. She is represented by The Tate Gallery Pty Ltd tategal@bigpond.net.au

It’s First Monday again, time to share your thoughts and ask me any questions you have to do with writing, editing or publishing your work. Today’s first question was inspired by a discussion I had on Facebook with Serena Lockwood Dorman, so thank you Serena for the tip.

She said, “I just thought, Valerie, since you do the monthly advice blog for newish writers, you should do a post on what makes you stop reading a story. I’ve been reading a lot of stories on Wattpad and when I come across certain things I click out of the story right away. It would be helpful to know what instantly turns seasoned authors off.”

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I thought for a minute. As a reader, I’m fairly forgiving as long as the story grabs me. But here’s the list I gave Serena:

1. Bad writing. If the story has too many mistakes, spelling, grammar and the like, jumps around from one character’s point of view to another – known as head-hopping – or otherwise pulls me out of the story, then I’m not likely to keep reading.

2. Too much description not relevant to the story, so I skip. As Chuck Wendig blogged recently, we don’t need to see every sip of coffee the character takes. It becomes a distraction. As a reader, I want the words to disappear and have the story run like a movie in my head. When a character enters a room, I want to see what they see, not every stick of furniture as a judge on The Block sees it, but what’s relevant to that particular character. Put yourself inside their head and show us what they notice and why, as it relates to the story, and I’ll keep reading.

3. Good character doing bad things, even if for good reason. For example, a hero is broke and needs medicine for a child. He stumbles across the proceeds of robbery and decides to keep it – this still makes him a bad person IMO. He may be sorely tempted to keep the money. Another character may think he has – there’s a story in that – but ultimately, torn and tested, a good person will do the right thing.

4. One character out to despoil the environment the other character loves. For some reason this conflict appeals to new writers. Apart from being predictable, someone has to lose. There’s no solution where one or the other doesn’t have to give in. Think of another conflict.

5. Any story where the ending is obvious early in the book. Writers are your toughest audience. If you can keep us reading and wondering, you’ll keep any reader.

I’m also not fond of a heroine taking up with her late husband’s brother, or issues like spousal abuse, miscarriage or loss of a partner not treated seriously. They can provide powerful motivations, but do your homework and have a care for readers who’ve been there.

Now over to you. What stops you from reading or finishing a book? Share your thoughts in the comments below. If you want your comment to appear without moderation, click on the “sign me up” button to subscribe. I don’t share your email details with anyone.

Valerie
About the author
Valerie Parv is one of Australia’s most successful writers with more than 29 million books sold in 26 languages. She is the only Australian author honored with a Pioneer of Romance Award from RT Book Reviews, New York. With a lifelong interest in space exploration, she counts meeting Neil Armstrong as a personal high point. She loves connecting with readers via her website valerieparv.com @ValerieParv on Twitter and on Facebook. She is represented by The Tate Gallery Pty Ltd tategal@bigpond.net.au

It’s First Monday again, time to share your thoughts and have me answer any questions you have to do with writing. Today’s first question comes from a panel I was on at the last GenreCon event in Brisbane: Think Like a Pro. It was about crossing over from hobby writer to professional, so I added “writer” to “pro” to head off the smart comments I was getting on Facebook and Twitter

They reminded me of being interviewed by Ray Martin,when I said in all seriousness, romance is the root of everything. The studio audience erupted with laughter. Ray waited, then added quietly, “You said it, Valerie.” So pro writer it is.

Writing is often about aptitude, being born with the storytelling gene, as I believe nearly all successful writers to be. Professional writing is about attitude. It involves learning to see yourself differently, and training others in your life to see you the same way.

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I started out writing everything from press releases to non-fiction before progressing to novels. My first mentor taught me to value my time, setting myself a nominal hourly rate. If I could get non-writing work done for less than this hourly rate, I was better off hiring someone while I wrote new words or developed a submission for a publisher. I still hire computer help, lawn care, book-keeping or whatever else I need so I can focus on my core business of writing.

Working with an agent – or freelance editor if you plan to indie publish – should be seen as an investment. At a minimum, a good agent covers their fee and then some by gaining better deals for you. Mine certainly does.

Writing may be a labour of love but to succeed long term, you need to treat it as your job. Hearing friends say, “I’ve finished writing for the day, now I’m off to work” makes me want to throw things.

Writing IS work. It may not be your day job for now, but as a pro writer, that’s your goal. It helps to tell friends and family, “I’m working” rather than “I’m writing.” Which makes you sound more like a professional?

Here are my four tips for thinking like a pro writer –

1. Put a value on your time. As soon as you can afford it, hire help to leave yourself free to write. Sometimes committing yourself to an expense such as child care or computer advice can spur you to work harder to cover these expenses.

