Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

There’s a lot of unhappiness out there in Writelandia. As I blogged last month, many writers feel overwhelmed with tasks from turning around edits in ever-faster times, to promoting on social media, giving library talks, answering readers’ questions; dealing with our use of diverse characters, even accusations of cultural appropriation. If you’re indie publishing you add in hiring cover designers, professional editors and other help.

All while incomes seemingly dwindle before our eyes.

As I flagged last blog, next weekend my agent and I are presenting a session at the annual conference of Romance Writers of Australia. Our topic – getting back the joy of writing. Because yes, despite all of the above, writing should be creatively rewarding. This doesn’t mean you have to skip to the keyboard singing. But it shouldn’t feel like drudge work, as I’m hearing it does for too many writers

Like any profession, writing has challenges. They keep the work interesting. But writing should give you joy at least some of the time. Anything else is a recipe for burnout.

Among my favourite mood lifters are inspirational books and posters. One in particular has inspired me throughout my long writing career. You may have heard of The Desiderata. For many years it was believed found in an old Baltimore church and dated 1692. We now know it was written by American poet, Max Ehrman.

I’ve written this version to inspire writers. The italic lines are from the original poem. The interpretations are mine.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence.

How else can writers listen to their inner voices and tune out the hurley-burley of modern life? By avoiding “loud and aggressive persons” you avoid the vexations of the spirit which are so bad for your creative work.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Comparisons are everywhere. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others are filled with them, making you wonder how your own writing journey compares. The answer is, it doesn’t, nor should it. Aim only to exceed your own highest standards.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Celebrate your small milestones as well as your major successes. Content yourself with sharing your stories, even if the prizes elude you for the time being.

Exercise caution in your business affairs for the world is full of trickery.

Any writer looking at a publishing contract knows this only too well. Indies have many pitfalls they need to avoid.

Let this not blind you to what virtue there is: many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

A fortunate truth, providing writers with much to write about.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is perennial as the grass.

A cynic cannot write convincingly about love or any other human emotion. Only genuine emotion felt by the writer can move readers to laughter, tears and other vicarious experiences.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Age confers many blessings on writers, among them available time to follow your craft and a wealth of lived experiences from which you can draw.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Two occupational hazards of writing, and nowhere is strength of spirit more needed than when faced with a rejection.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here.

Even if no-one else understands the drive to express yourself in words, you owe it to yourself to respect, nurture and explore your gift as fully as you can.

…whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.

All writers share a common aspiration – to communicate. By sharing your stories you not only keep peace with your soul, you contribute to the pool of human understanding.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

Do these words speak to you? Is there a point that touches you the most? Share your thoughts in the comments below. It’s moderated to avoid spam but your comment can appear right away if you click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing,

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

@valerieparv on Twitter and Facebook

Saturday Oct 12 in Canberra for ACT Writers Centre

My new workshop, Making Your Book Work, details-

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/making-your-book-work-with-valerie-parv-am-tickets-61205601602?aff=Enews

Advertisements

There have been many successful collaborations between writers, among them Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye, Stephen King and Peter Straub’s The Talisman, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society written by Mary Ann Shaffer and completed by her niece, Annie Barrows. Actor, writer and philanthropist, William Shatner, manages his prodigious output by working with co-writers including Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, David Fisher and Chris Regan.

Romance writer, Emma Darcy, was the pen name of couple, Wendy and Frank Brennan. After Frank’s death, Wendy carried on the Emma Darcy name alone.  I also have a prized copy signed by all four contributors to Dead of Night a series of paranormal stories by Nora Roberts writing as J.D.Robb, and her friends, Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan and Mary Kay McComas.

The world’s biggest-selling author, James Patterson, teams up with other writers because he surely has more ideas than one person could write in a lifetime. One of his books, Private Sydney, was co-written by Australian crime writer, Kathryn Fox.

2018-19 Valerie Parv Award minion Stella Quinn

You can also manage your stress by having friends watching your back. For 38 years my late husband helped me brainstorm plots and research aspects of his life such as serving in three armies and hunting crocodiles in the Northern Territory. In turn I wrote gags for his cartoons.

Other support services I use include accounting, legal advice, IT support, website design, gardening, cleaning and general hand-holding. I value all these people, but especially the latter. Let’s face it, nobody understands the struggles and joys of writing quite like another writer.

