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First Monday Mentoring Nov – how do writers fill the creative well?

Last month I blogged about the importance to your professional development of attending writing conferences and festivals. Today I’m talking about another aspect I call “filling the well.”

How do writers find new things to write about? It helps to be interested in a wide range of subjects, not only those of personal concern but appealing to the world at large. My family calls me a “mine of useless information”, though it comes in handy at trivia nights, because I’ve researched such a wide variety of topics from opal mining to space shuttle operation.

You can combine your conference attendances with rambling research either related to your current writing project, or simply because it’s there.

In my book, The Idea Factory, I called these absorption trips, a name coined by screenwriter, William Goldberg, who suggests you become a sponge, soaking up input wherever you go. Almost any experience can be turned into an absorption trip, from dentist visits to shopping trips. Train yourself to see not only what’s there, but what could be there. What if your dentist is making a fortune through selling illegally plundered gold teeth? If you use this idea, best not use your real dentist’s name to protect the innocent.

When visiting new towns and cities, explore the local businesses, talk to the locals and learn as much as you can about their lives and why they do what they do. Tell them you’re a writer so they don’t think you’re just nosy. Most people I’ve met are flattered by sincere attention.

I’ve also developed many story ideas from reading journals I don’t normally see. Flying to a writing conference in Brisbane not long ago, I was leafing through the in flight magazine, fascinated by a reference to an Irish town as a “thin place” where the boundaries between the real and the supernatural are easily breached. Tantalising as that concept is, I won’t write about it because any writer seeing that reference will feel the same.

Stories “plucked from the headlines” need to be written quickly or not at all, before another questing mind can beat you to it. Many writers believe their ideas have been “stolen” when the truth is, we are all exposed to much the same creative influences. Years ago I indulged my passion for sci-fi by creating a romance hero who might have arrived by UFO. While the book, The Leopard Tree, was in production, I read a review of another book where the hero…you guessed it. There’s no copyright on ideas, only in how they are developed by the writer.

Best-selling novelist, Dean Koontz, said in an interview that he advised writers to do two things. The first is to write, write, write. Concentrate on developing your writing craft to the highest calibre you can. The second is to read, read, read. Koontz says the more you broaden your interests as a reader, the more you broaden your talent as a writer.

He says you should read a book first as a reader, then analyse it to discover the “nuts and bolts with which the story is built.”  As you make the effort your subconscious “will make all sorts of associations and connections, and over time it will give you the critical understanding you are seeking.”

Researching facts is best done through Google and similar resources. Your absorption trips supply the bits you can’t research – the sights, sounds and even smells of a new place or setting, and the accents, clothes and attitudes of the people you meet. Not only will these details fill your creative well with new ideas, they will add a richness to your writing that you can’t get any other way.

Recently I explored some wonderful new places in the USA including a magical Butterfly House and a tour of the Johnson Space Centre, Houston. Tax deductible because it’s research, My story and I’m sticking to it.

How do you find your new insights and stories? Have any of your travels resulted in ideas that excited you enough to write about them? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. They’re moderated to avoid spam but your posts go up right away if you  click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing,

Valerie

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Masterclass  Canberra, Australia : 18 November  Romance Writing Re-imagined  ACT Writers Centre  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/romance-writing-re-imagined-with-valerie-parv-tickets-35421113504?aff=Valerie 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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First Monday Mentoring Oct – what writing festivals do for you

Money’s tight and living costs keep rising, I get that. Plus writing has never been a profession to make easy money. But recently I hear a lot about how expensive it is to attend writing conferences and festivals, many writers saying they can’t justify the expense.

My response is how can you not justify the expense? Perhaps you have a day job and it’s hard to get the time off. Yet writers whose time is flexible still resent the cost and time to attend these events.

Most professions require continued education. Why should writing be any different? In my long career I’ve had millions of words published in a variety of genres and translations but there’s always more to learn. Attending conferences and festivals lets me monitor changes in publishing, book marketing, indie publishing, and the fast-spinning world of social media. I’m also interested in other writers’ experiences. Not everything you hear at conferences and festivals shows up on social media.

The personal interactions are invaluable. We work alone a lot of the time. Getting out and “peopling” as a colleague puts it, not only renews friendships, but lets us discuss aspects of craft that don’t fit into a Facebook post or tweet.

I was reminded of these benefits at the recent Canberra Writers Festival where my agent, Linda Tate, and I presented a session at the National Library of Australia on how we work together, subtitled “how not to be screwed in 21st century publishing.”

Agent Linda Tate (left) and me with my books at the National Library of Australia before our presentation

Even savvy writers can be screwed in everything from contracts to options, advances and royalties. Before Linda became my agent twenty-plus years ago, I dodged a few bullets myself. And I can tell you, it makes a huge difference having someone else track those bullets, freeing me to focus on the writing.

