Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

It’s baaa-aack, the first Monday of every month (or the first Sunday if you’re in the northern hemisphere) when I invite you to post your writing-related questions and I’ll  answer them here. Lots of talented writers read and comment on this blog and you’re also welcome to contribute a question or your thoughts on an answer, or a writing experience that might help others.

Feel free to post writing concerns and questions, and share experiences. Questions can be posted ahead of time if you like and I will answer during Monday June 4.  I monitor the blog and post answers throughout the day.

To kick things off, here are a couple of questions I was asked during the last week.

Is it worthwhile for a writer to attend conferences?

Mostly the answer is yes,  no matter where you are in your writing journey. New writers can meet like-minded people, and make the vital discovery that you’re not alone in your struggles. A writing conference is also the best place to meet editors and agents on an informal basis, or you can sign up through the conference to pitch an idea to them. If they like the sound of your idea, they’ll ask you to send it to their publishing house or agency, and you get to put the magic words “requested material” on the package, dodging the towering slush piles.

How do you know when it’s time to give up on a particular book?

This is tough. If J K Rowling had given up after the many rejections she received, the Harry Potter books wouldn’t be household names. Rejections are part of writing life. If you receive only a form letter, it could be the publisher had no room for further books in the schedule; or they may have something similar to yours in production. If you receive specific suggestions, take that as definite encouragement. Editors don’t waste time commenting on work that’s going nowhere. If there’s something in the suggestions you can use, by all means do, but be wary of extensive rewrites unless the editor has asked to see it again. Another editor may love it as it is, or have different ideas again. Only when you receive repeated comments along similar lines – your book lacks pace; the characters aren’t believeable, or whatever, might you consider taking another look.

You can also treat the book as part of your learning curve.

Set it aside. Start something new. Later when you’re published, you may see how to rework the previous book, or use the ideas in another book.  I’ve heard many writers say they’re glad their first efforts didn’t see the light of day because they’ve grown so much as they’ve kept writing.

Got a question? Advanced or basic, I’ll do my best to answer.


Proud friend of the National Year of Reading 2012

Established Writer in Residence 2012, Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre, Perth WA

On Twitter @valerieparv

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Comments on: "First Monday Mentoring for June – your writing questions answered" (5)

  1. In synopsis writing I’ve been told to tell all. How do you balance telling about the emotional journey with the actions of the story in a two paged double spaced document? Should you focus more on the emotional journey and cut the other stuff if it all doesn’t fit?

    • Hi Fiona, IMO a synopsis needs to show who the characters are and what they want (goals) and the conflict between them stopping them getting what they want. A few details will show their emotional journey. Then you add in the big black moment and how it makes everything seem beyond solving, then sum up the story resolution, remembering the “because” element. For instance: Realtor, Fiona Commenter, wants to reclaim the family home that business mogul, Hugh Hunksman tricked her father out of. (who they are and their goals). Hugh has no regrets about taking the home because Fiona’s father stole from him, something Hugh’s strict code of ethics won’t allow. Honesty was drummed into him, sometimes physically, by his own father until Hugh sees everything in black and white. Fiona was too young to help her father who died soon after losing the family home. Suicide was suspected but never proven. Determined never to be helpless again, Fiona has built a thriving business and now has the money to take Hugh on at his own game. (conflict and reasons behind it, as well as emotional insight). Then I’d sum up in a few sentences HOW Fiona challenges Hugh and how he responds. Getting to the crunch, “It’s not until….whatever happens… that she realizes…” and the resolution, including the ‘because”, “Only when Hugh learns that there are shades of grey in every situation…does he…” and “Fiona must also learn that revenge isn’t sweet if it harms the man she’s come to love…” Not the greatest synopsis by any means, but I hope it gives you an idea what to put in and leave out.

  2. ARe we limited to one question? Could you comment on this comment if not. “Also, the narrator sounds omniscient. I recommend making the voice more immediate by using deep 3rd person POV” This was said by an editor about something I wrote. How is omniscient different to deep 3rd person is what I think I want to understand.

    • Ask as many questions as you want, that’s what First Monday is for. The questions and hopefully my answers are helpful to others in the same boat. An omniscient narrator is really the author in the Godlike position of seeing everything, and knowing every character’s thoughts and feelings. “Jim knew that Jenny wanted him. Jenny knew that Jim wanted her.” We’re seeing both their thoughts in the same scene. Deep third person takes us right inside one character’s thoughts and feelings, usually for a good chunk – I recommend at least half a chapter if not a whole chapter, before we switch. “Why did she have to feel this way for the one man she couldn’t have? Jenny hated feeling this helpless, hated not having answers, but with Jim giving her no clues, how was she to read him, far less decide on her next move?” This is in 3rd person (he, she etc) but inside her. The questions being asked are those she’s asking of herself, in deep POV. Hope this helps.

  3. Just thought of another handy POV hint. If you can replace “she” with “I” and the writing still makes sense, you’re in deep POV. In my example, “Why did (I) have to feel this way for the one man I can’t have? I hated feeling so helpless, hated not having answers, but with Jim giving (me) no clues, how was I to read him, far less decide on my next move.”

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