They’re there for me when the ideas refuse to come, when I’ve made a best seller list and even when I’ve had to kill off a character. In turn I’m there for my writing BFF s– the Bat Cave members know who you are. We’ve met up all over Australia and the world. I’ve even combined some roles, taking two bat friends we dub The Three Batketeers to a personal meet-up with William Shatner.

My agent of more than 20 years, Linda Tate, deserves special citation. She runs a “people gallery” of celebs, sports people and creatives including Mr Movies, Bill Collins, who died recently. When I met Linda, my goal was to be to romance writing what Bill Collins was to movies. While nobody can match his encyclopedic knowledge of film lore, with Linda’s help I’ve come close, being made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for writing and mentoring.

Among my closest supporters are the minions, as the past winners of the Valerie Parv Award run by Romance Writers of Australia, call themselves. We share a unique rapport that goes beyond the mentoring I do while they hold the award. Next month at RWA’s annual conference  I’ll crown the newest minion, and we’ll celebrate at the much-anticipated annual Minions’ breakfast.

The same conference will see my agent and I presenting a session on Getting Back the Joy of Writing. With the publishing industry in such turmoil, joy is needed more than ever, whether you’re traditionally published, indie or a hybrid of both.

Agent Linda and me giving a talk at the National Library, Canberra

Writers tell me they’re overwhelmed by everything they have to do, from promoting on social media to designing covers and hiring their own editors if they’re indie publishing, leaving little time to enjoy the writing process.

Some writers say they feel ready to give up as burnout looms, or sadly, after it hits. In our session, Linda and I will look at better ways for writers to manage these and other stresses.

Your stories are precious gifts only you can share. Even if you work with another writer the resulting gestalt will be unique. It’s so sad when a writer dies with her work locked inside her, like friends who’ve planned to write “someday” which we all know never comes

Some say they’d like some help, but can’t afford the luxury. How can you not afford people who free up your energy so you can write? In my opinion this help is beyond price. Look around you. Who among your group would brainstorm ideas, share info they know and you don’t, celebrate your triumphs and be there when you struggle? Using professionals is a test of your professionalism. Plus your cheer squad will be there with wine, chocolate or funny memes to lift you up so you can keep writing.

Who has your back? Is it a partner, writing friends, paid professionals or a combination? Find them and value them and you’ll never write alone.

Share your thoughts in the comments below. It’s moderated to avoid spam but your comment can appear right away if you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy (and joyful) writing,

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

@valerieparv on Twitter and Facebook

Valerie and her agent, Linda Tate are

presenting at Romance Writers of Australia’s

National Conference Sun 11 August 1-2pm

http://tinyurl.com/y52tghw4

 

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring when I drill down into the reality of being a writer This month’s question comes from a new writer. Confused by the conflicting information available, he asked what writing advice he should take.

First let’s look at a fraction of what’s out there. Start with character. Start with plot. Start with a brilliant idea. Don’t kill the cat. Write from the heart. Show don’t tell. Write what you know. Write what you can imagine.

Write five hundred words every day. Or a thousand. Or five thousand. Don’t preach to readers. Write a morality tale disguised. Start with a theme. Discover your theme as you write. Use the hero’s journey, bullet points, clustering, brainstorming or whatever else is on trend.

The truth is, they are all wrong for some writers. They are also totally right for some writers. The only way to know is to try them. And even that is moot. According to Yoda, the wizened green sage from Star Wars, “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”

Of course Yoda never said that. He’s a made-up character (spoiler, sorry).Yoda’s wisdom comes from Star Wars creator, George Lucas and screenwriter. Lawrence Kasdan, although Kasdan was credited with that specific line here http://tinyurl.com/y2rr94co. Given the years they put into the writing, I wonder if Lucas or Kasdan would still say there is no try, even though it’s quoted everywhere.

More interesting to me is Kasdan’s observation from the same interview:

“I’ve always felt that genre is a vessel into which you put your story…”If you want to make a western, you can tell any story in the world in a western, you know? It can be about family, betrayal, revenge, the opening up of the country…Those stories never get old, because they are issues everybody faces every day. Who do you trust? What are the temptations in your life?

Even when you get to be my age, you’re still trying to figure that out…  What am I, what am I about, have [I] fulfilled my potential, and, if not, is there still time? That’s what the Star Wars saga is about.”

If you were free to choose the vessel that fits your work best, would some of the writing advice suddenly make sense? Could your story work best in the “vessel” of a romance, a fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, historical?

To me writing has always been a mix of good ideas, good writing and good timing. How many great books were rejected then published to huge acclaim when the market was ready?