As an indie, you can screw yourself unintentionally in the many details you must cover on your own account. An example is buying ISBN numbers (International Standard Book Numbers) your book’s ID in the reading world. Buying your ISBN numbers from, say, CreateSpace, can mean they are identified as the publisher instead of you. There’s a comprehensive article on ISBNs at the Self Publishing Advice Centre  http://tinyurl.com/yc92hqdx This is just one of many pitfalls indies have to negotiate.

As Linda and I are based in different capital cities, preparing our session, presenting it and sharing the success afterward were benefits of being on the festival program. We outlined how we work together, very differently from most author-agent relationships.  Her background is in the entertainment industry, so she isn’t inclined to submit books then wait months to hear back. Instead, she paves the submission’s way with the editor then calls to see how they’re enjoying the read.

Signing one of my books at the Canberra Festival

Whether you’re traditionally or indie published, if you have an agent and they aren’t keeping up, maybe check with them about new ways you can interact. If you don’t have an agent and want one, ask them to detail how their approach can be tweaked to better serve your books.

Like conferences and festivals, agents come with a cost. However a good agent not only recoups their commission in the deals they make, but the relationship should be more beneficial overall.

Here I need to address the “it’s all right for you” syndrome. Successful authors are supposed to take in stride the cost of attending writing events. Generally we do for the benefits described here, but bear in mind that every successful author started with a first book, building our brand steadily over many years. While nothing beats writing the best book you can,  mixing with writing professionals help us achieve our success, not the other way around.

As a writer do you attend festivals and writing conferences? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. They’re moderated to avoid spam but your posts go up right away if you subscribe – click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing,

Valerie

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Workshop Townsville : 7 October  Story Magic Townsville Writers & Publishers Centre https://townsvilletickets.com.au/event/story-magic-with-valerie-parv-5096

Masterclass  Canberra : 18 November  Romance Writing Re-imagined  ACT Writers Centre  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/romance-writing-re-imagined-with-valerie-parv-tickets-35421113504?aff=Valerie 

First Monday Mentoring Sept 2017 – are you the next Valerie Parv Award writing winner

The Romance Writers of Australia national conference is done for another year, and with it the crowning of the latest Valerie Parv Award winner for 2017. She is Joanna Nell whose entry, The Unmentionables, deals with life and love in later years. I’ll be mentoring Joanna during the year of her award.

Joanna is the newest of my minions – the name past winners chose for themselves. They keep in touch, share their achievements, and we hold our annual Minions’ Breakfast at conference each year. Tiaras are worn and Joanna received hers at the RWA annual conference in Brisbane recently.

Judging and presenting this award is an exciting challenge and an honour. Thanks Romance Writers of Australia and Romance Writers of America’s former Australian Chapter where the award began.

As I read the short list I am very aware of the commitment behind every one. I know it’s a cliché but I see every finalist as a winner. You’ve shown you can write a book to suit your chosen market, and you’ve met the contest deadline.

Reaching the finals means your work has something special. I write an appraisal of every final entry to encourage you to keep striving. Minion achievements include everything from RWA’s Romantic Book of the year, to Romance Writers of America RITA awards for published books, and Golden Heart for unpublished. Minions regularly grace the Australian Romance Readers Awards , the USA Today and other bestseller lists and in one case, get reviewed by the Wall Street Journal.

Congratulations to JOANNA NELL (left)
Valerie Parv Award Winner for 2017

Winners’ books are published by all the major publishing houses here and internationally and their readers number in the millions. You can see who they are on the VPA Hall of Fame at www.valerieparv.com/vpa.html

Entries needn’t be exclusively romance. This year’s finalists included a Regency-set historical with a heroine posing as a pirate; my first-ever heroine specialising in dung-beetle reproduction; a beautifully-handled disabled heroine; a runaway bride and a reunion romance with a cranky heroine. Plus of course, Joanna Nell’s topical romance in later years.

So how do you become the next VPA minion? I take four aspects into account.

  1. You need to write from the heart

Every highly placed entry over the last 18 years has been a labour of love – and it shows. The writer has written a story s/he’s passionate about and can’t wait to share with readers. They aren’t always perfectly written, but they have compelling characters we care about from the beginning.

  1. You need a touch of originality

You don’t have to break the mould with a defrocked nun or a Playboy model character, although we have had a cross-dressing Regency hero, a gnome kidnapping conspiracy, and fairies on crack among past winners. If two entries vie for the top prize, I tend to favour the more original. Yes, there are conventions in every genre, such as the happy-ever-after in romance and the dead body in a mystery, but there should be something that transcends genre, giving us story we haven’t read before.

