Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

Archive for the ‘Writer’s brain’ Category

First Monday Mentoring May 2020 – what you CAN write during the crisis…and a challenge

Last month I looked at why many writers are finding it hard to write during the Covid-19 crisis, even if you have more time at home than ever.

One meme going round the Internet says:

I was going to write my novel when I have time.

Now I realise the problem wasn’t the time.

Instead we’re fitting in an orgy of bread making, cooking, crafting, and organising our homes. The clue may be under our noses. All these activities are largely governed by our left brains, the areas of logic, reason, order, judgement and the like. The right brain deals largely with creativity, possibility, daydreams and fantasies.

Rather than physical divisions, right and left brains are now regarded more as groups of function located in different parts of the brain, called on in various combinations according to the task at hand.

It may help to imagine your left brain being in charge of facts, while the right deals with fantasy. For us to feel comfortable our left brains prefer “everything in its place”. At present, few of us are in familiar territory. Even at home we may be working remotely, overseeing children’s lessons, worrying about family and friends. Sometimes it’s hard even to remember what day it is. With much of our world in crisis, the left brain tries hard to stay in charge, making it easier to cook, sew and organise, than to access the creative zone needed for writing.

 

The problem can be unrelieved stress which impacts health in everything from disturbed sleep to major illness. Feeling uncertain and out of control much of the time compounds the problem. Getting accurate information without overwhelming yourself can help manage stress levels.

Some writers can work anywhere, taking their creative space with them in the form of favorite pens, laptops, or whatever else their left brains need. Used often enough, they can reassure the left brain that it’s safe to relax, allowing the right brain to do its thing.

If you write full time, working from home may be slightly less difficult, but having the family around all the time, and your attention pulled a dozen different ways, can still be a strain. So how do you get your left brain into its happy place and out of the way of your creative right bran? Here are five suggestions.

  • Set up your writing place. If your desk has been taken over by children studying at home, find another quiet spot to set up your writing device, favourite stationery, coffee mug and project notes.  Until the new space feels familiar, aim to tackle left-brain tasks such as outlining a story, developing characters or writing cover blurb. Set up a small whiteboard and coloured markers, file cards, a program such as Scrivener, whatever works for you.
  • Set realistic goals and word counts, even if they’re below what you can usually achieve. My mantra is, “It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be done.”
  • Try to go to your writing place at a similar time each day. Sit there staring at the screen even if nothing comes. Set a timer for how long you’ll stay put. Your right brain is soon bored. Write a few words in the general direction of your project and you may find your right brain getting the message.
  • Use rituals to encourage a creative mindset. Favorite music, scented candles, even a few games of Solitaire may help. Set a time for the rituals to end and the writing to begin. Interviewing a character can help. Ask them who they are and what they’re doing in your story. Write stream of consciousness. Keep going, asking the character questions until they start to answer back. I suggested this process to the current holder of the Valerie Parv Award. She tried it and emailed back, “OMG this is amazing. You’ve just taught me automatic writing.”
  • Be grateful for whatever progress you make, and tell yourself you look forward to your next creative session. Then reward yourself with something enjoyable; gardening, cooking, sorting through old photos or playing with pets. These let your right brain mull over what came from your previous session. If you find this happening, grab your phone or notebook and capture whatever comes. Ideas can be easily lost if not noted down.
  • Be kind to yourself and appreciate whatever you manage to achieve. Write whatever you can, wherever you can. Keeping up your writing practice will stand you in good stead when you’re able to get back to it on a more regular basis. Remember not to compare yourself to others for, as the Desiderata says, always there will be greater or lesser persons than yourself. And remember Plato’s advice – life must be lived as play.

English actor, Jacob Scipio (Bad Boys for Life) is stuck at home in London. In an interview with journalist, Duncan Lay (Sunday Telegraph, May 3, 2020), Scipio said, “ I try to write every day and I‘ve been writing more in quarantine. What’s helped me is a bit of routine, cocooning myself and trying to find some enjoyment in this time.”

Usually I suggest adding your thoughts in the space below. This time, I invite you to contribute a few words of actual writing. Using some of the suggestions here, create a title for your new story, briefly describe a character, or write a grabby opening sentence, and share the result in the comment space. Or use the challenges when you’re in your own writing space, and let us know how you did.

Let’s make some new words happen.

Happy writing,

Valerie

Valerie is a Member of the Order of Australia

Author of 90 books in 29 languages

Australia Day Ambassador

Life Member, Romance Writers of Australia

Australian Society of Authors’ medal recipient

On Twitter @ValerieParv, Facebook and www.valerieparv.com

Represented by The Tate Gallery Pty Ltd, Sydney

 

 

 

 

First Monday Mentoring April 2020 – What to do if you can’t write during the Covid-19 crisis

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring in a very troubling time. I had already drafted a column about the importance of “build” in a story – the craft of gradually lifting the story to almost unbearable levels as readers wonder if/how things will work out. But I decided that information will keep for another blog.