When I mentor each year’s winner of the Valerie Parv Award run by Romance Writers of Australia, I give what guidance I can then advise the writer to use what they like of my suggestions and discard the rest. To me the author is always the final arbiter of their own work even if the market needs time to catch up.

Then, like Lawrence Kasdan’s comments, there’s advice that make so much sense, it becomes a meme on social media. One such is Nora Roberts’s maxim that you can fix a bad page but you can’t fix a blank page. In other words, write something, anything. Most writing is rewriting anyway. You write what Nora calls a “dirty draft” you can trim, add and edit to reach a semblance of your story vision.

Accept that there’s no such thing as a perfect story. Humans are by nature imperfect. How can our stories be any different? I’ll leave you with two quotes from acclaimed Chilean writer, the late Isabel Allende –

–          Don’t be paralysed by the idea that you’re writing a book. Just write.

–          Show up and be patient. I can hit my head against the wall because [the writing’s] not happening. But just keep   going. Keep going and it happens.

How do you keep the writing going? What advice speaks to you? Share your thoughts in the box below. I moderate comments to avoid spam. Your post can appear right away if you click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Keep writing. Keep writing.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

Appearing at Romance Writers of Australia’s

National Conference Sun 11 August 1-2pm

With my agent Linda Tate we’re presenting

Getting back the joy of writing”

http://tinyurl.com/y52tghw4

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring when I answer your questions about writing. Today’s query asks how to make your characters more real?

The common advice – write what you know – works in many ways. One of them is letting the reader glimpse your personal values through your characters. In mine I try to show their good qualities through how they act under pressure. Their defaults are honesty and kindness even if they struggle to live up to these values.

This doesn’t mean that every character is me. Far from it. They are their own people, shaped by the parenting they received, their experiences as they grew up, and the love they did or didn’t get from their adult relationships.

You as their creator give them these backgrounds, but having done so you lose some of your freedom. A character who has a rough upbringing may well struggle to form good relationships later on. One who has been smothered by “helicopter parents” may find it hard to take risks, seeking a protective partner even as it stunts their emotional growth.

It’s important to be consistent. If they try to surmount their upbringing they need to be aware of the struggle. Perhaps they’ve chosen previous partners unwisely and now resolve to do better.

In my Harlequin Superromance, With a Little Help, my heroine is a successful caterer, the odd one out in a family of high-flying physicians. Having experienced how the demands of a medical career can leave children feeling neglected, Emma Jarrett has no interest in medicine but it doesn’t stop her mother parading eligible doctors in front of her. The latest is surgeon, Nathan Hale, someone she shares a history with. Trying to stick to her ideals is hard as Nate’s appeal grows stronger. Being honest and kind is Emma’s default, challenged by what she considers Nate’s unsuitability.

If you give your main characters some of your own values, it’s easier to portray them as real. There were no doctors in my family, formal education stopping as soon as we were old enough to work. But I was the only writer I know about, so can relate to being the odd one out. I also saw patterns in my family that I didn’t want to repeat when it came to romance.

Having Emma resist partnering with a doctor meant she had to learn that not all of them are like her immediate family. On the other hand, Nate had to come on strong as the indispensable man, only learning differently as he faced mounting challenges including how fast he’s falling for Emma.  This growth and change is the character arc.

In Crowns and a Cradle, the monarch, Prince Lorne, had an unhappy marriage until his wife died leaving him with their young son. If I’d known this would be the first of twenty-three novels set in my South Pacific kingdom, I might not have made divorce illegal. But Lorne is stiff-necked, refusing to change Carramer’s marriage laws even for his own benefit. The situation cried out for a clash of values between Lorne and free-spirited Alison who literally washed up on his private beach. She fell foul of several traditions before accepting that Lorne was right; he had to set an example for his son and his people. But he was also a man, as he started remembering from the moment they met.

Whether they flout their history or stick to it as rigidly as did Prince Lorne, is up to you. It may help to try different approaches before you settle on what works best for your story. I like to make my characters stronger, braver and all-round better people than myself, why I suggest using your own values – but carefully. You don’t want perfect people who can do no wrong.

Nobility is a value I aim for. Noble is defined as fine, decent, righteous and many other good qualities which must be shown, not told. For example, if your heroine needs to raise money for treatment for her sick child, she must attain it by worthy means. Should she find a bag of money, the proceeds of a crime, say, she may agonise over keeping it but she must choose to do the right thing. This shows us her character so we don’t have to be told. In traditional romances the hero may offer her a solution through working for him, possibly the last thing she wants to do, but this is an honest way to help her child.