  1. You need to be a storyteller

I don’t use a score sheet to judge the final entries. I’m more interested in whether you give me a strong opening, a story that comes to life right away, and people I can care about and want to see succeed against the odds. I’m happy to read in any setting or time period and will forgive a few mistakes as long as you tell a gripping story. This doesn’t mean ignoring grammar or spelling, but they can be fixed. It’s far harder to fix a lifeless story.

  1. You know where you want the book to go

The winner can pick my brains, share questions and concerns, and have me critique work as we go along. I read with an editorial eye, helping the author to spot issues they may have missed through being too close to the work. The one thing I don’t do is alter the author’s voice. Ultimately, this is your story told in your unique way.

Finally there’s the X-Factor. Call it natural talent, star quality or the X-factor, it’s the extra something readers recognise as soon as they see it. The moment I start reading I know when the writer’s voice has the power to lift the hairs on the back of my neck. The book may not be the one I want to choose as the winner, but the choice will be inescapable.

Does your story have these qualities? The Valerie Parv Award 2018 opens on April 9 and closes on April 30, 2017. Details at http://tinyurl.com/y74gar78  Have you entered previously, or plan to next year? Share your thoughts here. The blog is moderated to avoid spam but your comments can appear right away if you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing!

Valerie

STORY MAGIC WORKSHOP, TOWNSVILLE

Valerie will present her Story Magic Workshop in Townsville, Queensland
on Saturday October 7
Valerie will also attend a Romantic High Tea on Sunday, October 8
Contact the
Townsville Writers and Publishers Centre

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Valerie’s book, Outback Code, is out now

3 books complete in one volume

For international orders, print & ebook formats,

Booktopia http://tinyurl.com/hj3477e

From Amazon for Kindle http://tinyurl.com/hxmmqsk

First Monday Mentoring for June – should you write a book you don’t love?

Welcome to First Monday when I open this blog to discuss what it’s really like to be a writer – not the glamour stuff but the inside track on the fears, the struggles and yes, the joys of writing.

This week a writer told me she’d sold “the book of her heart.” Naturally I was delighted but curious – what was meant by “the book of her heart?”

Turns out it’s a cross-genre book about characters who’d haunted her for years, not the kind usually sought by publishers but one she desperately wanted to write, even if no-one loved it but her. She’d come close to publishing the book herself but didn’t have the cash and time to invest in the work.

That led to me to asking if she would ever write a book she didn’t love. After a long pause she said, “Almost all the time,” adding that she’d started out reluctantly, but had fallen in love with the story along the way.

This suggests you can start writing with your head rather than your heart. “Exactly,” she agreed. “I can’t afford to wait for the muse to strike. Sometimes I have to write first and the love comes later.”

And if it doesn’t? “Something else will,” she said.

With 90 books written over many years, there have been stories I couldn’t wait to tell, when the words flowed like warm honey. Others were like pulling teeth, needing many rewrites to make them work. And then there was the book on plumbing.

I’ve always treated my writing as a business, proposing book ideas to publishers who contracted me to write quite a few. At other times an editor would like my proposal but have another book they wanted me to write instead. Hence how to do your own plumbing.

First of all, technically you need a qualified plumber even to change a tap washer. Plus I had zero interest in water hammer, grease traps and septic tanks. But I’d signed a contract and I researched and wrote the best book I could, having a plumber friend vet it before submission.

Pleased as I was to have delivered the book as promised, that project made me determined to find a way to write books that I could also put my heart into.

Without the plumbing book, I might not have discovered romance novels.

I’ve always been a romantic at heart, but the plumbing book empowered me to try something new. Fifty romance and romantic suspense novels later working with editors in London, Toronto and New York, I’d become known as Australian’s “queen of romance” with translations in dozens of languages including Icelandic and Manga – Japanese graphic novels. And the only how-to books I’ve written since are on the writing craft, such as The Art of Romance Writing with editions in print with Allen & Unwin since 1993.

My muse, the wonderful actor, writer and philanthropist, William Shatner, says he believes in saying “yes” to everything. This has led him to amazing opportunities from motivating the astronauts on the International Space Station, to designing his own futuristic motor cycle. At age eighty-six he’s still the busiest man on the planet.

William Shatner recommends saying “yes” to everything

Saying “yes” to everything sometimes means writing about plumbing, but can also mean creating a sci-fi series that gave me one of the best experiences of my writing life. Google “Parv Beacons” if you’re curious.

My next “yes” is to collaborate with the talented Dr. Anita Heiss on a novel, something neither of us has done before. Who knows where that will lead?

What will your next “yes” be?

Here are three ways you can learn to love any writing project:

  1. Take pride in stretching yourself creatively. Find something to love, even if it’s the income from doing the work. How might that fund a project you really want to tackle?
  2. Use all writing as a learning experience. From writing advertising copy, I learned how to inspire readers to act on my words. From scriptwriting – how to tell a story in dialogue and action. From my nonfiction books on writing – not only what works but why, broadening my own understanding of the craft.
  3. Be open to writing many different things. Some will be fun, others not so. Learn something new from every project, even if it’s that you don’t want to spend your life writing about plumbing.

