Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

It’s the first Monday of the month (or the first Sunday if you’re in the northern hemisphere). You’re invited to ask writing-related questions here for me to answer. Lots of talented writers read and comment on this blog and your thoughts and writing experiences may help others.

Questions posted ahead of time will be answered during Monday October 1.

Sometimes the questions go past Monday into the week, and that’s okay too.

To kick things off, here’s a question I get asked a lot – how do you find time to write?

The short answer is, you MAKE time. Nobody has all the time they need to write. If you wait for the perfect moment, you’ll probably never start.

We find time for the things we really want to do. Not what we should do, or dream of doing – but the stuff that burns inside us, keeps us awake at night, and won’t give us any mental peace.

If that’s writing, then you’ll get up an hour earlier, or stay up later, skip a few TV shows, write in your lunch hour…you’ll make the time. You’ll plot in your head while waiting at the bank or post office, and create characters while you’re stuck at red lights.

Do you want to write, or do you simply like the idea of being a writer?

IMO it’s fine to write for your own pleasure, or to share stories with family and friends. Albert Facey wrote his life story for his family. It only came to a publisher’s attention when they took the manuscript to Fremantle Arts Press to be printed and bound. They published the book and it became the Australian classic, A Fortunate Life, later filmed for television.

Few memoirs do as well unless they have strong universal appeal.  But writing to give people pleasure, or for the joy of putting words together is a worthwhile end in itself, as is dabbling in painting or throwing pots. It’s only lately that the word “amateur” has become a put-down. It comes from the Greek for a lover of something. An amateur writer writes for love of the craft.

Either way, you’re a writer if you write. And you’ll make the time because you can’t not write. That’s just how it is.

Got a question related to writing? Feel free to ask me here, or make a comment.


on Twitter @valerieparv

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Now writing short fiction for Living magazine


Comments on: "First Monday Mentoring, making time to write" (10)

  1. Angie the Hippo said:

    I would love to make time to write… but I’m trying really hard to figure out when to make that time. I try everything (except getting up earlier/going to bed later because I’m totally exhausted on the too-little sleep I’m getting now)… I still seem to need more hours in the day! 🙂
    (Or a much higher income that would allow me to work less hours at the day-job! 🙂 )

    • I feel for you Angie. Writing around a demanding job and family commitments is tough. Sometimes the writing simply has to wait, which is why many women don’t start their writing careers until later in life. If you’re really determined, you might try driving to work a half-hour earlier and writing in the car before going into work, or taking your lunch out to the car and working there during your break. Hope you can find a small gap in your day to fulfil your dreams.

  2. Valerie, what’s your take on writing ‘accents’?

    I recently read a story about Chinese immigrants into the west where the author kept writing things like “velly” instead of “very”, trying to show the Chinaman’s inability to pronounce R’s as a part of his accent. I found it distracting trying to figure out what he was saying plus it gave what I thought was a sort of ‘ignorant’ stereotype to the character.

    Problem is, my next western will also contain Chinese immigrants, with dialogue, and I don’t want to cast them in that light.

    • I agree with you Josh. Ignorant stereotyping is a good description. I feel a hint of an accent is enough for characterization and easy reading. “He said, his accent forcing her to concentrate…” as a weak example. A few useful words of actual language of the period may also help. My forthcoming SF romantic suspense has characters using occasional snippets of the language. “Amouvere,” he said, using the local word for ‘my beloved.’ Just as we wouldn’t keep referring to a character’s red hair after the initial description, we don’t need constant reminders of their accent. Difficulty finding the right word or word order are often enough: “You go,” she ordered. “You go now.” Her soft Asian features were contorted with fury. Hope this helps.

  3. It does help, Valerie, and thank you.

    Right now I’m using ‘Pidgen’ in the story to show that the man isn’t really fluent in English … “What you name?” … and it seems to get the point across better than mocking his accent.

  4. Angie the Hippo said:

    Thank you, Valerie.

    Very helpful information about accents above. Also, something that I’ve noticed, when people find out that your first language isn’t English they tend to speak much louder, sometimes almost shouting. (Which is when I’ve informed them “I said that I am foreign, not that I’m deaf.”… versions of this could also be used. 🙂

  5. Angie the Hippo said:

    )… (had to add the missing parentheses).

  6. MEL ZIARNO sent in this question:
    A late / early Monday mentoring question for you. I am trying to wrangle my fiction writing into something commercially viable (e.i. Finished!) Problem is that my brain is constantly hijacked by exciting new stories or concepts. I drop Project A in favour of outlining my new brain waves before it fizzes.

    My question(s) is when you were an early career writer – pre deadlines and expectations – did you discipline yourself to work on one major project from beginning to end and resist all new comers? Did you favour a multitask approach and work on whatever idea was at the most immediate threat to your sanity? What have you come to understand about this predicament through being a professional writer?

    Your insights and tips and capturing inspiration and ideas without losing traction on early manuscripts would be invaluable.

  7. Mel, it took me a while to realise that the siren call of other projects is the creative right brain’s way of procrastinating. Coming up with new projects, plots and character is way more fun than knuckling down to the hard work of getting words written. Naturally, the childlike right brain would rather play than face the blank screen. Being established as a writer doesn’t protect you from this problem, sorry. It’s on ongoing challenge. My solution is to make notes about the “exciting” new project then set them aside and go back to the work in hand. Otherwises nothing will ever be completed. I know writers who have drawersful of partial novels (3 chapters and an outline) that never get finished. Certainly at the beginning of a career, it’s vital to complete a book, even if you’re less than happy with the result. At least you prove to yourself you can do it and that, in itself, is a satisfying goal. There’s nothing quite like writing “the end” on a project. Hope this helps.

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