Your characters may not achieve their goals but it’s not for want of trying. If they fall short it’s for good reason, such as helping the hero or heroine achieve their goals, and in so doing, find a new goal they can achieve together.

What parts of you go into your characters? What don’t you like to see? Share your thoughts in the box below. Comments are moderated to avoid spam, but your comment can appear right away if you click on ”sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone. Happy writing!

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

If you’re near Canberra ACT on June 1, join me for a full day of Romance Writing Rebooted. By day’s end leave with a two-page outline of your romance novel.  Information and bookings –

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/romance-writing-rebooted-with-valerie-parv-am-tickets-55747747012?aff=Enews

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring when I look at the realities of the writing life. First Monday this month is April Fool’s Day, the day jokers love and other people dread. But not all jokes are played on us by others. We writers have many ways we fool ourselves.

For example, just before falling asleep you have a great story idea. You tell yourself you’ll remember the idea in the morning but you’re fooling yourself. Just before sleep, your short term memory doesn’t store information well. Better to write the idea down then you can safely go to sleep.

Here are five more ways writers fool themselves. See if any of them sound familiar:

  1. I can write it tomorrow

None of us is guaranteed another breath, far less another day. This isn’t gloom and doom; it’s a reality check. Even if you do wake up tomorrow, and I pray you will, the day brings its own issues. You could spend hours fixing a problem you hadn’t expected, like me last week with my laptop. There went the precious hours I’d planned to spend writing. Luckily I’d kept my bargain with myself and written the day before, and the one before that. Losing a couple of hours wasn’t a disaster, but what if today had been the only day I’d set aside to enter a competition or meet a deadline?

Good writers don’t put off writing. They write today and every other working day, even if it’s only a couple of sentences.

  1. Someone else has already written my story

They may have written about the same events, but they haven’t written “your” story. A very dear friend talked a lot about a book she meant to write – what she called the Battle of Sydney – when Japanese mini submarines invaded Sydney Harbour in WWII. Working for ABC Radio, she’d had a box seat to see the events unfold. Her perspective was unique; her writing style original. Yet she passed away with the book unwritten for a whole stack of reasons, I suspect mostly #1 and #2 here.

Good writers tell their own stories in their own way.

  1. I don’t have time to write

If we let excuses make the running, the joke is definitely on us. Nobody ever has all the time they need to write. In my writing workshops and my online course, I have participants compile a list of reasons not to write, from the weather to kids being home on holidays, to technology issues (there’s still paper and pen) to other demands on our time. There will always be reasons not to write. Writing is work. I tell others that I’m working rather than writing, because we’re hard wired to respect work. Writing is often seen as something to be picked up or put down on a whim.

If you have stories to tell, you make time to write them. Good writers don’t fool themselves with excuses.

  1. I’m not good enough to write this

This is the saddest April Fool’s joke of them all. Someone in your life – perhaps even you – convinced you that you don’t have what it takes to be a writer. The truth is that nobody knows what makes a writer.

You may be the worst writer in the world, although I doubt that, but how will you know what you can achieve until you try? No writer thinks they’re good enough, even those we regard as the greats. In my career, I’ve found the opposite to be true – the writers most strongly plagued by self doubt are usually those whose words make the sweetest reading. The story in your head is shining, perfect gold, but turns into base metal as soon as you start to write. Accept this as the way things are. Be glad of your fears because all the best writers have them.

Write your story in spite of your fears. Do the best you can at the time.

Now, over to you.

Do you recognise these April fool’s jokes? What other ways do writers fool themselves? Share your thoughts in the comments box below. It’s moderated to avoid spam, but you can have your post appear right away by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

 

Happy writing,

 

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

BOOK NOW! 01 June 2019  at ACT Writers Centre Canberra

Romance Writing Rebooted – a fun interactive workshop, back by popular demand. You’re guided to create up-to-date stories that flow. In one day create a 2-page outline of your novel as a writing guide & great selling tool. Book here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/romance-writing-rebooted-with-valerie-parv-am-tickets-55747747012?aff=Enews

In all my years as a romance writer, I’ve been asked every question from where I get ideas, to how much money I make. I never answer the last one. One question I’m never asked is where I get my characters from.

They can be inspired by real life, but not as often as you might think. I may borrow aspects of people I know but rarely a whole person. Not only is it legally risky, but also because I want  my characters to live in the story,  rather than in real life.

