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August already, where did the time go? 

The first Monday of each month is when you can ask your writing-related questions and I’ll do my best to answer. Questions can be posted ahead of time and I’ll answer during Monday August 6.  I monitor the blog and post answers throughout the day.  Sometimes discussions go past Monday into the week, and that’s OK too.

First I’d like to ASK a question – are we writing too much?

With all the blogs, interviews, articles and courses about writing out there, plus the vast number of “indie” published books for sale, there has never been more choice of writing or information about the craft.

Some information is amazing. You can access practically every editor and agent in the business. You can ask questions, make comments, take part in discussions. You can also chat with your favourite authors, review books and read reviews by others.  So how do you sort out what’s useful?

Here are my three tips:

1. Look at who’s giving the advice.

Are they published? In what markets? Are their books successful? If the answers are mostly yes, you know they speak from experience. You don’t have to agree with everything, but it’s worth your time to consider.

2. Is the advice written on tablets of stone?

If it is, approach with caution. The best teachers of writing recommend using what you find useful and leaving the rest. I’m  wary

of anyone who suggests there’s only one way to write. There are as many ways as their are writers.

3. Is the information current?

In a landscape where changes are occurring daily, you need to know the advice you’re relying on is up to date.. Even better if it’s forward looking and willing to explore where we might go from here.

What do you look for in workshops, how-to books and writing advice? What are you not getting but would like to?

Let First Monday Mentoring begin. Feel free to post about these or any other aspects of writing, I’ll do my best to answer.


Friend of the National Year of Reading 2012

on Twitter @valerieparv

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Valerie’s Coffee Break Reads now in Living magazine

Comments on: "First Monday Mentoring August, are we writing too much?" (7)

  1. VP, your point above about sorting out what is useful from the not-so-useful is a good one. It can be a really hard thing to do! Sometimes I’ve embraced something I thought was good advice, only to find out it wasn’t so much.

    I’ve found that sometimes what is useful at one point in my writing becomes not-so-useful later on, because I’ve progressed from that point, learnt something that ‘supersedes’ that information or realised it isn’t actually working for me.

    And then there is the advice that I know is good, but I just can’t get my head around (like writing GMC in the traditional sense – even a day in a workshop with Debra Dixon couldn’t solve that one for me – but she gave the most wonderful advice during that workshop… you don’t have to be able to write it, as long as you have it!

    • Very true about the value of advice changing as you progress. When I started out, I found that many how-to-write books didn’t make sense until I’d mastered the technique myself, not really helpful. Although I kept this in mind with The Art of Romance Writing, making the advice as clear and useful as I could. I like Debra Dixon’s comment that you don’t have to write your GMC (Goal, Motivation and Conflict for each character), as long as the characters have them.

  2. Hi V.
    Have you any suggestions on how best to evaluate whether you have “it”? I know you can enter competitions and submit to publishers. Some people have Critic partners and beta readers. You can even pay people to read your stuff and comment. What have you found best to determine whether what you are writing is going to make the cut. There is a lot of stuff being published of variable quality out there. Especially now that self-pub is getting big.

    • Brilliant question, I don’t know that the author can know if you have “it” – that elusive star quality that stands out. Readers make that decision IMO, and readers include editors, agents and critique partners. If they get excited about a writer’s work and want to read more, that’s a great sign. How hard you have to work to put words down is also not a reliable guide. Some days my words flow, others are like pulling teeth, and even I can’t remember afterward which was which. The fact that you ask the question is also a good sign, suggesting you’re more concerned with the words and the stories than with yourself as a capital W Writer.

  3. I agree with Valerie. When I first started I relied heavily on critique partners. Then I ran into one that did an absolute hatchet job on my work and I just couldn’t live with it. I went back to the original and finally understood that I was my own worst critic … if I like it, the editor is going to like it … and I’d encourage you to just write what you feel.

    • Thanks Josh, your successes since you made this discovery speak for themselves. Once you master enough craft that your work says what you want it to say, half the battle is trusting yourself to tell your stories your way. There’s still room for editing, but usually once your work has been bought for publication, a whole different ball game.

  4. Thanks everyone. Lots to think about.

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