2. Schedule your writing as work. Even if you can only set aside half an hour a day, or commit to writing 250 words, regard it as inviolate and hold yourself accountable to produce results.

3. Make writing a habit. Keep a diary of the words you produce toward your target. If you miss a day, make it up as soon as you can. Don’t worry if writing full time seems a long way off. The discipline of writing around other commitments can mean producing more work than if you have whole days available. The saying that work expands to fill the time available is especially true of creative writing.

4. Allow yourself thinking time. Find a writing place where you don’t feel compelled to “look busy.” Thinking and pushing your ideas to the limit IS important if you’re to create something new and exciting. We writers are working when we’re staring out of windows.

Now it’s your turn. What beliefs and practices turn you from a wannabe to a pro writer? Share your thoughts in the comments below. If you want your comment to appear without moderation, click on the “sign me up” button to subscribe. I don’t share your email details with anyone.

Valerie

About the author
Valerie Parv is one of Australia’s most successful writers with more than 29 million books sold in 26 languages. She is the only Australian author honored with a Pioneer of Romance Award from RT Book Reviews, New York. With a lifelong interest in space exploration, she counts meeting Neil Armstrong as a personal high point. She loves connecting with readers via her website valerieparv.com @ValerieParv on Twitter and on Facebook. She is represented by The Tate Gallery Pty Ltd tategal@bigpond.net.au

It’s First Monday time again, when I open this blog to your questions about writing. They can be on creative, craft or business matters. Today’s question has to do with who I regard as my mentors? There are quite a few, writers, philosophers, motivational psychologists. But today I want to talk about one role model in particular, and the reasons why he is such an inspiration, probably not the ones you expect.

It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that I’ve been a Star Trek fan as long as the shows have been around. My collection of original series books numbers in the hundreds. Dozens more sit on my Kindle. Once upon a time, when I helped to organize Star Trek conventions in Australia, I had enough Star Trek memorabilia to stock a store. Some of my earliest fiction, now living among their collection of my literary papers at the State Library of NSW, was set in the Star Trek universe, and I number its creator, Gene Roddenberry, among my writing mentors.

But my greatest inspiration comes from actor and director, William Shatner. Not only because of his iconic portrayal of Captain James Kirk, but because Shatner himself is such a powerhouse of energy and enthusiasm that it’s dizzying trying to keep up with everything he’s doing.

From his memorable portrayals of Kirk to Boston Legal’s Denny Crane, his career spans Emmy-award winning roles, directing, writing many books, winning international horse riding events, charity fund-raising on a grand scale, even crowd-funding his own watch design late last year. Did I mention he’s doing all this and more at age eighty-two?

Still that same killer smile.

Still that same killer smile.

Here are 5 ways he inspires my writing life:

1. PASSION
Everything William Shatner does is fueled by this powerhouse ingredient. It’s obvious that he lives every day with passion for whatever he undertakes. Whether it be breeding Dobermans, riding American Saddlebred horses, writing or directing movies, he puts his whole being into the task, and the passion shines through.

2. ENERGY
When he was in his early seventies, he starred in the Star Trek movie, Generations, working horrendously long days in arduous desert conditions, filming the death of his best-known character, a huge milestone for any actor. In an interview, he was asked how he kept going. He said he simply told himself he wasn’t tired. I took that to heart and whenever I feel pushed to the limit, I tell myself I’m not tired, and the energy flows back.

3. SENSE OF WONDER
Shatner is never afraid to try new things, to experiment, to grow. Far too many people stop growing and learning in their teens. He has explored every kind of acting, written a wide variety of books, spoken to huge convention audiences in countries around the world, been a spokesperson for NASA, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And still he’s developing new ideas and new projects.

As the saying goes, growing old is unavoidable, but growing up is optional.

4. LOVE OF LIFE
Shatner has had dark times, recorded in his various memoirs, beyond anything most of us have to deal with. But he has always picked himself up and gone back to living life to the full, setting a shining example for the rest of us.

5. RESILIENCE
For a writer, this ingredient is key. As with acting, writing involves putting yourself and your work out there, dealing with rejection and finding the will to keep on going. William Shatner has endured pretty well every tragedy that life can throw at a person, while still wringing the most out of every day.
These qualities are not exclusive to a Hollywood legend. They are available to each of us, every day of our lives. How many of these qualities do you make sure you have? If you’d like your comment to appear right away, please click on “sign me up” at right, to subscribe. I don’t share your email with anyone else.

