Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

The End.

Most writers agree, there are no more satisfying words to type. The hard work is done. The book is complete, leaving only the champagne to pop or the chocolate to break out.

Sadly they aren’t the end of anything except getting your story down in one place, a major achievement you can and should celebrate.The book that has haunted your waking hours and sometimes your sleep, is finished. At least until an editor takes over, whether someone you’ve hired or one associated with a traditional publisher.

But this isn’t the time to think about editing. You should enjoy this moment to the full.

Then there’s your writing place to sort out. All those notes and references to be filed. Not discarded, you may need them later. Domestic chores to catch up on. People to reconnect with. Remember them? The family and friends you texted or PMd on Social, promising to catch up after you finished the book?

Give yourself some catch-up time

If possible, resist the temptation to attack your manuscript. You’re still too close to it to be objective. Better let it sit for as long as you can. There are other things to be doing while the book is fresh in your mind.

If you wrote a synopsis before starting the book, does it need updating? I find them easier to write once the book is done, but some publishers request a synopsis and sample chapters before they’ll consider reading the book.

If you’re an indie publisher a synopsis is optional, although it can be handy in preparing blog entries or other promotional materials. In The Art of Romance Writing, I list the elements needed in a synopses:

  • Who the main characters are
  • How they come together, with a hint of the setting
  • The nature of the conflict between them
  • How they resolve the conflict through their own efforts
  • Brief details of any subplots
  • How you tie up the story at the end

The length usually depends on the book. A short genre novel may run 2-3 pages, while a complicated family saga may need a dozen pages. If submitting to a trad publisher, check their submission guidelines and follow them as closely as you can.

By the way, the terms outline and synopsis are often interchangeable. I think of an outline as a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, a tool for my reference. Likewise outlines made on Scrivener or similar programs, whatever you find useful.

Generally a synopsis for submission is written in first person, present tense. She did…he went…and so on. The pages can be single or double spaced as suits you. It helps to start the synopsis with a hook, making the editor want to read on. Stick to the key elements and characters, mentioning minor characters as they relate to the main characters – Brad’s housekeeper, Zoe’s brother.

If a publisher asks for a proposal, also known as a partial, this usually means a covering letter, synopsis, and sample chapters. Always send the first three chapters in order.

Some publishers prefer a query letter before they read anything more substantial. Try to keep your letter/email to a single page, with a balance between sounding businesslike and overly friendly.

Elements you may include:

  • A very brief summary of the book. Mention the word length and that you have finished the manuscript.
  • Your writing history. If you’re published, have won contests, or belong to writing organisations, mention these. Rather than saying this is your first book, be positive in presenting yourself.
  • Any personal background that prompted you to write this book. There’s a growing interest in writers and books from varied backgrounds. If the book concerns characters with whom you share a background or ethnicity, definitely say so. If you’re writing outside your own history, mention why you feel qualified to write this book, any sensitivity reads you’ve had done, and anything else giving the book a strong basis to connect with readers.

Even if the book is to be self-published, having these details ready helps you prepare cover blurb, interviews, bios and blog posts.

Another useful element is the so-called elevator pitch. Imagine you meet an agent or editor at a writing conference. They ask your name and what you’re working on. You answer with a tightly honed one or two sentence-description of your book. Some authors say this is tougher to write than the book itself.

For example, I might say, “I’m Valerie Parv. I’m currently working on a memoir to share my life and writing secrets with emerging writers.”

For a novel you might give the story highlights, especially the page-turning intrigue or conflict. For my book Crowns and a Cradle, I might say, “A single mum battles Crown Prince Josquin who believes Sarah’s infant son is the heir to the Valmont throne, and will stop at nothing including romancing her, to get what he wants.” I may polish the pitch, but these are the elements I’m likely to include.

For the cover it’s helpful to write a logline, an even briefer pitch using my “Three Cs.” These are Character, Conflict and Content. For Crowns and a Cradle, the character is single mum, Sarah, her conflict is with the Crown Prince, and the content, sometimes called the stakes, her baby’s future. For example: a single mum must defy a dashing prince who claims her baby son is his rightful heir.

