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First Monday Mentoring Dec 2019 – 7 ways to reboot your writing for 2020

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

 

 

 

First Monday Mentoring November 2019 – do you always write from the heart?

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

First Monday Sept 2019 – do you need a muse or only coffee?

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

 

 

 

 

 

Link

First Monday August 2019 – how can writers “strive to be happy?”

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

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

First Monday Mentoring June 2019 – why most writing advice you’re given is wrong

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

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

First Monday Mentoring April 2019 – 4 ways good writers avoid fooling themselves

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

First Monday Mentoring March 2019 – how to create a story character in ten minutes flat

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 www.valerieparv.com

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

 

 

First Monday Mentoring February 2019 – writing lessons we can learn from cricket

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. 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 www.valerieparv.com

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

 

 

 

 

 

First Monday Mentoring Dec 2018 – is your writing on the naughty or nice list?

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 www.valerieparv.com

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

First Monday Mentoring November 2018 – gifts writers can give themselves

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

www.valerieparv.com

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

www.valerieparv.com/course.html

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