What people or projects have inspired your writing? Have you loved some writing and not others? Please share your experiences here. The blog is moderated to avoid spam but your comments can appear right away if you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing!

Valerie

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Valerie’s latest book, Outback Code, is out now

3 books complete in one volume

For international orders, print & ebook formats,

Booktopia http://tinyurl.com/hj3477e

From Amazon for Kindle http://tinyurl.com/hxmmqsk

 

First Monday Mentoring February – What’s the point of writing anything?

Lately I’m hearing this question a lot from writers, both aspiring and multi-published. They say creating a work of entertainment seems pointless in light of the political upheavals all around us, and shared in confronting detail on social media.

They’re questioning the wisdom of billionaire businessmen as romantic heroes when the paradigm is undermined by world leaders and politicians in the real world.

We have been here before. Waking up to the horrors of 9/11 in Canberra Australia, I first thought it was promotion for a movie. Would that it had been. Instead we all had to deal with the awareness that our world would never be the same again.

As terrorism became an escalating threat, I remember discussing with colleagues whether sheikhs could ever be heroes again, right when I had a romance novel called Desert Justice on the drawing board. Sheikhs have long been a romance staple, along with twins, secret babies and characters with amnesia. Readers enjoy these stories, especially when writers put our own twist on the trope.

I concluded that my sheikhs had nothing to do with reality and never had. They were fantasies I shared with readers all over the world. Mine were mostly reformers anyway, to fit my feminist inclinations. So Desert Justice went ahead.

Then there was the Y2K bug, (for Year 2000 bug) when we feared a worldwide computer meltdown because programmers had routinely shortened dates to two digits – 99 instead of 1999 – potentially causing every system in the world to go haywire or crash when the program spun over to 00. Time Magazine’s slightly tongue-in-cheek cover blared, “The end of the world? Y2K insanity. Apocalypse now! Will computers melt down? A guide to Millennium Madness”

time-magazine-cover-jan-18-1999

Tongue in cheek or not, Time’s publishers set up a bunker in their basement, equipped to produce the magazine in the event of catastrophic breakdowns. None of which, as we know now, were needed. The Y2K disaster never happened.

But most such fears have some basis in reality.

Nor do I mean to make light of our fears right now. In Writing in Difficult Times Kristine Kathryn Rusch blogs about her feelings after 9/11 at http://tinyurl.com/hwq5ke5 and says, “Writing didn’t matter when faced with the loss of life and the outpouring of grief. It didn’t matter in the face of the kinds of horrors human beings can impose on each other.

And the irony was, for me, I had been writing a book that I believed did matter, that it was about things people needed to know and see and understand. I felt passionate about the book, until the world changed.

“…And that was when I had my epiphany. I realized that escape is rest. It’s important. It gets us away from the horrors, the terrible things, the stresses and upsetting moments of everyday life.”644244_605309199480761_1647106081_n

I understand her feelings. Writing has never been easy even when you have a reliable publishing path and keen readers. When you have neither, the journey seems endless. But pointless? Never. I’ve been at book signings where my readers say they’ve stockpiled my books to help them through upcoming surgery. Or that something I’ve written has directly changed their thinking in some way, or given them comfort in a time of struggle. How can this not be valuable? In her blog, Kathryn sets out some sensible, doable steps to help deal with whatever crisis you’re facing. If it’s getting out there and applying your skills to help out, do that. If it’s donating money, or raising awareness, do that. It’s OK to give yourself permission not to write while you handle the crisis.

Then, when you’re able, get back to the keyboard and write your truths in your own way, as novels, movie scripts, articles or blogs. When you write from your own inner truth, your words will affect readers in ways you can’t even imagine. That’s a valuable contribution, too.

By making sense of your own world, you help your readers do the same. As long as you keep writing.

How are you dealing with the world today? Has it affected your writing? Comments are moderated to avoid spam but  appear right away for subscribers, or after you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Valerie

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Valerie’s latest book, Outback Code, is OUT NOW,

3 books complete in one volume for summer reading

For international orders, print & ebook formats,

Booktopia http://tinyurl.com/hj3477e

From Amazon for Kindle http://tinyurl.com/hxmmqsk

First Monday Mentoring January – 5 things smart writers won’t take into 2017

 

Hi and welcome to First Monday Mentoring for January 2017. Not too many people are sorry to see 2016 over, as it came with more than its share of tragedy and loss. But focusing on loss is a good way to encourage more of the same. Better to focus on what we do want in the coming year, rather than what we don’t.

