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Posts tagged ‘Allen & Unwin’

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

 

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First Monday Mentoring for March 2015 – what passions drive your writing?

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring for March.

As most of the world knows by now, the American actor, Leonard Nimoy, died on Friday. By early Saturday morning Australian time, the hashtag #RIPLeonardNimoy was one of the top trending topics on Twitter and Facebook, and his likeness dominated the world media on and offline.

Even if you aren’t a Star Trek fan, you probably recognized him as Mr. Spock, the logical, pointed-eared Vulcan from Star Trek’s original series which premiered in the 1960s. After Trek, Nimoy starred in series including Mission Impossible and In Search of, and was also a notable stage performer, director, poet, photographer, philanthropist and family man.

Nimoy's last live convention appearance. Photo by Maria Jose Tenuto, used with thanks.

Nimoy’s last live convention appearance. Photo by Maria Jose Tenuto, used with thanks.

I knew him only slightly from my long involvement with the show when I helped organize conventions for fans, fund-raising to bring people from the show to Australia. Some, I’m still friends with today.

Writing eventually took me away from active fandom but my passion for Star Trek remained part of my life in many ways.

When I set up Australia’s first conference on romance writing, I brought Susan Sackett out to talk about the US market. The author of many Hollywood-related books, she co-wrote episodes of Star Trek the Next Generation and worked with Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry, for many years.

A younger me with Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry

A younger me with Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry

I considered Gene Roddenberry one of my writing mentors. The technique he used to create the character of Mr. Spock is one I still use and share with the writers I mentor. Gene said he drew a line down the centre of a page, writing his questions for Spock on the left-hand side and the character’s “answers” on the right.

He said the answers may seem forced at first, but if you persevere, the character starts speaking back to you, often surprising you with insights you didn’t know were lurking deep in your subconscious.

When I talked with him about writing for Star Trek, Gene recommended creating my own characters and their universe rather than limiting my options to Paramount Studio’s requirements. It was many years before I fully took this advice, creating my alien Beacons and a series of books starting with Birthright (Corvallis Press, USA).
Even then, Star Trek hovered around the Beacons, challenging me to create my own technology and “world” – not easy considering Trek has a fifty-year head start, showcasing technology which was unheard-of back then, but is commonplace today.

Technology was far from Star Trek’s only appeal for me. At heart I value the show’s inclusiveness and sense of wonder. The stories seek to understand and celebrate our differences, shown most clearly in the character of Mr. Spock. The message is – whoever you are is OK; women can be anything; alienness is to be understood not feared. I’m glad to say that we Trekkies appreciate this spirit even more 50 years on.

Previously I’ve blogged here about how William Shatner, Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, inspires my personal and professional life with his energy, enthusiasm and resilience into his eighties.

In my non-fiction book, The Idea Factory, (Allen & Unwin, Australia), I quote Leonard Nimoy on what he called the “goodies box” that actors – and I believe, writers – all have.

“You come into town with your box of goodies…that is you, and you start to use it and sell it and eventually the box of goodies gets used up, and then you must go back to something else to fill up the box with new goodies.”
Nimoy was describing the need for creative people to soak up input from as many sources as possible. Also called absorption trips, they can range from travelling, reading and watching movies, to meeting people outside your normal circle, whatever gives you fresh material to write about.

What is your passion? What fills your creative goodies box? Is it Star Trek or something completely different? Share your thoughts in the comment box below. They’re moderated to avoid spam, but if you want your comment to appear right away, click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone else.

Vale Leonard Nimoy. And as Spock might say, live long and prosper in your creative work.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
on Twitter @valerieparv and Facebook
Check out Valerie’s online course, Free the Writer In You
At http://www.valerieparv.com/course.html

The Writer Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas,  and in every nook,

Not a creature was stirring except me and my book.

The deadline was looming,  I tried not to care though I knew that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The family were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of editors danced in my head.

My agent would freak out and I’d be a wreck if the copious copy edits didn’t get back.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I abandoned my work to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutter and threw up the sash.

The moon on the stretches of overgrown grass gave the lustre of midday to what I saw pass,

As what to my wondering eyes did appear, but Santa and sleigh pulled by lots of reindeer.

The man in the sleigh was so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.

More rapid than a rejection, his coursers they came,

And he whistled and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now Harlequin, now Penguin, now Allen & Unwin,

On Macmillan, on Carina, on Samhain and Random.”

From the top of the porch, I heard his wry call, “Now write away, write away, write away all.”

As blank pages mock an author’s best try, when we meet with a plothole, and look to the sky,

So up to the rooftop, those publishers flew, with a sleigh full of books and St Nicholas, too.

I drew in my head and was turning around, down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed in red ink from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all grimy with ashes and soot.

A flash drive or two he had in his pack. I started to shake but he motioned me back.

A wink of his eye and a nod of his head soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word as he bent to his task, took the drive to my tablet, not stopping to ask,

turned my chaos to order, the edits all done, I was freed from their yoke, there’d be time to have fun.

And laying a finger aside of his nose, Santa gave me a grin; up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to the publishers cried, and away they all flew while I turned back inside.

As I heard him exclaim, my heart beat like a drum,

“Merry Christmas all writers, New York Times here you come.”

                                With every good wish!

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

With acknowledgement to Clement Clarke Moore/ Henry Livingston

who gave us the original The Night Before Christmas.

Feel the fear and write it anyway

What’s so scary about writing? It’s not like you have to bungy jump into a book or be like Bear Grylls battling the elements while eating still-squirming things to survive. Yet fear comes up time and again as a reason why writers do almost anything rather than sit down and write.  Or if they do, never finish. Or avoid sending their work to an agent or publisher.  Author Erica Jong   www.ericajong.com  said that for years she avoided sending anything out. As long as the book was a work-in-progress, it couldn’t be rejected. She’s far from alone.

If you want to be published, you have to wrestle your fears to the ground. In my book, The Idea Factory, I recommend asking yourself what you’re really afraid of. Usually it comes down to one of these fears:

  • being wrong
  • ridicule
  • actual loss

Writers aren’t the only people afraid of being thought stupid or  wrong. Trying something new IS risky and you might fail. You could also succeed beyond your wildest dreams. The infamous writers’ block may be a defence against fear. If we don’t put ourselves “out there” no one can find us wanting. Try reminding yourself that you are not your work, nor does your career depend on one piece of writing. Even the most successful writers produce a “what were they thinking?” piece some time in their careers. If not, it may be that we’re not pushing ourselves far enough outside our own comfort zone.

When Allen & Unwin invited me to edit the anthology that became How Do I Love Thee? Stories to stir the heart, I said yes then wondered what I’d gotten myself into, never having edited other writers before. Mentored yes, through Romance Writers of Australia’s  Valerie Parv Award, but contracted, inspired, collated and…gulp…given a group of multi-published authors feedback on their work? Hell, no.

I followed the advice in a handy book called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers Ph.D. http://www.susanjeffers.com The title pretty much says it all. I said yes, felt the fear – boy did I ever – then edited the book. That experience became one of my most rewarding in a long time. This month, the book was published in Korean, and a review on A & U’s website says: Who would have though that such a mixture of emotions could be unbottled by opening this little book. It will have you smiling, crying, laughing, wondering all the while your heart skips a beat.” – Trinette, NSW (via Lifestyle YOU) http://www.allenandunwin.com/default.aspx?page=94&book=9781742370804 

A sign in my office says, “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday, and all is well.” So go ahead, feel the fear and write your book anyway. It’s much more satisfying than eating wriggly things, I promise.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

 

 

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