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Posts tagged ‘critique partner’

First Monday Mentoring for October – 4 ways to declutter your writing life

It’s First Monday again, when you’re invited to ask me anything about the writing life from craft issues to working with publishers.

Right now it’s spring in Australia, when we think of freshening up our homes, possessions and gardens. This week I was asked how you can spring clean your writing life. Here are 4 sure-fire ways:

1. Let go of old, tired projects
Many writers have pet ideas and half-finished manuscripts we hope to sell “some day.” As you know, some day never comes. If you’ve worked and reworked an idea, chances are you’ve also drained it of what Hemingway called “it’s juice.”

How do you know when an idea passes its use-by date? Look at the idea itself. Is it still current or has life overtaken the concept? Have the characters lost any resemblance to real people? Are you simply tired of the project? Look at the date on the pages. You may be surprised how many years have gone by while you tried to make this book work. Give it a decent burial and move on. A truly good idea will resurface in a new way, or you’ll free up your mind to take you somewhere fresh and exciting.

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2. Let go of critique partners who no longer suit you
This is a tough call. When you got together as a group or online critique partnership, you were probably at the same stage. Are you now? Have you moved on while they’re still at the gunna stage – gunna write their best seller any day now, except they’ve been saying so for several years. On the other hand, you’ve written steadily and can see progress. You may be getting good feedback from editors and agents, perhaps had your first acceptance.

Two things can happen here. The left-behind CP may be jealous and seek to keep you at their level. Or their advice may conflict with your new editor’s. Can you stay friends with your CP or group while acknowledging that your work has moved on? Of course, if you’re the gunna, all the above applies in reverse.

3. Be honest with yourself about what you want from writing
If you’ve told friends, family and co-workers that you’re writing a book, do you feel obligated to keep going? Do you watch them having a life and feel jealous because every hour outside your day job is spent writing, thinking about writing or on some related activity? These shackles are entirely optional.

Why not take some time away from writing to test your commitment? This works as mental decluttering, and can make a huge difference to your words. Either you’ll find that you enjoy exploring other interests, or you’ll miss the act of storytelling so much that it feels like a physical loss. As I’ve said here before, writers write. We can no more stop spinning stories than we can give up breathing. Taking time out, maybe doing some real-life spring cleaning, will tell you what you want from writing. You’ll return to your projects with fresh ideas and hopes, or at the least, with a nice clean house.

4. Stay current with your writing
The publishing world is changing before our eyes. If you’re clinging to outdated writing methods and content, you may need to declutter this area of your life. Step away from your projects and take a big-picture look at where you are. Are you writing what you think the market wants? Life is short. Should you move on to that project you’ve always wanted to try, but were afraid wouldn’t sell?

Indie publishing, once derided as vanity publishing, is today’s big thing and getting bigger. Bestselling writers are reinventing themselves as hybrid authors, published by both traditional houses and under their own imprints. Others are going small-press to keep more control over their work.

The only book worth writing is the one that sings to you, keeps you awake at night and won’t let you go. If your pet book doesn’t grab traditional publishers, can you publish it yourself? Look up indie publishing, Smashwords, Amazon and the like to see what’s out there. You will need to pay for professional editing and a first-rate cover, as well as do tons of promotion including social media to give your book a real chance of success but after that, the sky’s the limit.

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What is clutter to you? How do you manage it in your writing life? Comments are moderated to avoid spam. Click on “sign me up” at right if you want your comment to appear right away. I don’t share your email details with anyone. Questions? Thoughts? It’s over to you now.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
See the new cover of Valerie’s latest book, Birthright at http://tinyurl.com/mxtmbx6

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

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

First Monday Mentoring for September: when NOT to change your writing


Happy first day of Spring, and welcome to First Monday Mentoring for September.
Today I open the blog to your questions about writing and publishing, and answer them here. Post your questions and ideas, argue with mine, share your experiences. This is the day for it, heck, sometimes the whole week.

I regret having to moderate comments before they appear. But turning that off leads to spam and rudeness we don’t need. 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.

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To start us off, here’s a question from the Romance Writers of Australia’s Claytons online conference, raised again when I was judging RWA’s Valerie Parv Award. The 2013 award was announced at the national conference in Perth recently.

The question is: how do you know when to change your writing and when to stand your ground?
The answer comes down to Matter versus Manner.

Matter is what you want your story to say.
Matter includes your theme, your “message” if you have one. For example, “love conquers all” is the message of many romance novels. If your story carries this message, no critique partner, editor or well-meaning relative should ask you to change it. They may disagree, but you are entitled to have your writing express what you truly believe.

Manner is HOW you tell your story
This includes your word choices, settings, character behavior and any other means used to tell the story.
Manner is ALWAYS open to negotiation. As writers, we know what we mean to say. But if crucial details don’t make it into the manuscript, readers can be left scratching their heads. An editor’s job is to spot problems and inconsistencies for the writer to fix. There’s no point defending the work. If the editor misunderstood something, thousands of readers will, too.