Anita in Honolulu with the cocktail that inspired our joint writing project

Anita in Honolulu with the cocktail that inspired our joint writing project

I hope as writers you have exciting plans for the year ahead, and lists of goals you’d like to achieve. I suggest breaking them down into bite size pieces so you can cross off small steps rather than have to wait to cross off one big step. For example, “write a book” is a giant step. A better approach is to list “start a new book” if you’re at that stage. Or if not, “develop book idea” then “outline book” and so on. “Write X words every day” is a good choice. Whether you choose 50 words or 500 matters less than having a measurable number you want to complete every working day.

My big goal for 2017 is writing a novel in collaboration with the much-loved writer, Anita Heiss. Neither of us has written a book with two voices, and we spent a few days in December brainstorming content and how the project would work. In line with the small steps advice, we plan to complete a partial for our agents to shop around, then work with two key characters each, the story alternating between them. Excited? You bet. I’ve already met my goal of writing the first 500 words by New Years Eve. Did another chunk to celebrate New Year’s Day. We’ll tweet and Facebook as we go along.

Anita and I after our brainstorming getaway

Anita and I after our brainstorming getaway

Check out Anita’s blog on the project  https://anitaheiss.wordpress.com/2016/12/22/52-weeks-of-gratefulness-week-50-working-with-the-best/

Now for 5 things smart writers won’t take into 2017:

1 – A cookie-cutter story. Whatever genre you write in, push yourself to write something special, unique to your voice and interests.

2 – Lack of respect for your readers. You need to bring your A-game to whatever you write. Every story is worthy of your best work, for yourself and your readers.

3 – A blasé attitude toward craft. Even if you indie publish your own work, make sure you hire a good editor, cover designer and whatever else you need to put your best work forward. Trad pubbed authors also need to address these concerns in conjunction with your agent and publisher. Never stop learning and developing.

4 – Lack of faith in yourself. Over many years I’ve found that insecurity is a hallmark of every successful writer. Even New York Times’ Bestselling authors feel unsure if they’ve achieved what they wanted for their books. Rather than letting their fears beat them, they push themselves to do better with everything they write, and so can you.

5 – Buying into the gloom and doom. As I said above, it’s better to aim for your highest goals rather than run away from what you don’t want. Writing a book is tough enough without dragging along the baggage of bad news, political angst and fear of the future. What will be will be. If you have to, watch or listen to less news, and focus on the good in your life. Bring that to your writing and I guarantee you’ll see a difference.

Share your thoughts in the comment box below. Comments are moderated to avoid spam but  appear right away for subscribers, or after you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone. Thanks for your support. Have a happy and creative New Year!

Valerie

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Valerie’s latest book, Outback Code, is OUT NOW,

3 books complete in one volume for summer reading

For international orders, print & ebook formats,

Booktopia http://tinyurl.com/hj3477e

From Amazon for Kindle http://tinyurl.com/hxmmqsk

 

 

 

 

First Monday Mentoring November 2016 – five ways to start writing when you’d rather watch paint dry

Hi and welcome to First Monday Mentoring when we discuss aspects of writing not normally talked about.

For instance, the art of watching paint dry. I’m doing it a lot lately, not literally, but in the sense of not wanting to sit down at my desk and write actual words. After being published for four decades, and ninety books, this is a strange experience.

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I’ve found all manner of things to fill the time, from reading to giving my home a spring makeover. Watching too many real estate and renovating programs may make one thing springboard off another. I also wonder, is this how people fill their time when they don’t have stories and characters chattering away in their heads?

After a while you start to wonder if the muse has deserted you for good. Not that I’m a big fan of the muse, believing that professional writers write, inspired or not. Over many years, when I’ve been unable to conjure up the exact words I want, I’ve given myself permission to write any old how, telling myself it will be edited later.

This process has never failed me – until now. But as with everything to do with writing, there are no absolutes. The process of writing is what spy thriller writer, Len Deighton, called “a muddled system of trial and error.” He said the hardest lesson to learn is that thousands of words must be written and then discarded or rewritten before the “keepers” emerge.

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Deighton said he softened the blow by keeping his early drafts for months before throwing them away. If nothing else, this gave him the objectivity which is mostly lacking when confronting our freshly written drafts.

Writers trip ourselves up in dozens of ways. The most common, fear of failure, can lead to making sure we have no time to write that best seller. Spring makeover, anyone? Social media, while being a useful promotional tool, can feel as if we’re writing, without contributing a single word to a manuscript.

So here are five ways to stop yourself watching paint drying – or real estate programs.

  1. Find your best writing time and protect it ferociously

The time needn’t be from nine to five, unless it suits you. If you are most productive in the early hours or late into the night, keep these times free from distraction and interruption.

  1. Have your own writing place

Even if it’s only a corner of a room, or in your car, having that space and associating it with writing can be a powerful tool.