These skills are good to practice no matter where you are in your writing journey. How do you handle the synopsis, elevator pitch and logline? Share your thoughts here. They’re monitored to avoid spam but you can have your post appear immediately by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing,

Valerie

On Facebook and Twitter @valerieparv

Website www.valerieparv.com

 

It’s the first Monday of February, when you can ask me questions and discuss any aspect of writing that concerns you.

It’s also when many of us make – and sadly break – our resolutions for the New Year. We aim to be healthier, give up bad habits, and be more productive. These resolutions are soon broken, not because they are unworthy goals, but because they aim for perfection, not a natural place for humans to be.

We can still work toward our goals but they probably should be built into everyday life, rather than pressuring us to do everything at once. Several years ago I started eating more sensibly, and am reaping the benefits. Had I started during the holiday season, I’d have far less chance of making the changes stick.

On Facebook recently, someone posted what I think is a far more creative approach to the New Year. Rather than making resolutions, you choose a word to inspire you through the coming year.

This makes sense to me. But like many of you following this blog, I work with words. So far, I’ve published over five million words in books alone, plus movie scripts, short stories, novellas and articles.

How on earth to choose just one?

There are writing-related words – brainwave, inspiration, dedication, productivity, imagination, success, creativity.

Scary words – procrastination, deadlines, endurance, not really the encouragement I’m seeking.

After much searching, I finally settled on a word to sum up my hopes and plans for 2020.

*drum roll, please*

The word is ENRICHMENT.

As a volunteer guide at Canberra’s National Zoo and Aquarium for over ten years, I was very familiar with this word. When visitors commented on how happy and energetic the animals were, enrichment was the reason.

Everyone from zoo keepers to volunteers contributed materials or helped make toys for the animals. Toys were usually food-related such as screw-top bottles or egg cartons filled with seeds and treats. Each item was tailored to the animal’s needs and skills, designed to challenge and entertain while eventually rewarding the animal’s efforts.

In summer, frozen treats were on offer, such as “bloodsicles” for the big cats, and frozen fish for the massive European brown bears. One year, the owners brought in a load of snow from the Snowy Mountains, and heaped it around the enclosures. Seeing a 400kg European brown bear cautiously check out a scary pile of snow was fun for animals and zoo visitors alike.

I can see enrichment working well for writers. We’re prone to boredom if we don’t have enough variety in our work or the going gets tough. Rewards help us stay motivated. New journals and stationery are favourites, as is chocolate. Streaming TV shows or movies, taking research trips and giving ourselves reading time can enrich our writing lives, providing new information from which we can draw our stories.

Right now, in the searing heat of our Aussie summer, a pile of snow delivered to my backyard has plenty of appeal.

What word would you like to adopt for 2020? Share them with us in the comments below. I moderate posts to avoid spam, but if you want your comment to appear right away, click on the “sign me up” box at right to subscribe. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy New Year and may your words flow in 2020,

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Sat 14 March 2020, 10am-4pm AEDT

Getting Back the Joy of Writing

Agent Linda Tate and Valerie Parv AM

Literary agent Linda Tate and author Valerie Parv AM show how to

recover your lost enthusiasm, even find pleasure in pitching your work

Venue – Harry Hartog books Australian National University

 153-11 University Avenue Acton ACT 2601

Book now at http://tinyurl.com/ug3vvq5

 

 

 

 

 

What with gift shopping, decorating, cooking, and catching up with family and friends, writing during the holiday season can be a challenge. Instead, here are seven ways to reboot your writing for when you return to the keyboard. Exercising different parts of your brain is not only fun but aids your creativity.

  1. Try a new craft to decorate your home or to give as special gifts

Giving something you’ve baked, preserved or crafted by hand will be valued far more than store-bought gifts. My friend Ruth, makes gorgeous mini Christmas trees out of recycled magazines. Some are plain, others decorated with tiny lights as shown here. Even her grandchildren have put in their orders.

  1. Meet new people

Much of life has moved online, limiting the people we meet face to face. Why not widen your social circle by attending a holiday event. Whatever your beliefs there’s bound to be something that suits. Carols by Candlelight can be religious or secular. Go along and sing your heart out. Chat to people around you every chance you get. Even better, volunteer to help at the event.

  1. Try new foods

Most of us have our holiday favourites, be they mince pies or roast turkey. You can still enjoy them on your festive day but beforehand, why not see how others celebrate? Chances are there’s a multi-cultural group in your community. Check with your council or local paper for what’s on. Take your traditional foods along and be prepared to sample new and interesting dishes from other cultures.