My life rarely inspires my characters. In only one book, Island of Dreams, did they come close. She was the daughter of Russian immigrants who had a troubled history with their homeland. Unable to relax in their new country they moved around a lot and worried about their past catching up with them. This led my heroine to develop an eating disorder she had when she first met the hero, a journalist writing her father’s life story.

The family’s history came from my own migrant parents who also moved a lot and used food as a distraction from their problems. When the book came out I wondered how they would respond to my soul-baring. Short answer – they didn’t. The heroine’s family was Russian and we came from England. Nor did they connect their children’s eating issues with my heroine’s. From then on I created characters as I chose and didn’t give family concerns a second thought.

That said, you can use parts of your own background to create a believable character in just ten minutes.

You’ll need one other person for this exercise. A writing friend is ideal and you can work together off or online. If you have no other options, choose an interesting character from a TV show or movie, plus yourself.

Each of you starts by listing three “good points” you think you have. For example, you may see yourself as a good cook, a hard worker and trustworthy. Your friend makes their own list. If using a TV or movie character, make the list based on your observations of them.

Next you and your friend list three “bad points” you want to change. Or look at your TV character and work out their “bad points.” Don’t worry about being right or wrong, simply make the lists as you see them.

For example, things you want to change about yourself may include often being late, being forgetful or bad at managing money. None of the points need be drastic, just normal human failings.

Oh yes, we also have multiple personalities

Once you have your lists, exchange yours with your friend’s, or work on your TV character’s lists. It’s okay to use your own list provided you can be sufficiently objective. No, you can’t change the lists, you work with what’s on it.

You may be surprised by what your friend sees as their good and bad traits, probably different from the way you see them.

When you have the lists, the person who made them ceases to exist. The lists now represents a character in a story. Sometimes the good and bad points contradict each other. Like the person who sees themselves as a reliable friend despite often being late.

Use the lists to imagine a heroine in your story. Do their qualities suggest a name for them? What kind of work would they do? A poor money manager may not thrive in banking. But if they were in this job, how would they cope? Perhaps their boss is frustrated by the heroine’s failings but she’s the CEO’s daughter. How would this play out?

Already this character is coming to life. You could then make a “good and bad” list for her boss. The scenario so far suggests he might be a bit uptight, preferring computers to fallible humans. What if he and your heroine must work together on an important project? What if it’s something outside work, where he gets to see her good points in action, as well as her weaknesses? What might their task be? Perhaps a charity project that doesn’t suit the hero at all, far less having to work with this ditzy woman. No doubt you can imagine dozens of ways they could clash as their attraction builds.

Doing this exercise gives you real people to work with, because the good and bad aspects came from real people including yourself. It also beats listing aspects such as hair and eye colour and height.These can come later when you have a handle on who these two people are. The essential conflict also comes from who they are – in this case, one an uptight executive, the other an airhead with money. Now work out how they got to where they are and why they must cooperate on the project. You’re well on the way to having an original story.

How do you develop characters and stories? Share your thoughts in the space below. They’re moderated to avoid spam but your comment can appear right away if you click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone. Happy writing!

Valerie

The 2019 Valerie Parv Award run by Romance Writers of Australia opens April 8 and closes April 29, open to members and non members.  I mentor the winner for the year they hold the award.

Details:Valerie Parv Award 2019

Find me on Twitter @valerieparv  and Facebook http://www.valerieparv.com

For more like this check out Valerie’s online course, http://www.valerieparv.com/course.html

 

 

One thing I need to make clear – I know next to nothing about the game of cricket, despite friends’ best efforts to enlighten me. Nevertheless I found myself intrigued by an article by sports journalist, Robert Craddock, @craddock_cmail  in the January 7, 2019 Sunday Telegraph.

He wrote a 10-point analysis of the Indian cricket team’s “blueprint for success.” As I browsed his ten points, I began seeing them as a blueprint for writing success as well. The headers fit perfectly and I’ve adapted the content to apply to writing.

1 Be Fit and Fierce

The Indian team, says Craddock, have non-negotiable fitness levels for their players. Many of us have resolved to improve our fitness this year, but how many consider the benefits to our writing? A fit body translates to an alert mind and it can be acquired as easily by walking regularly, as by spending hours in a gym.

2 Wicked wickets

The lesson here is to ignore “good” or “bad” conditions (wickets) and write anyway. Waiting for the perfect day or mood to start writing is a sure way to get nothing done. If you find yourself saying, “I’ll write when…” try changing when to “now.”