  1. Develop a writing habit

Victor Pineiro, blogged here http://tinyurl.com/zym8cq4 about writing his first novel by working on a laptop during his hour-long train trip to work. He says, “The key was not getting angry at myself for writing pure garbage some days. This was just an experiment — nothing to lose. As you’ve read dozens of times, once you do something for thirty days it becomes habit .” Once his laptop was open, he says, he felt obligated to write and it slowly became a habit.

  1. Use the small chunks of time

Like Pineiro, you can write while commuting; dictate story notes on your hands-free phone as you drive; plot the next step in your book while awaiting an appointment; or read reference material online while the kids play sport. This frees up your writing time to generate actual words.

  1. Write for yourself at first

I’ve blogged here about the critic over your shoulder, the inner voice insisting you can’t write so why bother? Somehow we have to overcome the critic and write anyway. Writing for yourself alone, and not letting anyone see your work until you’re ready, often helps. You can also do what Kate Grenville told me she does – put a sign over your desk, reminding yourself, “It can all be fixed tomorrow.”

What every writer's conscience should look like

What every writer’s conscience should look like

Now all I have to do is take my own advice. Right after I check out this Tiny House makeover.

Feel free to comment or share your experiences below. The blog is moderated to avoid spam. If you’d like your comments to appear right away, click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone. Happy writing!

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Valerie’s latest book, Outback Code, is available from Harlequin from November 21  

outback-code-21-nov-2017

 

 

First Monday Mentoring October 2016 – Where does money fit into your writing life?

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring when I open this blog to discuss aspects of the writing life we don’t usually get to talk about.

Money is a big one, misunderstood by almost everyone. Either you’re seen as a millionaire or living in genteel poverty in your garret. The truth is usually somewhere in between, and the vast majority of writers have paid their dues  well before hitting the big time if, in fact, they ever do.

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I was moved to discuss the money question after reading an interesting blog by Rita Award-winning writer, Barbara O’Neal at http://tinyurl.com/gwzh6mc

O’Neal’s blog was, in turn, triggered when young writer, Merritt Tierce, penned an essay despairing of being able to make money as a writer. She’d had her first novel published to some acclaim and sold 12,000 hardcover copies, not enough to earn back her unspecified five-figure advance.

Tierce’s essay revealed a problem common among some writers – a sense that they are entitled to live what they see as an author’s life on the strength of one book, sometimes while writing that book. They feel that society owes them support to follow their writing dreams.

As a mentor to emerging writers who win the Valerie Parv Award http://valerieparv.com/award.html set up by Romance Writers of Australia, I had one winner state that by the end of the mentorship she wanted to be living off her writing and keeping her family as well.

In her case it was innocence talking, and by the end of our year together, she’d become more realistic.

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Not long ago I came across a crowd funding site set up by a writer whose publisher had abandoned her series mid-stream. Her goal was sound – finish the series to keep faith with her readers – but she went a step further, asking for money to allow her time to write.

Logically, to finish any book, you need time. Many people write around day jobs, or in whatever time they can scrounge from everyday life. Those same writers resented her sense of entitlement and were so viciously critical that she felt bound to take down the crowd funding site.

From a young age I knew writing was my vocation, but far from feeling entitled , I accepted that funding the dream was up to me. Early on I set up an office where I wrote press releases, a weekly newspaper column, contributions to a gardening encyclopaedia and some twenty non-fiction titles including my now-infamous book on how to do your own plumbing.

Plumbing was never my passion but I delivered the book I’d been contracted to write, because that’s what professionals do. Afterward,  I resolved to find a more fulfilling way to write and still make a living. That’s when I tried my hand at romance novels, eventually writing over fifty titles for Harlequin’s London editors, then for New York and Toronto.

Had I known then that they received some 10,000 submissions of which they accepted about ten, I might have been less eager.  Not that I rushed in, spending months researching their books and market. Only then, I wrote the book I couldn’t find on their lists, and Love’s Greatest Gamble was eventually accepted.

While waiting for Harlequin’s response I kept writing non-fiction including the one I’m most proud of: The Changing Face of Australia, a 200-year environmental study years ahead of its time.

I was doing what O’Neal said she wanted most to tell Tierce, “get back to work. Write another book. Write three. Write ten. Keep writing until you find the next thing.”

This is good advice for any writer. No-one knows which book might be the charm. Bestsellers are made by readers, movie moguls and plain random chance. All we can do is write the stories we feel compelled to share; the work being its own reward. If more comes, wonderful. If not, we’ve honoured our gift.

It’s great to be paid for writing and I know how lucky I am, as well as how hard I’ve worked. As agent and author Donald Maass commented on O’Neal’s blog, “Money? Yeah, well that’s nice to have. But it’s not everything. When people envy writers, it’s not their income that they envy. It’s their freedom.”

To me, that freedom is priceless.