On a cruise of Sydney Harbour with a group of readers from Japan, I found an instant connection via the foods we liked to cook and eat, breaking down language barriers and causing much merriment as we tried to figure out recipes to share.

  1. Find some littlies

Many people say their best celebrations are in the company of small children. I decided to write books instead of having children, choosing to have rent-a-kids and these days, rent-a-grandkids, instead. This December one of my rent-a-grandkids turns one and I can’t wait to give him his first football, truly, it’s marked “my first football.” He and his mother can play with it together until he’s old enough to run and kick. Then who knows, the World Cup?

  1. Spend time with animals

Not everyone lives in a place where they can have pets. I travel too much to have my own, so as with children, I have rent-a-pets. Currently my rent-a-dogs include a precious teacup-sized poodle, a sooky English staffy, and a sweet-natured Cavoodle who is also a service dog assisting her owners. As well I have a rent-a-cat called Jessie. When I visit her house she jumps onto the back of an armchair to be within patting distance. Over Christmas I’m spending time with the staffy and her owner, and already have my furry friend’s “Christmas dinner” of roast duck, vegies and cranberries. It’s still dog food, but don’t tell her.

  1. Set yourself a reading project

Last January I challenged myself to read my Complete Works of Shakespeare, all 1200 pages, each 2 columns of 7 point font. I finished the task in September, adding a few Shakespeare-related movies as well as re-reading  the signed and annotated script of Two Gentlemen of Verona which belonged to William Shatner. He was part of a stellar cast including Sir Paul McCartney, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, presenting Simply Shakespeare in aid of the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles. I won the script in his Hollywood Charity Horse Show auction which supports children’s and veterans’ charities. Your reading project can be anything that appeals to you. Dive into your To Be Read pile; re-read a childhood classic or book-of-the-movie you’ve been meaning to check out. Audible books are also a way to enjoy reading while doing holiday chores.

  1. Visit a new place

Whether the place is in your own neighbourhood, a park, a holiday market, museum, church or gallery, go with an open mind. A local group near me runs gingerbread-house-making classes, another has an exhibition of Christmas trees. Sit by a river soaking up the scenery. Soon after I was widowed, I spent one of my most rewarding holidays with friends who ran a large motel in a tourist destination. They were too busy to think about celebrating, which suited me, and I spent the time helping out wherever I could. We’d planned to work on making the perfect Margarita. We didn’t get to it until 10pm Christmas Day but it gave us a fun focus.

What does all this have to do with writing? I see it as refilling your well of story resources. Like any well, it can run dry if not replenished, ready for when you finally get time to create.

Can you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments 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. This blog won’t be back until February, as I take a break to refill my own creative well.

Seasons greeting and happy writing!

Valerie Parv

www.valerieparv.com

@valerieparv on Twitter and Facebook

Save the Date
Saturday, 14 March 2020
Valerie Parv AM and Literary agent Linda Tate
present  – Getting Back the Joy of Writing
for ACT Writers Centre

 

 

 

This week I was reading The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker the second novel by past Valerie Parv Award Winner, Joanna Nell, when I found in the acknowledgments, her  appreciation for encouraging her to follow her instincts and write her book from the heart.

She’d certainly done that. At one point I was reading in such an emotional mess I didn’t think I could finish the book because I was feeling all the feels. Thankfully I did finish and the ending was totally worthwhile.

Joanna’s acknowledgment made me think about how important it is to invest yourself in your writing. Years ago an editor at Mills & Boon, London, proposed a change I’d already considered and rejected. When I told her so, she asked me how often I followed my instincts. I’d was forced to admit that I’d been second-guessing myself , trying to give the editor what I thought she wanted.

Nobody knows what will sell until it’s out there. Ask J.K. Rowling about her many rejections before Harry Potter became a publishing phenomenon.  Far better to follow your writing instincts and tell the story you passionately want to tell.

With so many books being published, the biggest challenge to readers is discovering your work. Joanna’s first book, The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village, also published by Hachette, was launched with a national book tour. Her delightful humour and focus on love in older years meant she had a keen readership waiting for her second book.