3 Be flexible

Being flexible means not trying to be Nora Roberts or Liane Moriarty – they’re already taken. Create your writing practice around your special abilities and write your words your way.

4 Tough love

According to Robert Craddock, the Indian team practices all kinds of ball deliveries until they can handle just about anything. As a writer you can do the same, challenging yourself to write long, short, to a deadline and just for fun. Entering competitions – or even judging them – out of your comfort zone is another way to practice tough love on yourself.

5 Bold cuts

This means removing anything from your writing practice that doesn’t serve you well. Decluttering expert, Marie Kondo, calls this removing whatever doesn’t spark joy in your life. I have a well set-up office but found myself working at the dining table. Solution – change my old fashioned desk for a “dining table” type desk that’s smaller, streamlined, and makes me feel good using it. Likewise invest in stationery, pens, keyboards, any tools you enjoy using.

6 The anchorman

Craddock refers to one Indian player who shaped the mood of his team. You may be a one-player team but how do you inspire yourself? Do you read interesting articles – like this one, taking inspiration from a subject I knew nothing about? Watch vlogs and podcasts like Sarah Williams’s Write with Love, learning from some of the wonderful writers she interviews. Disclaimer: one of them was me, so I may be a bit biased. http://www.sarahwilliamsauthor.com/valerieparv

7 Bag of tricks

Do you write cleverly and with invention, aiming to improve your writing with every draft? I’ve written before about my 20 Options for ensuring originality. When writing a new scene I start with the numbers 1 to 20 down the side of a page or screen, aiming to fill in as many story options as I can. The first few are the most obvious, the next few becoming more fanciful, until I have more options for the scene than I’d dreamed were possible.

8 Back-up troops

When you run out of writing steam, do you have a writing buddy you can contact when the going gets rough, and do the same for them? Belong to a group on or offline? Have a library of “keeper” books to re-read for inspiration? These are your back-up troops.

9 Hard-yakka heroes

For my overseas readers, hard yakka is an Aussie term for hard work. As with elite cricketers, successful writers can be surrounded with glitz and glamour that obscures the hard work they put in to get where they are. Working around day jobs, family demands and rejection are all part of the long road to success, and must be repeated book after book.

10 Challenge yourself

Behind almost every published writer is a pile of books that died in the writing, were rejected despite their best efforts, and had the author questioning why they chose to write in the first place. To finish the cricketing analogy, I’ll quote Robert Craddock who says, “The (Indian Team) lost both series (against England and South Africa) but gained a tough shell that had them conditioned for anything in Australia.” Think of all those lost books as helping you perfect your craft and grow that tough shell.

What people or jobs inspire you? Share your thoughts in the space below. They’re moderated to avoid spam but your comment can appear right away if you click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone. Happy writing!

Valerie

Find me on Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook http://www.valerieparv.com

For more like this check out Valerie’s online course, www.valerieparv.com/course.html

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring when I answer questions about the reality of being a writer. This time of year it’s easy to get lost in the fantasy of Santa bringing you a new contract or published book, a bit like dreaming of what you’ll do when you win the lottery.

Fantasizing about seeing that new book on the shelves or on your device is harmless and pleasant. Unless the fantasy takes the place of writing actual words and making your book a reality.

I’ll bet you didn’t know that Santa keeps Naughty and Nice lists just for writers. Which list your writing is on will most likely determine where you’ll be this time next year.

By Naughty and Nice, I don’t mean the content of your books. How nice (sweet) or naughty (sexy) you write is up to you, and there are readers for both kinds plus all stops in between.

Here are some of what might be on Santa’s lists:

Naughty – beating yourself up for not meeting your deadlines

Nice – writing at a pace that’s comfortable and doable for you

Unless you’re committed to someone else’s deadline, you choose how much writing fits into your everyday life. There’s a lot of misinformation around the Internet, such as how you “must” write every day, and “must” produce a book every three months to be successful.

I wish I knew who makes these rules. The truth is, you get to decide how much writing you can do and how often. Some writers produce a book every one or two years. Others produce one every two or three months. Quality will usually win out over quantity in the long run.

Naughty – never reading other writers’ books or craft books because you know all that stuff.

Nice – educating yourself through attending workshops and conferences off or online and reading the latest craft information out there.