How do you feel about money and writing? Share your questions and comments in the box below. This blog is moderated to avoid spam but your comments can appear right away if you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Valerie

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Valerie’s Beacon sci-fi  series is OUT NOW

from Momentum/Pan Macmillan

http://momentumbooks.com.au/authors/valerie-parv/

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First Monday Mentoring August 2016 – What writing gifts will you share with your readers?

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring, when I answer your questions about the writing craft and look at the realities of being a writer.

This month’s blog was inspired by two things – meeting a new baby in my adopted family, and some exciting reprints of my books. How do they go together? Well, the books are my babies, the legacy I’ll leave to the future, not least through the ongoing collection of my literary papers by the State Library of New South Wales.

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Meeting my gorgeous new rent-a-grandkid

Seeing my older books reprinted and in new languages – the latest being Chinese and Lithuanian  – tell me my stories still resonate with readers decades on. What will your books leave? Will you have written them or kept them in your mind or computer, unshared, all that inspiration lost forever? Because make no mistake, when you write, you inspire others. You show them how the world might be instead of how it truly is.

Given how bad things are in parts of the world right now, any shred of inspiration is badly needed. Despite being so often belittled, romance novels play a key role. My first, Love’s Greatest Gamble (1982), dealt with the aftermath of a family member having PTSD. It wasn’t known by that name then and the effects even less understood. You came back from a war and got on with it, burying your struggles in alcohol or – in the case of my heroine’s late husband – gambling. She was left to deal with the fallout and the huge debts left to a powerful man.

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My novels have also dealt with miscarriage, adoption, self-image, eating disorders, and a very current issue, domestic violence. The book, Man Shy, was challenging to write while keeping  a balance between the issue and the love story. At one point, I almost gave up but my editor encouraged me to continue, and the book has been reprinted in any number of languages.

If you want to write about  a serious problem, you must take it seriously. Before writing about the heroine’s miscarriage, I researched widely and interviewed  friends who’d had the experience, in order to deal respectfully with what – to the mother – is the loss of their child. No trite dismissals or assurances it was “for the best” and “you can always have another.” One of my friends remembered her son’s would-have-been birthday for the rest of her life.

Another favourite is Man and Wife, where the heroine is a corporate maven ridiculed in the media for her clothing choices. No man goes through this. Furious, my heroine hired a man to be her “wife” and give her the same domestic back-up most businessmen enjoy. This connected with readers on so many levels, most telling me they needed a wife themselves. That he turned out to be her industrial rival made the story more fun, but the undercurrent of gender inequality in the corporate world lingers today. Man and Wife came out in 1984.

I’ve been published in book form for 40 years. One of my personal inspirations, Star Trek, debuted on American television 50 years ago this month. Why has that show endured when so many others have vanished without trace? Again, I believe it’s the inspiration the show provided. Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, one of my writing mentors, dared to explore racial equality, gender roles, the morality of war, and many other issues – all in the guise of a science fiction show. The pre-CGI effects, cardboard sets and rubber-suited monsters were the best that 1960s television could do. But it was the careful thought behind the scripts (not all, but a significant number) that has kept the show relevant for half a century.

 

Every writer is asked where we get ideas. It occurs to me now that they may be asking about the substance behind the boy-meets-girl story. On August 9, I’ll explore this question via a Masterclass at the Canberra Writers’ Centre on how to blend our real-life experiences with fiction.  Click here for details. Only on writing this blog, do I see I’ve been doing this my whole career. My own struggles with weight, constantly moving house and being the new kid on the block and the like, form a subtext to much of my fiction.

My beacons science-fiction series published earlier this year by Momentum (Pan Macmillan) are new-kid-on-the block stories, except in the guise of aliens with strange powers, living among us. I didn’t set out to write that issue and only see it now, with hindsight. As it should be. Using stories to bludgeon readers over the head with issues doesn’t work. Instead, you take real people as your characters, figure out what they’re struggling with in their lives, and write that story. How they overcome their struggles is your plot, the inspiration being a by-product of their journey. The readers will “get it” as mine have for the last 40 years. As Star Trek fans like me have been “getting it” for 50 years.

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What of yourself do you or will you give to your readers? I believe it’s why we need to tell stories, and why readers soak them up. We all need inspiration. If it’s not out there, maybe it’s inside you, waiting to be shared.

What do you think? What books have inspired you? What do you want to share? Your thoughts are welcome in the comment box below. They’re monitored 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 and inspiring others,

Valerie

Valerie’s Beacon sci-fi series out now!
Beacon Starfound OUT NOW
Beacon Earthbound OUT NOW
Beacon Continuum OUT NOW
Beacon Homeworld OUT NOW

via Amazon.com.au Amazon.com & Amazon.co.uk – also via
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Google Play (All devices except Kindle)

iBooks Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac)

Kobo (All devices except Kindle)

First Monday Mentoring, July 2016 – how NOT to be a writer in the 21st Century

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring, when I answer your questions about the writing craft and the fun stuff about being a writer.