So there it is. Matter – what the story is about – is up to the writer. Manner – how you tell the story – is the editor’s concern. Ideally, both of you want the same thing – a well-told story that readers understand in the way you intended.
Do you have questions or “war stories” about editing? Share them by leaving a comment below.

Valerie

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

5 reasons why we are all vampire writers

Whether you support Team Edward or Team Jacob or any other combination, the Twilight saga is the latest product from a long line of  creatures – the vampire writers. By that, I don’t mean writers who write about vampires, but writers who are ourselves vampires.

I am. We all are. It’s part of the writing deal.

Here are my 5 reasons why:

1. Writers are blood suckers.

We suck the life blood out of our fellow creatures; human, animal and fantasy. If not for the quirky thing my neighbour’s kids said – which I have mercilessly siphoned off for a story – what would I write about? The police caution that anything you may say can and will be used is 100% accurate. We admit to sitting in coffee shops, people watching. What we really mean is people stealing. We run away with fragments of your identity, your description, your intriguing words, sometimes even your soul depending on the books we write.

2. We can be killed by a stake through the heart

Thinking about it, so can most people. In this case I mean the cruel stake plunged in by an editor or a critique partner. They don’t mean to be cruel. They think they’re helping. And they are, when the red mist clears enough for us to see that. First we have to go through the agony of seeing our beautiful child called ugly and not good enough. Or worse, rejected altogether. Oh, the pain!

3. We are always looking for fresh blood

We can’t survive as writers without a constant diet of new input, or we resort to the desperate act of writing about writers. We need to read different books, explore strange new worlds, get as far outside our comfort zones as we can. Then we have something to write about. You already know I’m the Established Writer in Residence at Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in the hills behind Perth, Western Australia. I’ve made it a point to visit as many of the writing groups that meet here as I can, especially outside my usual writing. One of the most rewarding has been the poetry group. Thanks Mardi May for the fresh blood you’ve unwittingly provided.

4. We love to “turn” others

Vampires love to turn humans into vampires. We may need more than one bite to turn a non-writer into a writer, but we persist, and we succeed surprisingly often. Go to a writer’s conference – the Romance Writers’ of Australia have theirs on the Gold Coast in August. If you’re fascinated by how words morph into stories, you’re ripe for turning.

5. We hide among the normal people

As a writer, I get to “pass” as normal. I even get to go out in daylight, although I’m mostly holed up in gloom, pounding out words, during the day. I’ve sold 30 million books, yet I walk among you unrecognised, the way I like it, as I hunt for fresh blood…er…inspiration.

Are you a vampire writer? How do you know? Do tell.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

Established Writer in Residence, Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre, Perth

on Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

First Monday Mentoring, ask your burning question here

Half-way through the year already, where did the time go? The first Monday of every month (or the first Sunday if you’re in the northern hemisphere) is when I invite you to post your writing-related questions and I’ll  answer them here. Lots of talented writers read and comment on this blog and you’re also welcome to contribute your thoughts on an answer, or share a writing experience that might help others.

 Questions can be posted ahead of time if you like and I will answer during Monday July 2.  I monitor the blog and post answers throughout the day. To kick things off, here’s a question I was asked at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writing Centre during the last week:

Which is better, staying in one characters point of view or having a variety? I was told not to “head hop”

The viewpoint character is the person through which the reader “enters” the story. Like putting on a garment, we “put on” the character’s view of the story (POV) and see everything as it happens through that person’s eyes. If there’s more than one viewpoint character, we get to see the story as it’s experienced by two or more people.

In romance novels we used to see the story only through the heroine’s eyes. She would guess or imagine why the hero did things, or what he was thinking. These days, readers want to see both sides of the romance. so it’s common to switch between the heroine’s POV and the hero’s. To avoid confusing your reader, it’s a good idea to switch viewpoints only when we have something new to learn from the other character. She might think he’s not attracted to her, for example. In his POV, we find out that there’s danger and he’s pretending not to care to get her out of the way.

There are no rules, only what works in your story.

It all depends on your point of view!

If a critique partner or editor says you’re “head hopping”, this means you’re not staying in one character’s viewpoint for very long before switching to another, and this can get confusing. Some writers – Nora Roberts is a good example – switch so effortlessly we don’t notice it happening. A lot depends on your skill as a writer.  You need to be aware of whose POV you’re writing in and when you make a switch, so the reader isn’t lost.  Also beware of accidentally slipping into the head of a minor character by having them “think” about the hero or heroine as they take their coats, for instance. Rather, have the POV character assume that the minor character doesn’t like them by their snooty expression, so we stay in the right head.

Got a question? Advanced or basic,

I’ll do my best to answer.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

Proud friend of the National Year of Reading 2012

Established Writer in Residence 2012, Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre, Perth WA

On Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

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