Even at this stage in my career, I still read how-to books. If I find one new piece of information, my time is well invested. If a speaker is less than satisfying, I use the time to analyze my reactions as well as their performance. Are they ill-prepared? Is their message badly presented but otherwise interesting? Sometimes I learn more from poor workshops than from those I enjoy.

Naughty – killing your back and wrists by typing non-stop until your eyes glaze over and you can hardly move.

Nice – making self-care a priority, getting up from the desk regularly, doing appropriate exercise and having a meditation practice to handle the stress of giving so much of yourself to the writing.

Being nice to yourself also means taking time away from the writing to refill the well. Last month I looked at gifts writers can give themselves – time to write without interruption, space where you can write, and comfort in the form of a suitable chair, desk, keyboard and whatever else you need to ensure that your writing supports your health and well-being.

Naughty – seeing other writers as competitors you must “beat” to stay ahead.

Nice – reaching out to others, finding mentors and writing buddies to share the journey and remind you that you’re not alone.

Writing is a solitary activity. Taking time to attend local groups, chat online or otherwise connect with your tribe is time well spent. Writing buddies can also keep you accountable. Say you want to write 1,000 words in the next hour, you can go on Twitter and use the hashtag #amwriting to find people with similar goals, a bit like having someone pace an athlete. It’s an honour system and it’s fun. You may not know the other writer, but it doesn’t matter. You’re helping each other along the road.

Looking at this list, do you find you lean more toward naughty or nice? I suggest using the list not to make resolutions – few of us keep those for very long – but as guidelines to a healthy and enjoyable writing practice.What’s on your naughty or nice writing list? Share your thoughts in the space below. Posts are moderated to avoid spam but your comment can appear right away if you click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy holidays, however you choose to celebrate!

Valerie

I’ll answer your responses here, then in the interests of self-care

I’m taking a break from blogging until February 4

but you can find me on Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook http://www.valerieparv.com

For more like this check out Valerie’s online course, http://www.valerieparv.com/course.html

With the festive season racing upon us, the question I was asked recently is very timely. I was in Canberra recently presenting a workshop on rebooting your romance writing when one of the group asked me what are the best gifts to give a writer.

I had to think for a while, considering all the usual suspects from coffee mugs to stationery and not surprisingly, chocolate. All would be welcomed by writers, but they aren’t the gifts I decided to write about. For the most part these gifts cost almost nothing.

Failing this…

For me the best gift you can give yourself – or another writer in your life – is time. It’s astonishing how easily we find time for everybody else’s needs, yet invariably put our own need for time last. But how can we write if we don’t allow ourselves time?

We need time, not only to do the work of writing, but for dreaming up ideas and developing them before we ever sit down at the keyboard. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a plotter who conceives every detail of a story before you start writing; or a pantser, so-called because you write “by the seat of your pants” with no idea where you’re going until you get there. You still need time to get your head around the story you wish to write.

Who are the characters you’ll write about? Where will the story be set? What time period? What is the big problem (the conflict) stopping these people from riding off into the sunset together?

Even an hour a day of uninterrupted time is enough to write a hundred words toward your eventual manuscript. How can you set this time aside for yourself? If you have family, can they be persuaded to give you this gift every day, either by doing some chore you might otherwise do, or by leaving you in peace for an hour?

If you like, create some gift cards promising you the hour – more if you can manage it. Hand them to whoever will give you the gift, or pin one above your screen as a reminder to give yourself this time. Choose your most productive time, whether it be early morning or late in the evening as suits you. Then regard the time as sacred to your writing and don’t allow anything other than a dire emergency to interrupt.

        It’s important to manage interruptions

The next best gift is a place to write. Virginia Woolf made much of having a room of one’s own. If a whole room isn’t possible, then find the next best thing. Could you put a small desk into a little-used guest room? Some garages or laundries are large enough to provide writing space, provided they aren’t too hot or cold. A hallway might have cupboards you can adapt with a desk and shelving inside, and doors to close when not in use. Imagination is a writer’s stock-in-trade, why not use yours to find and re-purpose a space for your writing?

The final gift is comfort, not something writers think much about until a physical problem hits, forcing you to confront it. An ergonomic chair may seem extravagant but will repay you many times over in supporting your health. Buying second-hand can reduce the cost but be sure you try the chair before buying. Other comfort options are largely cost-free – making sure your screen or device is at a comfortable viewing height, with suitable lightning and quiet surroundings. Earplugs or headphones can help here.

