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Posts tagged ‘character’

First Monday Mentoring March 2020 – what to write after writing the book

The End.

Most writers agree, there are no more satisfying words to type. The hard work is done. The book is complete, leaving only the champagne to pop or the chocolate to break out.

Sadly they aren’t the end of anything except getting your story down in one place, a major achievement you can and should celebrate.The book that has haunted your waking hours and sometimes your sleep, is finished. At least until an editor takes over, whether someone you’ve hired or one associated with a traditional publisher.

But this isn’t the time to think about editing. You should enjoy this moment to the full.

Then there’s your writing place to sort out. All those notes and references to be filed. Not discarded, you may need them later. Domestic chores to catch up on. People to reconnect with. Remember them? The family and friends you texted or PMd on Social, promising to catch up after you finished the book?

Give yourself some catch-up time

If possible, resist the temptation to attack your manuscript. You’re still too close to it to be objective. Better let it sit for as long as you can. There are other things to be doing while the book is fresh in your mind.

If you wrote a synopsis before starting the book, does it need updating? I find them easier to write once the book is done, but some publishers request a synopsis and sample chapters before they’ll consider reading the book.

If you’re an indie publisher a synopsis is optional, although it can be handy in preparing blog entries or other promotional materials. In The Art of Romance Writing, I list the elements needed in a synopses:

  • Who the main characters are
  • How they come together, with a hint of the setting
  • The nature of the conflict between them
  • How they resolve the conflict through their own efforts
  • Brief details of any subplots
  • How you tie up the story at the end

The length usually depends on the book. A short genre novel may run 2-3 pages, while a complicated family saga may need a dozen pages. If submitting to a trad publisher, check their submission guidelines and follow them as closely as you can.

By the way, the terms outline and synopsis are often interchangeable. I think of an outline as a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, a tool for my reference. Likewise outlines made on Scrivener or similar programs, whatever you find useful.

Generally a synopsis for submission is written in first person, present tense. She did…he went…and so on. The pages can be single or double spaced as suits you. It helps to start the synopsis with a hook, making the editor want to read on. Stick to the key elements and characters, mentioning minor characters as they relate to the main characters – Brad’s housekeeper, Zoe’s brother.

If a publisher asks for a proposal, also known as a partial, this usually means a covering letter, synopsis, and sample chapters. Always send the first three chapters in order.

Some publishers prefer a query letter before they read anything more substantial. Try to keep your letter/email to a single page, with a balance between sounding businesslike and overly friendly.

Elements you may include:

  • A very brief summary of the book. Mention the word length and that you have finished the manuscript.
  • Your writing history. If you’re published, have won contests, or belong to writing organisations, mention these. Rather than saying this is your first book, be positive in presenting yourself.
  • Any personal background that prompted you to write this book. There’s a growing interest in writers and books from varied backgrounds. If the book concerns characters with whom you share a background or ethnicity, definitely say so. If you’re writing outside your own history, mention why you feel qualified to write this book, any sensitivity reads you’ve had done, and anything else giving the book a strong basis to connect with readers.

Even if the book is to be self-published, having these details ready helps you prepare cover blurb, interviews, bios and blog posts.

Another useful element is the so-called elevator pitch. Imagine you meet an agent or editor at a writing conference. They ask your name and what you’re working on. You answer with a tightly honed one or two sentence-description of your book. Some authors say this is tougher to write than the book itself.

For example, I might say, “I’m Valerie Parv. I’m currently working on a memoir to share my life and writing secrets with emerging writers.”

For a novel you might give the story highlights, especially the page-turning intrigue or conflict. For my book Crowns and a Cradle, I might say, “A single mum battles Crown Prince Josquin who believes Sarah’s infant son is the heir to the Valmont throne, and will stop at nothing including romancing her, to get what he wants.” I may polish the pitch, but these are the elements I’m likely to include.

For the cover it’s helpful to write a logline, an even briefer pitch using my “Three Cs.” These are Character, Conflict and Content. For Crowns and a Cradle, the character is single mum, Sarah, her conflict is with the Crown Prince, and the content, sometimes called the stakes, her baby’s future. For example: a single mum must defy a dashing prince who claims her baby son is his rightful heir.

These skills are good to practice no matter where you are in your writing journey. How do you handle the synopsis, elevator pitch and logline? Share your thoughts here. They’re monitored to avoid spam but you can have your post appear immediately by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing,

Valerie

On Facebook and Twitter @valerieparv

Website www.valerieparv.com

 

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 for February – whose writing advice should you take?