Joanna Nell signs her much-anticipated new book

Some years ago when I wrote a book on creativity, The Idea Factory, published by Allen & Unwin,  my late husband drew a cartoon of a person being X-Rayed, the doctor indicating an actual book showing up on the screen. “Yes, there is a book in you.” These days it seems not only does everyone have a book in them, they can’t wait to get it out.

This can be at the expense of thorough editing and overall presentation, particularly if you’re self publishing. When it comes to basic grammar, story structure, spelling and the like, standards are slipping everywhere. The internet is full of memes showing the difference between their, they’re and there, which your spell checker doesn’t always recognise, although they’re (they are) improving all the time.

A useful rule for editing, coined by sci-fi luminary, Theodore Sturgeon, he described as “matter vs manner.”

Matter is what you write about – the stories of your heart. IMO these are non-negotiable. No editor or critique partner or group should tell you what stories you can tell, although you may have to wait for the readership to catch up.

Manner is how you tell your story and it’s here that beta readers, editors and critique groups are most helpful. If you have a wonderful story but it’s getting lost in turgid prose, excessive adjectives, typos and spelling mistakes, these are craft issues you can fix.  As far as possible I want readers to enjoy the story without  distractions, and I welcome having structural issues pointed out. The story is mine but how it’s told is an editor’s province, ensuring my message comes across as I intend.

For example, if the problem is the common one of repetition – the author repeating the same information in a different way or in another scene, it should be fixed, no argument. All writers have pet words we use unconsciously until we edit them out in successive drafts. Common examples are just, only, well, in fact, etc.  What must remain is your message, your reason for writing a particular story. In this I urge you to follow your instincts and always, always write from your heart.

How often do you follow your instincts and write from the heart? Share your thoughts in the comments 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 Parv

www.valerieparv.com

@valerieparv on Twitter and Facebook

In previous blogs I’ve looked at how many words you “should” write in a day, the answer being whatever suits your style and life commitments. Everyone is different and whether you write 200 or 2000 words in a given period is up to you.

Just as there are marathon runners and sprinters, there are those who happily write huge word counts. Others write more slowly, perhaps editing and polishing as they go. International best selling writer, Dean Koontz admits this is his style and it hasn’t done him any harm.

There’s another kind of pacing to consider, and that’s the pace of the story itself. It’s great when readers say they couldn’t put your book down, and even better when they say they didn’t want the story to end.

Most writers, including me, are avid readers and I’ve found myself slowing down near the end of a wonderful book, reluctant to part company with characters I’ve come to love. But just as many readers are turned off by thick, dense-looking narratives.

As we move into the final quarter of the year, we’ve all heard – or said ourselves – that we don’t know where the year went. Wasn’t it Christmas only a couple of months ago? Possibly the perception is due to how much entertainment we now pack into a year.

We order online for same-day delivery. There’s speed dating for everything from partners to publishing. Dating shows like “The Proposal” show the lovelorn “meeting and marrying” in an hour. Big life changes happen on screen in an hour on “This Time Next Year.” Even irascible chef, Gordon Ramsay, fixes a restaurant’s problems on fast forward. In movies, transitions are almost instant. Watching the movie “Yesterday” I was impressed how scene changes were shown by running huge translucent headers like LA or LIVERPOOL across the screen.

The need for speed has revived short stories and novellas under 40,000 words. Print and ebook page counts are shrinking. US analyst, Zach Obront, studied dozens of New York Times best sellers and found the average hardcover novel in 2011 was about 500 pages. By 2017 it was under 300 pages and still dropping.

Average word counts have gone from 80,000 words to 60,000 or even less. American retailer, Walmart, told my publisher, Harlequin, that aging customers were asking for larger print sizes. This is easily handled on eReaders, of course, but for print books it meant reducing word counts. My book, “Desert Justice”, was ready to be published and I was tasked with removing 10,000 words from an already-edited book. At first I cut back all descriptive details. Readers now Google anything they want to know more about. Then I made sure every word worked. A tough job but the book was the better for it when I was done.

It’s great to fit in

Modern books need to get in and out of scenes as quickly as possible. Dive straight into the first chapter as close to the action as you can. You may have to write and delete a couple of chapters of set-up. In my current project I wrote 2,000 words of flashback then deleted them in favour of a scene where the heroine sees the hero run off the road on his motorcycle and stops to help.

