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Posts tagged ‘2020’

First Monday Mentoring January 2021 – change the ‘donts’ in your writing life to what you ‘do’ aim to achieve

In the last minutes of 2020 many online friends posted memes booting 2020 out, saying good riddance, and commiserating on the trials and tribulations of last year.

For most of the world, this was a trying year and I haven’t heard anyone regret its ending. But regret is a negative emotion, hardly a useful guide to what we do want from 2021. An example of this came from American psychologist and NASA consultant, Dr Denis Waitley, with whom I was fortunate to work when he visited Australia. He explained how, years before, he was asked by a retail client to help them reduce shop-stealing.

Dr Waitley suggested placing a barely noticeable message under the store’s background music, saying, “Don’t shoplift. Don’t shoplift.” To everyone’s surprise, cases of theft went up. When he changed the message to, “Please pay at the checkout,” the figures dropped dramatically. Next time you want something done, replace “Don’t forget to…” with “Remember to….” even as a reminder to yourself. Positivity works.

It can be harder to work out what you want than what you don’t want. Here are some positive changes you CAN make to your writing life in 2021.

Be kind to yourself

Instead of beating yourself up for not writing every day, or reaching a specific word count, put star stickers on a chart, or create a sparkly list on your phone of what you did accomplish. Break the task into bite-sized pieces. I used to put housework on my to-do list until I broke it into specific chores I could cross off as I went along. Which would encourage you more – putting write book on your list, or setting 200 word daily goals?

Do some meditation

Above all, writers need time to think. Forcing yourself to write, you may miss the inspirations that come from letting your brain relax. I do Chakra meditation most days, but you have many options. Gardening, walking, playing with pets, all allow your thoughts to wander as you consider your story options. Just remember to write down or record on your phone whatever ideas come, so they’re available to you later.

Take screen breaks

If I’m off social media for a day, I’ll get PMs or emails asking if I’m OK and did I get their message. The sender means well but it’s impossible to create new material if you’re constantly on call.

Try new challenges

For me, this was indie-publishing my memoir, 34 Million Books. The experience was such a buzz, I committed to writing a Christmas ebook set in my invented kingdom of Carramer. Started in early November, the story was up on Amazon by December 2, and is one of the most fun writing experiences I’ve had in years. Your challenge can be as easy or hard as you like but should feel exciting and even a touch scary.

Be your authentic self

Within sensible security limits, share your authentic self on social media. Be open about your writing challenges and ask others how they deal with similar issues. This isn’t humble bragging or virtue signalling, it’s an honest attempt to connect with others on the same path. Many times I’m asked when the fear of the blank screen will go away and the writing become easier. I believe we write to see if we can do it. No writer ever knows it all. This keep the work stimulating.

You can also nurture connections beyond your writing goals

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the importance of connections, whether friends, family or colleagues. Make time to meet, online if actual meetings are restricted. Hang out with animals. My rent-a-cat Jessie, and Cookie the teacup poodle are special furry friends who give far more than they take.

Last week I discovered that the current Valerie Parv Award holder, Kristin Silk, whom I’m mentoring, shares my love of guinea pigs, and we’ve happily exchanged GP experiences on Facebook.

Take a break from your four walls. This isn’t always possible during lockdowns, but when you can, visit a cafe for takeaway if need be, and people-watch to refill your idea well.

How will you refresh your writing self for 2021? Share in the comment box 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 New Year, happy writing,

Valerie

Try a new short read – Her Royal Secret Santa

on ebook universal link mybook.to/SecretSantaParv

takes you to your nearest Amazon site

OUT NOW Valerie’s latest title: 34 Million Books,

Australia’s Queen of Romance shares her life and writing tips

Print and ebook buying links at www.valerieparv.com

Find Valerie on Facebook and Twitter @valerieparv

First Monday August 2020 – how to be a Valerie Parv Award writing “minion”

Over and over, we’re hearing how our world has changed. If you’d told me last August that I’d be announcing the winner of the 2020 Valerie Parv Award via Zoom at a virtual writing conference, I’d have said you’re dreaming. But thanks to a nasty bug which doesn’t need any more publicity, this is our “new normal.”

Even more astonishing is that this year we’re celebrating 20 years of the Valerie Parv Award under the banner of Romance Writers of Australia.

The winner’s name is a secret until the official announcement later this month but the short list is already out. Congratulations to the finalists, in no particular order, Amanda Newberry, Karen Lieversz, Kristin Silk, Davina Stone, Dianna Lennon, Rachel Armstrong and Frances Dall-Alba. One of you will be my new “minion” as past winners call themselves. As a previous minion tweeted when the list came out, someone’s life is about to change and they don’t even know it.

I’m always thrilled to see the minions winning awards, publishing all over the world, and becoming great friends. The saying is, “once a minion, always a minion.” Sadly, a virtual conference doesn’t allow our annual Minions’ Breakfast where we catch up wearing our special tiaras.

Valerie Parv am and VPA Contest Manager       Karina Coldrick

This year, because of the lockdowns, we all got so much writing done. Yeah, me neither. The world is so crazy that it can be difficult to write at all, with crafting and baking having more appeal.  When actor, Debra Lee Furness, complained about being locked down with her family, a friend said she had no sympathy. Asked why, the friend pointed out that Furness was locked down with Hugh Jackman. Such a sacrifice.

Despite such challenges, this year’s VPA finalists are an impressive group. The entries ranged from a gritty Regency heroine; to a reunion romance; a challenging birthday gift; a mismatched couple finding love in the outback; an escape-worthy fling in the fairytale world; a friends-to-lovers story; and a page-turner “secret baby”.

The final entries, give readers respite or head-on challenges, sometimes both. There’s much experimenting with present tense. Backgrounds are sketched in with a light hand..