This week’s blog was inspired by an email conversation with a columnist in a regional newspaper (themselves, sadly a dying breed). The column has no website, no email, no means of getting in touch other than by mail or phone.

When I finally tracked down an email contact to compliment the writer, he was predictably pleased that I’d reached out. But on the bottom of his response was the line, “I don’t read all my emails…pick up the phone.”

Well, no. Writers don’t get to tell our readers/customers how they can read our work. That’s up to them.  I used to wonder how you could read my books on a phone. In a word, convenience. You nearly always have a phone with you.

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My current Beacon sci-fi series is published by Momentum, the digital-first arm of Pan Macmillan with the last in the series, Homeworld, released last week. I had to edit the series entirely online, rather than marking up a printed copy, which used to involve a language of editorial squiggles we mostly don’t see any more. To me, the hash sign # still suggests “space out” and we’re not talking taking illicit substances, but spreading out a piece of copy.

No longer. I love hashtags because they connect people to your conversation. The Twitter hashtag #AmWriting is read by millions around the world who share an interest in the writing process.

I admit I sometimes struggle with technology. Sometimes it’s me; sometimes the technology. But I soldier on because it’s fun  being part of this exciting world.

Celebrating a couple of decades working together, my agent gifted me an iPad Mini, a generous gift by any standards. I felt totally challenged by it but persevered and it’s now the best camera I’ve ever had. Not long ago, I had a live chat on it with writer friend, Jennie Adams. For her, it was early evening in Australia. For me, it was midnight in Las Vegas and we chatted as I waited for a flight #lovemyiPad

Other ways NOT to be a writer today:

Refuse to deal with ebooks.

Like most writers, I like print books, but my Kindle has over 500 books on it. Sometimes I’ll read the ebook version because I can have it NOW. Then I’ll order a print copy, especially nonfiction, to study at leisure.

Overlook technology in your stories

I see this a lot with entrants in the Valerie Parv Award run by Romance Writers of Australia. Too often characters are stuck in last century. There’s almost nowhere your characters aren’t linked by their devices. I’m judging this year’s finalists very soon with the hashtag #ValerieParvAward on Twitter and I’ll be looking for tech savvy characters.

Change the story to take account of real life. You can only have batteries go flat so many times. Likewise, in a story, you can only have doubt about a person’s parentage for two weeks or less, before DNA testing gives the answer. In Private Sydney, written with James Patterson, Kathryn Fox wrote about new technology that gets it down to one hour and while not as detailed as the longer tests, still reveals a lot. Using technology can broaden your story. Need characters to find answers to something? Let them share on social media or Google the details. Every writer I know blesses Google for making research a breeze.

If you aren’t already, get good at researching. Writing Homeworld, the final  book in my Beacons sci-fi series, I needed to know if you could launch a space shuttle off the back of a Global Express private jet. My net search turned up the PR division of the plane’s makers who sent my query to the designers. They not only wrote back that it could be done but included diagrams, thrilling me with their generosity. Learn the tricks to search terms and dive in.

You notice the difference if you dip into the past for entertainment. I enjoy the1980s cop show, T J Hooker, starring William Shatner, my tweetheart. Thanks for that lovely word, Joanna Sandsmark. He’s seen here with fellow Star Trek alumni, Leonard Nimoy. Watching him in action is fun, but I can’t help wishing for a cellphone every time he has to find a phone to take care of police business.

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Another fav. Is  Murdoch Mysteries, a detective show set in the 1890s where everything is old school. Yannick Bisson as eye candy in the title role doesn’t hurt, either. Former VPA “minion” (what previous award winners call themselves) Erica Hayes writing as Viola Carr, writes a fun series about the daughter of Dr. Jeckyll who inherited his affliction. In these page-turners,Viola employs the tech of the day – plus some neat inventions of her own – beautifully. Don’t take my word for it. The Wall Street Journal reviewed the first in the series – you can’t do much better than that.

Currently I’m developing a book where one lead character steps back in time. The other remains in the present with all its technical goodies, while my character has to deal with the comparatively low tech of the time she finds herself in.

Love it or loathe it, this is our reality as writers today. Technology also changes how we write – but that’s a subject for another blog.

How do you deal with technology in your writing? What books do it best for you as a reader? Share your thoughts in the comments below. They’re monitored 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.

Valerie

Valerie’s Beacon sci-fi series out now!
Beacon Starfound OUT NOW
Beacon Earthbound OUT NOW
Beacon Continuum OUT NOW
Beacon Homeworld OUT JUNE 30

via Amazon.com.au Amazon.com & Amazon.co.uk – also via
Barnes and Noble (Nook devices)

Google Play (All devices except Kindle)

iBooks Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac)

Kobo (All devices except Kindle)

 

 

 

 

 

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