Valerie

About the author
Valerie Parv is one of Australia’s most successful writers with more than 29 million books sold in 26 languages. She is the only Australian author honored with a Pioneer of Romance Award from RT Book Reviews, New York. With a lifelong interest in space exploration, she counts meeting Neil Armstrong as a personal high point. She loves connecting with readers via her website valerieparv.com @ValerieParv on Twitter and on Facebook. She is represented by The Tate Gallery Pty Ltd tategal@bigpond.net.au

In this blog I write a lot about the struggles and challenges of being a writer. Today I want to celebrate the best part – having written.

There’s no doubt this is when writing really rocks. Your story world, your characters, and all the events once trapped in your head are alive on the page for readers to enjoy.

Then your publisher says the magic words, “We love the book, we want to publish it.”

YES!!!!!!!!!!!

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It happened this week with my new science fiction romance – Earthbound, the sequel to Birthright, books I and II in my Beacons series, published by Corvallis Press, USA.

To celebrate, I’m holding a Big, Beautiful Birthright Buyfest, so you can get up to speed on the Beacons and their adventures, before we start counting down to the sequel. The Buyfest takes place over 24 hours only. To take part, simply go to the Birthright page on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Birthright-Valerie-Parv-ebook/dp/B00A0C07BK/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top and purchase the book. You don’t even need a Kindle. Amazon has a nifty free app that lets you read any ebook on your computer or tablet.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE
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If you email me Amazon’s Order Summary Code for your purchase within the next 24 hours, you could win one of seven pdfs of my brand new Beacons novella, Starfound, continuing the story begun in Birthright. You’ll be one of the first people in the world to read this story. The prize is only open to those who buy Birthright and email parv@iinet.net.au with Birthright in the subject line, within the next 24 hours.

Why I love this series, and I hope you will, too

In Birthright I combine the emotional appeal of romance with the wonder of science fiction which has fascinated me for years. Set in my invented country of Carramer, the story deals with a space shuttle mission about to be launched from the island kingdom – a mission that hides a secret agenda involving a threat to the entire world. While writing the book, I came to love my alien characters, Garrett, Elaine and Adam so much that the novella, Starfound, and sequel, Earthbound continue their story, with the final chapter, Homeworld, now in the works. It’s proving to be quite a ride.

What readers are saying about Birthright

“…a memorable read. Very well written and one for the keepers shelf.” Desere Steenberg

“My sensors were in overload, I loved it! I couldn’t put Birthright down.” TashNZ

“Note the 5 stars. I do not give them lightly. A book really has to be a winner for me to rate it this high!” Kathi Harris

“Gripping futuristic tale with an unstoppable plot and fantastic, unique, gripping characters. For anyone who grew up wanting to be an astronaut (like I did!), you will adore this book. I cannot WAIT for the sequels to come out. I’ll be preordering every single one!” Iopele

Buy, enjoy, email. Three easy steps. Way easier than writing the books. But not half as much fun as having written.

Feel free to leave a comment in the space below. If you want your comment to appear right away, click on “sign me up” at right. And welcome aboard.

Valerie

About the author
Valerie Parv is one of Australia’s most successful writers with more than 29 million books sold in 26 languages. She is the only Australian author honored with a Pioneer of Romance Award from RT Book Reviews, New York. With a lifelong interest in space exploration, she counts meeting Neil Armstrong as a personal high point. She loves connecting with readers via her website valerieparv.com @ValerieParv on Twitter and on Facebook. She is represented by The Tate Gallery Pty Ltd tategal@bigpond.net.au

It’s First Monday time again, when I open this blog to your questions about writing. They can be on creative, craft or business matters. Here’s a common question – who’s advice should writers take?

When I started writing, I soaked up how-to-write books by the dozen, but most didn’t make sense until after I discovered their truths through my own work. That’s why, when I wrote The Art of Romance Writing, I made it as clear and helpful as I could, putting into it everything I wish I’d known starting out. Staying in print since 1982 shows me it achieved my aim.

These days there’s more writing advice on and off line than anyone can absorb, and they often conflict. Write fast, 2,000 words a day minimum. Write slowly, polishing your work as you go. Start with characters. Start with plot. Write what you know. Or what you can find out.

There is some truth in all the advice, but not all the advice is true.

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After writing more than five million words for publication, I can assure you that there’s no one way to write. There’s only what works for you. Be wary of anyone telling you theirs is THE way. The advice may work if it suits your style. You can write fast if it’s your natural inclination, but not otherwise. I’ve had as many books spring from characters as from plot. Often it’s a mix. Let’s face it, if there was “a formula” to writing, every writer would use it and be successful. But writing is more like fishing. Sometimes you catch nothing, sometimes you pull out that elusive best-seller. There’s no predicting which.