Instead, I’m sharing some outstanding advice for the times from bestselling author, Chuck Wendig. If you’re struggling to write, or craft, or art or simply get up and face the day, this is for all of us.

I’ve been a full time writer since before I knew what a writer was. My words have been my living through 90 published books, film scripts, newspaper columns, articles, short stories, magazine serials, speeches and masterclasses. You name it, I’ve written it. Having months ahead when we can only venture out for essentials should be my nirvana.

On my desk are ideas for a new Carramer royal romance, and a film script I want to turn into a novel. Yet I’ve written not one useful word. It’s as if my brain has forgotten how to do something that should be as normal for me as breathing. Not under the present crisis.

Yesterday I went to the supermarket for a few essentials. Chocolate is so too an essential. By the time I got back to my car I was terrified, feeling more scared than I’ve felt addressing an audience of two thousand people. I couldn’t wait to be “safe” in my writing cave. I had no reason to be scared. The store was quiet. Everything was sanitised. Yet the fear was real and left me feeling shaken and useless.

Then into my inbox dropped a blog from Chuck Wendig. Here’s what I wanted to share of his wise words:

“It’s hard to concentrate when everything is so strange, so broken, so dangerous. It’s like being told to paint a masterpiece while on a turbulent flight. It’s just not the time.

And so, I want you to know, you shouldn’t expect yourself to be somehow a better, more productive person in this time. You can be! If you are, more power to you. That doesn’t make you a monster. But if you’re finding yourself unable to concentrate, that’s to be expected. That is normal. Normal is feeling abnormal in response to abnormality.

You must be kind to yourself and to others when it comes to what we think people can and should be able to accomplish during this time. Ten million people are out of work, suddenly. People are sick and dying. The thing we crave at a base level, human interaction, is suddenly fraught and fragile. Hell, everything is fraught and fragile. We’re only realizing now that it was fragile all this time.

None of this is normal. You don’t have to feel shamed into forcing normalcy as a response.

So what, then, is the answer?

There really isn’t one. There’s no playbook for this sort of thing. No therapy regimen, no best practices. Best I can tell you, and this should be taken with a grain of salt so big you’d have to chip away at it with a pick ax, is that you try your best. And when you fall well short of that, you instantly, and intimately, recognize why. And you forgive yourself, and you forgive the rest of the world for also falling short (“rest of the world” does not include politicians or billionaires, by the way) and you try again.

And it’s okay if you can’t focus on writing, or reading a book, or planting a garden, or patching drywall, or whatever. Find a different thing. Keep busy when you must, but also don’t be afraid to sit with how you’re feeling and accept it. Accept it unconditionally. Accept your anger and sadness, accept your delirium, allow yourself the time to drift and to fail. Also accept any joy you feel, and do so without guilt. Joy is hard-won, and if you manage that victory, there’s no shame in that. Take the victory lap. We will have to hunt joy like an elusive beast across the wasteland.

If you capture it, celebrate.

I think most of all, don’t let anyone tell you how to feel. Now, maybe more than ever, don’t compare yourself to others. Everybody’s not only trapped in their houses, but also trapped in their own maelstrom of emotions, too. Let that be true. You can talk it out. You can share how you’re feeling. But don’t compare in a way that punishes you, or that paints your own feelings as a transgression.

This is all very new to us.

Normal is gone. There will be a new normal. We’ll get there. We’ll get through this. But things will change and that’s going to be okay. Maybe better than okay. Maybe we’ll come out better in the end. But we don’t have to be better now, we don’t have time to be better overnight. This isn’t work-from-home. This isn’t your time to shine. This isn’t time to be productive. If you are, embrace it. If you’re not, forgive it. Do what you can do. Be safe.”

Read more at Chuck’s http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2020/04/02/none-of-this-is-normal/ As ever I add a language alert. Chuck has …ahem…an interesting way with language.

If writing is what you can do, great. If not, do what you can. Ask a question or share your thoughts in the box below. The blog is moderated to avoid spam but your post can appear right away if you click on Sign Me Up at right. I don’t share your details with anyone. Stay well.

Valerie

The 2020 Valerie Parv Award is now open April 6 to 26. Details at

htpps://romanceaustralia.com/contests-overview/Valerie-parv-award

Valerie is a Member of the Order of Australia

Author of 90 books in 29 languages

Australia Day Ambassador

Life Member, Romance Writers of Australia

Australian Society of Authors’ medal recipient

On Twitter @ValerieParv, Facebook and www.valerieparv.com

Represented by The Tate Gallery Pty Ltd, Sydney

 

 

 

First Monday Mentoring February – writers, what is your special word for 2020?

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Tag Cloud