It’s First Monday time again, when I open this blog to your questions about writing. They can be on creative, craft or business matters. Here’s a common question – who’s advice should writers take?

When I started writing, I soaked up how-to-write books by the dozen, but most didn’t make sense until after I discovered their truths through my own work. That’s why, when I wrote The Art of Romance Writing, I made it as clear and helpful as I could, putting into it everything I wish I’d known starting out. Staying in print since 1982 shows me it achieved my aim.

These days there’s more writing advice on and off line than anyone can absorb, and they often conflict. Write fast, 2,000 words a day minimum. Write slowly, polishing your work as you go. Start with characters. Start with plot. Write what you know. Or what you can find out.

There is some truth in all the advice, but not all the advice is true.

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After writing more than five million words for publication, I can assure you that there’s no one way to write. There’s only what works for you. Be wary of anyone telling you theirs is THE way. The advice may work if it suits your style. You can write fast if it’s your natural inclination, but not otherwise. I’ve had as many books spring from characters as from plot. Often it’s a mix. Let’s face it, if there was “a formula” to writing, every writer would use it and be successful. But writing is more like fishing. Sometimes you catch nothing, sometimes you pull out that elusive best-seller. There’s no predicting which.

So here’s my list of sources whose advice may be helpful.
– An editor who asks to see a revised version of this work, or more of your future writing. They’re prepared to put their company’s money where their mouth is.
– A consensus saying much the same things. If several editors or critique partners suggest that your characters are shallow or your pacing slow in your body of work, you’d do well to look at these aspects carefully.
– People whose opinions you respect, such as successful writers, editors, those making a living from publishing (but not those making money from assessing work).
– Your own instincts. If you’ve written several drafts and find yourself back at an earlier draft, you may need to listen more closely to your inner voice, telling you when you’re on track.

What sources may be less than helpful to you?
– People with their own agenda. Either those making money from commenting on your work, or those who want you to write like them. I repeat: you can only write your work your way.
– The green-eyed monsters. When you get encouragement from an editor, win a contest or place highly, be prepared for others in your writing circle to say nice things, while giving you advice that comes from their own jealousy. It doesn’t make them bad people. Jealousy is all too human. But it does make them poor advisors.

So what advice have you given or found useful? Comment using the box below. Comments are moderated to avoid spam. If you want your comment to appear right away, sign up using the button at lower right. I don’t share your email addresses with anyone.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
AORW cover
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Read some reviews of Valerie’s novel, Birthright, at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

First Monday Mentoring for October – are you writing or wasting time?

Hi and welcome to First Monday Mentoring for October. If you have questions about writing and publishing, I answer them here. Post your thoughts, argue with mine, share your experiences. This is the day for it, heck, sometimes we take the whole week.
I regret I have to moderate comments to deter spam and rudeness. To have your comments appear right away, click the ‘sign me up’ button at lower right to subscribe. I don’t share your email address with others.
Here’s a question on the minds of many of us: should we be writing more, or does staring out of windows count as work?

Firstly, it helps to accept that stories come in their own time.
I can be leafing through magazines or playing online, sometimes for days, while the work sits there driving me crazy. Why can’t I get on with it?

Simply put, I can’t get on with it any more than you can will a baby into existence much before nine months. Your brainchild – the child of your brain – needs its own gestation period to grow.
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As well, new story ideas are often a spark rather than a plot. What if a man discovers the single mother he’s hired as his PA is still a virgin? This is a spark, needing more layers if it’s to work as a book. For instance, what if the baby isn’t the heroine’s and she is out to get revenge for the hero’s mistreatment of the real mother, the heroine’s sister? Now we’re getting somewhere. FYI this idea became Baby Wishes and Bachelor Kisses, part of Big W’s newly launched ebook range at http://ebooks.bigw.com.au/search?q=valerie+parv&x=0&y=0

How do you know whether you’re in this gestation period or wasting time? Try looking at the writing you’ve done over the last months or years. If you’ve finished a manuscript or two, some plot ideas and contest entries or submissions to editors, you have a body of work and the daydreaming time is a normal part of your process.

Every writer works at a different pace. Nora Roberts has writer’s block. She just has it in shorter bursts than most of us. It’s also true that a story may resist you because you’ve gone off track. Do you need to start further in, choose another viewpoint character to tell the story, or add a twist to surprise the reader?

Repeat after me: writers are working when we’re staring out of windows. Or when we do boring tasks like mowing lawns or doing dishes. Taking the pressure off yourself can be the best way to get a story going. How do you keep your writing moving? Share your experiences by leaving a comment here.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Read some reviews already up at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

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