So here’s my list of sources whose advice may be helpful.
– An editor who asks to see a revised version of this work, or more of your future writing. They’re prepared to put their company’s money where their mouth is.
– A consensus saying much the same things. If several editors or critique partners suggest that your characters are shallow or your pacing slow in your body of work, you’d do well to look at these aspects carefully.
– People whose opinions you respect, such as successful writers, editors, those making a living from publishing (but not those making money from assessing work).
– Your own instincts. If you’ve written several drafts and find yourself back at an earlier draft, you may need to listen more closely to your inner voice, telling you when you’re on track.

What sources may be less than helpful to you?
– People with their own agenda. Either those making money from commenting on your work, or those who want you to write like them. I repeat: you can only write your work your way.
– The green-eyed monsters. When you get encouragement from an editor, win a contest or place highly, be prepared for others in your writing circle to say nice things, while giving you advice that comes from their own jealousy. It doesn’t make them bad people. Jealousy is all too human. But it does make them poor advisors.

So what advice have you given or found useful? Comment using the box below. Comments are moderated to avoid spam. If you want your comment to appear right away, sign up using the button at lower right. I don’t share your email addresses with anyone.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

AORW cover
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Read some reviews of Valerie’s novel, Birthright, at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

It’s not only First Monday time again, when I open this blog to your questions about writing and publishing, it’s also the start of a New Year when many are making resolutions for how you want to be in 2014. Common ones are to be thinner, fitter, more successful and preferably richer than in the year gone by. As writers we may also resolve to get more writing done and set the bar higher in terms of what we expect of ourselves and our work.
All these are worthwhile goals. And as the saying goes, if you shoot for the moon and miss, you will still land among the stars. But while you’re shooting for the moon, consider 5 things you should NOT take into 2014.

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1. Unhelpful habits
Many writers “fuel” ourselves in ways that aren’t good for us. Chocolate, anyone? This year, resolve to change some of those habits for better ones that support you and your work. Before writing this, I headed for the kitchen for coffee and a home-made cookie. In my head I heard, unhelpful habit, and stopped to ask myself what besides a cookie would meet my needs, picking up a small bowl of grapes instead. I can also look at alternatives as creative fuel. Some writers use music, scented candles, a workspace set up a certain way, or playing a game or two to get themselves into the right frame of mind. As we move into 2014, what unhelpful habits can you switch for more helpful ones?

2. Procrastination
Depending on how long it goes on, procrastination can show itself as anything from a sudden need to clean out the refrigerator (in the domestic sense, rather than point 1 above), to full-on writer’s block when you can’t produce words at all. Start by asking yourself whether you’re distracted or blocked. When I find myself dodging a project, it’s almost always because it’s not ready to start yet. I either need more information – say about characters or story elements, or I’m trying to force the story to go in the wrong direction. Taking stock, doing some brainstorming with a supportive friend, or on paper; or filling in the research gaps often gets me going again. If you’re blocked because of fear – of not being good enough, or of looking foolish, for example – it helps to reread something you’ve already written to remind yourself of what you can achieve. If you’re a new writer, you might join a group or sign up for a workshop as a way to get over your fears in a helpful environment.

3. Tired ideas
If you’ve been struggling to write and don’t feel you’re making progress, use the new year to put away tired material. If you’re sick of it, readers are unlikely to be inspired, either. Try something new – a new style, format, genre – invent a new series character or world, and see where they lead. Freshen your approach and you’ll very likely recapture the excitement of writing as you go into 2014.

4. Negative self image
The nature of writing can lead us to question ourselves and even our sanity. Are we crazy spending time listening to voices in our heads, writing about imaginary people, and mentally living in made-up settings? But it’s not crazy, it’s what writers do. Then we share our stories with readers as our gift to the world. (See my previous blog on using your unique gifts.) We also ask ourselves why we think we’re good enough to follow in the steps of the great writers before us. I have no doubt they asked themselves the same thing. A healthy dose of uncertainty can be a spur to success, as long as it doesn’t overwhelm you.

5. Over-confidence
This may seem to contradict point 4, but it doesn’t. As I mentioned, having a healthy dose of uncertainty is good, whatever we want to achieve. It keeps us striving to do better, to prove that one story or one book wasn’t a fluke. Writing anything can seem like a miracle – and it is! But we must be able to step back from the work and see its flaws as well as its magic. Both are usually in the writing you’ve just completed. Setting it aside for a while and starting something new can restore your objectivity. In writing as well as in life, we need a balance between under and over-confidence, to achieve our best.

As a writer, what don’t you want to take into 2014? Share your experiences in the comment box below. I regret they must be moderated to avoid rudeness and spam. To have your comment appear right away, click on “sign me up” at lower right. I don’t share your email details with anyone.
Happy New Year and may your words flow freely,

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

AORW cover
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Read some reviews of Valerie’s novel, Birthright, at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

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