So how does a writer become the next VPA minion? These are some aspects I take into account:

  1. You write from the heart

Every highly-placed entry is a labour of love and it shows. Your story may not be perfectly written but your characters are people we care about from the start.

  1. You add a touch of originality

If two entries vie for the top prize, I generally favour the more original. Your story will have something special that transcends genre.

  1. You’re a storyteller

I look for a story that comes to life right away, giving us people we want to see triumph against the odds. I’ll read any genre or time period as do agents and editors. Like them, I forgive occasional writing slips as long as you give me a page-turning story.

  1. You have the X-factor

I know it as soon as I see it. The entry may not be the one I want to choose but the writing makes the choice inescapable. In her winning book, Shadowfae, Erica Hayes thanked me “for wanting so hard for this book not to win, that it did.” A great review in the Wall Street Journal backed me up.

In The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker, one of two books we worked on together, minion Joanna Nell included her “heartfelt thanks…for encouraging her to trust her instincts and tell [her] story from the heart.” IMO this is the very best way to write.

Rather than answers, I give the minions tools they can apply to any story. For example, identify the work the writing has to do. Every sentences, scene and chapter must have a job to do, revealing character, moving the story forward, deepening conflict, filling in essential background, or in a mystery/suspense, planting clues and red herrings.

Another VPA minion, Carly Main, said, “I’ve tried a few critique partners but nobody has ever suggested new ways of telling the story. Is it a matter of experience or do published authors look at manuscripts in a different way?”

I can’t speak for other authors, but I’ve known that once you identify why a scene or chapter is in there, you open up dozens of ways to achieve the purpose, rather than simply rewriting the scene in different words, making rewriting and editing much simpler.

Minion Michelle Somers
checks out a poster in LA

A well-honed story sense is part of the X-factor. The rest is studying your craft to discover not only what works but why. Curiously, however far you go into fantasy and sci-fi, or human psychology, as author and TV show-runner, John Yorke, points out, the basic human story structure remains constant, explaining the world to us, and us to ourselves.

Could you be a future VPA minion? Share your thoughts in the comment box below. The blog is moderated to avoid spam, but your comment can appear right away by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone. Happy writing,

Valerie

On Facebook and Twitter @valerieparv

Romance Writers of Australia virtual

conference details at – http://tinyurl.com/yyk76wyd

First Monday July – what does romance writing look like in 2020

As I write this, I’m wearing my Judgy McJudgeface while reading the short listed entries in Romance Writers of Australia’s Valerie Parv Award. Once I choose the winner and rank the finalists, I write each one some feedback, figuring if you’ve reached the finals, you’ve earned the attention.

The Covid-19 Pandemic has changed the entries I’m seeing which include more cynical, snarky stories to out-and-out escapism. Neither is right or wrong. As Leslie Wainger, one of my American editors said, it’s all in the execution. In other words you can get away with a great deal, as long as you do it well.

Some things are still needed – strong characters with goals they’re desperate to reach, and a compelling story we want to invest time in reading.

The Valerie Parv Award Medal

The old tropes are welcome but need – as it’s put now – to pivot with the times. The crisis has swept away a whole strata of stories that would have been fine not so long ago. As my agent, Linda Tate says, it’s no longer enough to write a “good” story, you need to write something really special.

If you story involves a “marriage of convenience” (where the characters agree to marry for reasons other than love) it must give readers something they haven’t seen before. What does a marriage of convenience look like in a Covid-19 world?

How will social distancing change your characters? On social media, discussion is raging as to whether contemporary stories should reference the pandemic at all. As they’re written in the “eternal present” this is your decision. Some writers have already changed works-in-progress, setting them a year or two before the crisis. Others choose worlds we can escape into.

Society has changed drastically in the last few months and until a vaccine is available, the changes are likely to be permanent. Watching older shows online, even if set only months ago, I find myself yelling at the screen, “Get away from them.”

There’s much talk of a “new normal.” What does this look like for your characters? Even if you don’t mention Covid-19 it will likely cast a shadow over personal interactions. Some changes are less physical than they are states of mind. What will international travel and world cruises be like in future? How will characters relate to each other?

Readers still want larger-than-life characters, not fragile creatures wrapped in bubble wrap. But they are changing, sometimes in unexpected ways. Rumour has it that the ultimate spy, James Bond, gets a toddler daughter in his next movie. Stay tuned.

As the world changes around us, our stories need to change, too. As I noticed reading for the Valerie Parv Award, romantic comedies are having a resurgence, along with cosy mysteries, fantasies and fairy tales, all re-imagined for the new normal.

Apocalyptic fiction is having a moment, but needs to end on a hopeful note. That, at least, stays the same. As the indomitable Kathryn Falk, publisher of Romantic Times, said long before Covid-19, “There are no Mr. Rights, but there are Mr. Trainables.” The phrase seems to predict the new normal. Then again, Kathryn is known for setting trends, rather than following them.

Look at the different romance tropes, a trope being a recurring theme. How could you reinvent them for this strange new world? Some readers collect books that use their favourite tropes and they still resonate, provided they feel fresh and exciting.

 

Here are some favourite tropes:

Amnesia, Friends/enemies into lovers,

Second chance at love, Royalty & billionaires,

Fake relationship/ engagement/marriage of convenience,

Wounded hero or heroine, Unexpected baby,

Stranded, forced to rely on each other.

Sub-genres include military, sports heroes, rock stars and rural settings

Can you create a romance story that will become a future trope? Somebody had to write the first marriage-of-convenience story. This is a time to be daring, to push the boundaries. As long as you have two individuals who fall in love against impossible odds, the sky’s the limit.

What would you love to read next? Is that the story you need to write? Share your thoughts in the comment panel below. The blog is moderated to avoid spam but comments can appear immediately if you click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

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

 

 

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