In general I’m writing only enough description to bring the scene to life. Then it’s on with showing the story through dialogue and action.

Shorter paragraphs and chapters can save those reading on devices from a solid screen of unbroken text.  Putting a hook at the end of each chapter has always worked, keeping readers engrossed. Likewise I like to set love scenes in unexpected places, not only bedrooms. In writing workshops where I’ve challenged the group to come up with interesting settings for love scenes, we have inadvertently entertained people within earshot of our efforts. I hope we’ve given them some new ideas as well.

Technology is a given; have characters use it even in remote locations.  If not, have reasons why not. Avoid repeating information you’ve already given. Readers “get it.” They want the story to move along at a fast clip while we compete with streamed TV, movies on Netflix and endless memes of cute cats.

What changes have affected your writing lately? What pushes you out of a book? 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 Parv

www.valerieparv.com

@valerieparv on Twitter and Facebook

SAVE THE DATE

My new workshop is Making Your Book Work

Saturday Oct 12 in Canberra for ACT Writers Centre

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

 

 

Dating back to classical mythology, the idea of a muse as a source of creative inspiration is with us to this day.

Accounts vary but the original nine muses, said to be the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, were credited with inspiring everything from epic poetry to music, dance and astronomy.

I’ve had many sources of inspiration coming to mind recently as my agent, Linda Tate, and I presented a session called Getting back the Joy of Writing at the national conference of Romance Writers of Australia.

Linda and me at RWA conference 2019

The conference spanned enough late nights and early mornings that I was yawning as our presentation approached, definitely not a good look. Coffee was the obvious answer. Now caffeine and I don’t usually get along. I even drink decaffeinated diet coke, known to my friends as “why bother?” On this occasion I was able to grab a cup of “real” coffee  and kick start my share of the session with nobody the wiser.

In our presentation, Linda talked about the need to set up a time and space to write, showing a graphic which said, “But first, coffee.” I’m sensing a theme here. Not that I support the idea of relying on stimulants. The downside is too risky, as everyone from Oscar Wilde to Stephen King found to their cost.

anton-hein-004_reasonably_small

But first, coffee?

In truth it’s better to be your own muse, as most writers know deep down. But there’s no harm in personifying your creative inspiration if it works for you. I’m not averse to having Chris Hemsworth turn up on my doorstep. Not sure how much writing I’d get done though.

Let’s face it, when I met my muse, actor, writer and philanthropist, William Shatner, I was hard pressed to get a word out, although he was perfectly charming, as were his companions from Star Trek, LeVar Burton and Sir Patrick Stewart. Just the idea of sitting down to a private chat with them left me speechless. Not my usual condition, as many of you know.

My muse, William Shatner

This week on Facebook, writer friend Ebony McKenna posted:  Another 1500 words today. They are terrible words. Slapped down on the keyboard with no heart or thought while my muse flakes on the sofa eating bonbons. Want to trade muses?

Erin Grace responded: mine is at your place feeding your muse the bonbons.

Alison Stuart said hers was still stuck at the cricket.

Ebony’s last line was telling: I’m reminding myself, at least I have something to edit.

However you perceive your muse, here are three ways to enlist their co-operation.

  1. Have a deadline

Nothing concentrates the writing mind as well as having work due in a set time frame. Some writers can only work to a looming deadline. I’m one who starts a project as soon as the contract is signed. But then I used to do my assignments in the breaks at university.

  1. Have a great idea

If a story and characters won’t leave you alone, nagging you as you try to sleep, your muse is urging you to get up and do the thing. I’m writing this at 4am not from choice, but because I want to share these thoughts with you.

  1. Enjoy having written

The reality is that writing is hard work, but nothing beats the joy of reading over your new words, whether two hundred or two thousand of them. And as I said at the conference, the writers most likely to struggle are the “good” writers who challenge themselves with every new project.

What works as your muse? Chocolate, wine, coffee or simply the satisfaction of having written? Perhaps Chris Hemsworth? Sorry but William Shatner is mine, in fantasy anyway. 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 Parv

www.valerieparv.com

@valerieparv on Twitter and Facebook

Save the date –

My new workshop on Making Your Book Work

Saturday Oct 12 in Canberra for ACT Writers Centre

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/making-your-book-work-with-valerie-parv-am

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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