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Posts tagged ‘contracts’

First Monday Mentoring for September – tracking down Scribblopithecus, the writing breed

Welcome. It’s first Monday again, when I answer questions about any aspect of the writing life.

Recently I attended the national conference of Romance Writers of Australia, one of the largest gatherings of writers in the country. Headliners included New York Times’ best-sellers, publishers, agents and writers of all kinds. I presented a workshop on drawing readers into your fictional world.

In the breaks, talk ranged around contracts, submissions and other professional concerns, but also about lesser-known aspects such as the courage needed to write, and how hard it is to diet in such an unpredictable business. This made me think it was time to look at what this crazy business really means.

If David Attenborough wanted to make one of his celebrated documentaries about writers, where would he start? Would he find us in herds like gazelle, or stalking alone like tigers. Would we be fearful or confronting? Do we use protective coloration or can you spot the breed from a distance?

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Confusingly, the answer to all the above would be yes. Writers – call us Scribblopithecus – do gather in herds such as the RWA conference. But more commonly, they hole up in their writing caves, struggling to deal with the real world.

Protective coloration goes by the name of jammies, short for pyjamas, the species’ unofficial uniform. In writing mode, Scribblopithecus can stay in this camouflage for days.

While Scribblopithecus doesn’t actually hibernate, they frequently enter a torpor, a state where they are unresponsive to family and friends, reluctant to initiate communication, and focused entirely on their internal world.

Locating Scribblopithecus is challenging because their habitats are so varied. You find them in every country of the world, existing like cuckoos in a range of settings known as “day jobs.” In these, you may be hard-pressed to spot the writer, so well do they disguise themselves. They’re wonderful mimics, copying the calls and behavior of their day-job counterparts.

But in their natural surroundings they spend hours mesmerized by computer screens and tablets on which they make their characteristic scratchy markings. They’re fussy, though. The markings must be just so, or they will be removed and Scribblopithecus will start over, sometimes dozens of times.

Despite this preoccupation, Scribblopithecus also collects objects called notebooks, the more stylish the better. They seldom defile notebooks with scratchings, but will treasure and fondle them as their collection grows. An environment such as Office Works or Kikki.K can induce an ecstasy state as the species rushes to acquire every object around them.

Scribblopithecus is an omnivore but has a particular fondness for chocolate, despite its effect on their generally sedentary lifestyle. If anyone raids their stash, they can become aggressive, although few specimens engage in physical confrontation.

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Interpreting their scratchings can be confusing. The amount of mayhem, death and destruction represented can lead one to assume that aggression is a natural trait. In fact, Scribblopithecus tends toward shyness, preferring to communicate via its screens rather than face to face. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter are their natural homes and #amwriting is one of the latter’s more distinctive calls.

So what is to be concluded about this species? No two are alike, they alternate between herd and solitary behaviour, experience long periods of torpor and express their aggression passively, through their scratchings. They are also an enduring species, their scratchings being found on cave walls throughout the ancient world.

Should you encounter Scribblopithecus, it’s advisable to offer chocolate and back slowly away lest you find yourself represented in their scratchings and killed off in an unpleasant manner. This symbolic violence is characteristic, along with talking to themselves, mock aggression when they wish to be solitary, and a complete lack of time sense.

It’s safest not to try to placate an aroused specimen. Misuse of apostrophes and terminology such as, “there, they’re, their” has been known to induce an attack frenzy which few outsiders have survived.

So there you have it. Have you met Scribblopithecus? Are you one of the species yourself? Please leave a comment here, moderated unless you click Sign Me Up at right. Or better still, leave chocolate to avoid being killed symbolically.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
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on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Check out Valerie’s online course, Free the Writer in You

at http://valerieparv.com/course.html

How a writer’s agent is your good/evil twin

Today I read a blog about why authors need agents by Australian writer, Alison Booth. She describes what her agent has done for her, and how “lucky” she was that she was taken on.

I agree with all her points except, possibly, the luck part. Yes, you do need to be in the right place at the right time, even to submit the right book. But the search, the craft, the years of preparation that made Alison ready for an agent owes far more to talent and hard work than to luck. Read Alison’s blog http://writingnovelsinaustralia.com/2013/04/16/why-have-a-literary-agent-by-alison-booth/

I’ve worked with my agent, Linda Tate of The Tate Gallery in Sydney, for 20 years. I’ll write more about that closer to our anniversary in October. Now, I’d like to echo Alison’s blog and share some of what Linda and I do together. Note, I’m not saying “does for me” because the agent-author relationship is a team effort. The agent can only market what the writer writes. They can also only promote a writer who knows where they want their career to go.

Otherwise it’s like jumping into a taxi and asking the driver to take you somewhere, without telling them where. You end up paying for a ride that delivers you to the wrong destination.

The most crucial role Linda plays for me is as my good/evil twin.

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As twins go, we’re the Danny De Vito/Arnold Schwartzenegger variety, not in the least alike, and this is good. Linda’s way feistier than me, going where I fear to tread. She’ll telephone anyone anywhere in the service of my work. Her entertainment industry background means she sees no point in waiting endlessly to hear from a publisher. She calls them.

As my evil twin, she ensures I get paid. This is a topic for another blog, but my hobby horse is that ALL writers should be paid for professional activities, whether speaking at conferences, libraries or workshops, or selling their work. I might be reluctant to ask for a fee increase or to chase up money I’m owed, but Linda never is.

As my good twin, she analyses contracts and royalty statements. I read them, too, since I’m the one signing on the dotted line or the echo-sign these days, but she looks at contracts differently. Hands up any author who does NOT go first to the bottom line to see how much they’ve made? Linda looks at what markets a book has gone into, which are still to be exploited, and any patterns arising out of the paperwork, discussing them with me in depth. New contracts bring out her good and evil side. Good twin wants the book sold, evil goes after the best deal.

Good twin vets all promotional material. Does this biography or photo support my “brand”. How am I being presented online? In the media? At conferences? The regular status reports she prepares include updated bios in varying lengths for us to tweak. I still remember when we switched my linear (she was born…she started writing…) bio. for a shorter, web-styled look. Today we consider how my photos and book covers look as thumbnails on mobile devices. An agent can and should keep you current.

Evil twin keeps me writing. You’d think this would be good twin’s job, but she’s too nice. Sometimes a writer needs a spur to creativity, keeping you going when it’s easier to give up. Good twin is the one reading the work when it’s done, patting me on the back while evil twin keeps track of timelines and body counts. Even romance writers kill people off sometimes.

Good twin or evil twin, I wouldn’t be without either of her. What about you? How do you see the author-agent relationship?

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @ValerieParv

and Facebook

Read some reviews of Valerie’s latest book, Birthright at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

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