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Posts tagged ‘backlist’

First Monday Mentoring Oct 2018 – how lucky we are to be writers

Over the last two First Monday blogs I’ve explored some of the challenges facing writers today. Yes, they are many. Big publishers are amalgamating at a rate of knots. Soon we’ll be down to perhaps three. Rather than taking on new authors, the remaining publishers already prefer to mine their backlists for books they can rely on to sell.

Will we even have a publishing industry any more, or will every person who is so inclined write and publish their own books? This is already happening with Indie publishing. All you need is a manuscript and the money to produce the book yourself or hire qualified people to do the technical stuff for you.

As writers this is our current reality. But there are other aspects to writing that I want to focus on here.  Why we feel driven to share the stories buzzing around in our brains. Why writers who have made significant fortunes – J.K.Rowling, Stephen King, James Paterson and the like – still feel the need to share their stories.

Is it because writers can’t not write?

Maybe we’ll go back to our beginnings. Instead of going into print or ebooks, will we collect followers around whatever passes for a camp fire and revive the oral traditions of storytelling?

Mixed media is very much a thing now. Writers are combining with designers, musicians, painters to bring stories out in very different forms. They are ephemeral but they offer both creator and recipient – is it accurate to call them readers anymore? – the satisfaction of going from Once upon a time, to…and they lived happily ever after.

That may be enough for many storytellers. As a child who thought everybody wrote stories, I printed my own on flimsy paper with illustrations done in pencil. When I was at school in Grenfell NSW I wrote my first book in pencil in an exercise book in response to a class assignment. I may have been the only one in the class who actually produced a book. It was a complete story with a beginning, middle and end and a few very poor illustrations. That book somehow survived the years and now lives among my papers in the State Library of NSW.

Reading it again before sending it to its new home, I was surprised how my writing voice had survived intact. I used a lot of big words I wouldn’t use now, not so much showing off as exploring the sheer joy of language. Back then I’d had no thought of making a living as a writer. I didn’t know what a writer was, and thought everybody made up stories.

Maybe we’ll come full circle back to those innocent times and tell stories for the joy of sharing them. Here are five reasons why we’re lucky to be writers:

  1. We never have a dull moment. Standing in a supermarket line or bank queue, we can free our minds to explore possible stories or solve plot points. Our bodies may be in the doctor’s waiting room, but our minds are away in our invented worlds so that when our turn finally comes, it’s an unwelcome interruption to our thoughts.
  2. Our feelings have somewhere to go. In my indoor bowls group, if they spoil my team’s carefully placed shots, they’re used to being told I will put them in a book and kill them. I haven’t done so yet, but there’s always a first time.
  3. Writers never retire. Even if we develop some physical infirmity, as long as our brains function, we can still write. Stories can be told to someone or recorded via a dictation program or other clever gadget. I dream of the time when I can attach something to my forehead and the words will stream direct onto a screen. Such systems exist for people with disabilities. Properly refined, I’m sure they will serve our purpose in the near future.
  4. Our writing touches other people. This may be the most precious gift of all. We can move people to laughter or tears. We can make them ponder life’s mysteries, or discover invented worlds that become as real to them as to us. Hogwarts, Narnia, Sherlock Holmes’s Baker Street, the Star Trek universe, all were born in a writer’s imagination.
  5. What we do is a mystery, even to ourselves. One minute we’re daydreaming, the next we’re scribbling or typing frantically, trying to keep up with our thoughts. We’re often asked where we get ideas, yet none of us really knows. On my wall I have a copy of a Rembrandt painting called The Apostle Matthew Inspired by the Angel. Pen in hand, he sits stroking his beard and staring into space while an angel whispers in his ear. Whispering ideas? It’s as good an answer as we may ever get.

What gives you joy in writing? Share your thoughts in the comment 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.

Happy writing,

Valerie

On Twitter @valerieparv and Facebook

www.valerieparv.com

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

www.valerieparv.com/course.html

Sign up for Valerie’s next workshop:  Saturday 27 October 2018

At Canberra Writers Centre  Romance Writing Rebooted

Details and bookings – http://tinyurl.com/ycwbutst

 

Hope: the takeaway from Romance Writers of Australia conference

Over the last few days, 350 writers headed home either to parts of Melbourne where the conference was held, to other states, other countries and some across the pond to New Zealand to do it all over again there. As someone put it, the recent snowstorms across NZ  made Melbourne look like Hawaii.

Judging by posts on Facebook and Twitter, the 20th anniversary conference was a resounding success. When I tweeted that I felt like Juan Antonio at the Olympic closing ceremony, declaring RWA Melbourne 2011 the best romance writing conference ever, conference guest, Bob Mayer, retweeted my message, adding “agree.” I haven’t heard any dissenting voices.

But is the memory of a grand time all we take home? As I posted previously, I don’t think so. Networking was practically nonstop between writers, agents and editors. As a result of casual chats, several people I know came away with requests to submit their work, and that’s before counting those who made appointments to formally pitch their book to a specific person.

During panel discussions, two editors and an agent said they don’t normally accept unsolicited submissions. However, because you were attending the conference you could put that on your envelope and it would bypass the slush pile, the place where authors hopes and dreams go to die. Such an invitation is worth it’s weight in gold.

Melbourne, a great place to find hope

But wait, there’s more.

The most valuable takeaway from this conference is HOPE. Too many authors are buying into the negativity currently surrounding the book industry. Sure, bookstores are closing, print runs are being reduced in favour of increasing ebook production, and new pricing models are being tested. But guess what? The sky is NOT falling. Every time I heard the word “challenge” it was paired with “opportunity”. Established authors are seeing their earlier books, known as backlist, given new life as ebooks; some are doing it themselves with great success. Publishers brought a shopping list of what they DO want – Random House has seen a doubling of their commercial women’s fiction. There are openings for “an Australian Penny Vincenzi”; time travel, pirates, gay fiction, sweeping commercial novels with romantic elements, books for readers aged 40-plus, and on and on.

NYT bestselling author Bob Mayer urged us to “act rather than react” to these opportunities. “Educate yourself, make courageous choices.” And this great advice from literary agent, Kristin Nelson, “Anytime you stand still in this business, you get run over.”

Time to look at the big picture

The overriding takeaway is that writers will still write, and readers still read, only through different channels. As Carina Press Executive Editor Angela James said, “The story is your book, not the format it appears in. Story is what you hold in your hand. It’s time to see past the fear.”

Can you see past the fear to the opportunity? Are you excited yet? I am.

Valerie

 

 

 

 

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