Santa might not have these gifts on his list but you can take care of them yourself or invite family or friends to assist, letting you look forward to a Happy New Year of productive writing. What gift could you give your writing self? Share your thoughts in the space below. They’re moderated to avoid spam but your comment can appear right away if you click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone. Happy writing!

Valerie

On Twitter @valerieparv and Facebook

http://www.valerieparv.com

For more like this check out Valerie’s online course,

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

Over the last two First Monday blogs I’ve explored some of the challenges facing writers today. Yes, they are many. Big publishers are amalgamating at a rate of knots. Soon we’ll be down to perhaps three. Rather than taking on new authors, the remaining publishers already prefer to mine their backlists for books they can rely on to sell.

Will we even have a publishing industry any more, or will every person who is so inclined write and publish their own books? This is already happening with Indie publishing. All you need is a manuscript and the money to produce the book yourself or hire qualified people to do the technical stuff for you.

As writers this is our current reality. But there are other aspects to writing that I want to focus on here.  Why we feel driven to share the stories buzzing around in our brains. Why writers who have made significant fortunes – J.K.Rowling, Stephen King, James Paterson and the like – still feel the need to share their stories.

Is it because writers can’t not write?

Maybe we’ll go back to our beginnings. Instead of going into print or ebooks, will we collect followers around whatever passes for a camp fire and revive the oral traditions of storytelling?

Mixed media is very much a thing now. Writers are combining with designers, musicians, painters to bring stories out in very different forms. They are ephemeral but they offer both creator and recipient – is it accurate to call them readers anymore? – the satisfaction of going from Once upon a time, to…and they lived happily ever after.

That may be enough for many storytellers. As a child who thought everybody wrote stories, I printed my own on flimsy paper with illustrations done in pencil. When I was at school in Grenfell NSW I wrote my first book in pencil in an exercise book in response to a class assignment. I may have been the only one in the class who actually produced a book. It was a complete story with a beginning, middle and end and a few very poor illustrations. That book somehow survived the years and now lives among my papers in the State Library of NSW.

Reading it again before sending it to its new home, I was surprised how my writing voice had survived intact. I used a lot of big words I wouldn’t use now, not so much showing off as exploring the sheer joy of language. Back then I’d had no thought of making a living as a writer. I didn’t know what a writer was, and thought everybody made up stories.

Maybe we’ll come full circle back to those innocent times and tell stories for the joy of sharing them. Here are five reasons why we’re lucky to be writers:

  1. We never have a dull moment. Standing in a supermarket line or bank queue, we can free our minds to explore possible stories or solve plot points. Our bodies may be in the doctor’s waiting room, but our minds are away in our invented worlds so that when our turn finally comes, it’s an unwelcome interruption to our thoughts.
  2. Our feelings have somewhere to go. In my indoor bowls group, if they spoil my team’s carefully placed shots, they’re used to being told I will put them in a book and kill them. I haven’t done so yet, but there’s always a first time.
  3. Writers never retire. Even if we develop some physical infirmity, as long as our brains function, we can still write. Stories can be told to someone or recorded via a dictation program or other clever gadget. I dream of the time when I can attach something to my forehead and the words will stream direct onto a screen. Such systems exist for people with disabilities. Properly refined, I’m sure they will serve our purpose in the near future.
  4. Our writing touches other people. This may be the most precious gift of all. We can move people to laughter or tears. We can make them ponder life’s mysteries, or discover invented worlds that become as real to them as to us. Hogwarts, Narnia, Sherlock Holmes’s Baker Street, the Star Trek universe, all were born in a writer’s imagination.
  5. What we do is a mystery, even to ourselves. One minute we’re daydreaming, the next we’re scribbling or typing frantically, trying to keep up with our thoughts. We’re often asked where we get ideas, yet none of us really knows. On my wall I have a copy of a Rembrandt painting called The Apostle Matthew Inspired by the Angel. Pen in hand, he sits stroking his beard and staring into space while an angel whispers in his ear. Whispering ideas? It’s as good an answer as we may ever get.

What gives you joy in writing? Share your thoughts in the comment box below. The blog is moderated to avoid spam but your post can appear right away if you click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing,

Valerie

On Twitter @valerieparv and Facebook

http://www.valerieparv.com

For more like this check out Valerie’s online course,

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

Sign up for Valerie’s next workshop:  Saturday 27 October 2018

At Canberra Writers Centre  Romance Writing Rebooted

Details and bookings – http://tinyurl.com/ycwbutst

 

Tag Cloud