Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

Posts tagged ‘critique partners’

Where will the leap year take your writing relationships? First Monday Mentoring for March

Last week we wished Happy Birthday to all the leap year babies born on February 29. Thanks to Julius Caesar simplifying the early Roman calendar, the extra day happens every four years and was designed to keep festivals occurring around the same season each year.
In Ireland it’s said that women may propose marriage only in leap years, a tradition that has spread worldwide.
But this is a writing forum, so we’re interested in your creative relationships. In 2016 will you be dealing with critique partners and significant others in your life? Proposing (pitching) work to an agent or editor? What will be your relationship with your muse? With the online world?

*
I’m exploring some of these relationships during a 2-day workshop at the Canberra Writers’ Centre on 2 and 3 April, joined by my long-time agent, Linda Tate, who will share her take on the writer-agent relationship. The workshop sold out within days, showing that there’s a need for writers to focus on these aspects of the work.

*
Equally important are relationships with family and friends. Writing can make us so inwardly focused that it’s easy to forget there’s life beyond the current manuscript. It’s vital we make time for real people, as well as fictional ones. For without real relationships and a social life, we can end up with little new to write about.

Cat writer

Four questions to ask yourself this leap year:

1. Is this writing project serving the people I care about?
It may bring income, make you a more rounded person – I know when I’m kept from writing, I become very hard to live with – but when my husband was alive, I made sure he knew how important he was to me. After he passed, I was glad I hadn’t put writing ahead of his needs. Keeping a work-life balance is key.

2. Is this project serving my goals as a writer?
Writing reviews or blogs and contributing to social media may feel like work – and publishers do encourage writers to have a strong online presence – but if your real writing work is neglected, it may help to look at your priorities.

3. Is this writing serving my wider community?
This doesn’t contradict point two, because community involvement provides ideas and enrichment to you, as a writer. Serving as a volunteer zoo guide at the National Zoo in Canberra for ten years got me away from the computer, meeting people from around the world, and befriending some truly amazing animals.

4. Is this project the best use of my time and energy?
Only you can write your books. A dear friend talked of a real-life experience she intended to write about “someday.” Sadly, she died with the book not even started. Her experiences were never shared with readers and are now lost forever. A famous meme on Facebook quotes J K Rowling on how she managed to be a single mother while writing her Harry Potter books. Her answer was that she didn’t do housework for four years. Priorities.

380027_3830511928432_191093325_n
Being a writer – if you’re serious about it – is a nonstop juggling act. If you add in a day job, life gets even more challenging. It’s up to you how you handle it. But look first at the time sucks – endlessly checking Facebook or Twitter; sharing so much of your life via your devices that you forget to actually live it; binge watching TV shows and movies.

There’s no harm in doing some of this some of the time, as long as you make conscious decisions on how to have a balanced life and still get your writing done.

2016 can be your year to leap ahead with your writing, and it doesn’t have to be at the cost of other aspects of your life.

Now over to you. How do you manage your writing and relationships? Will you be proposing (pitching) to an agent or editor this year? A leap year is about growth and change. And getting to that all-important happy ever after. Or happy for now. How will you get there?

Share your thoughts in the comment box below. It’s moderated to avoid spam, but you can skip this step by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.
Happy writing,
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

Advertisements

First Monday Mentoring – 4 invisible gifts every writer needs to place under their tree for 2015

It’s First Monday of the month again, your invitation to ask questions and discuss any aspect of writing that concerns you, whether to do with publishers, writing craft, or the rarely talked about demons besetting every writer.
To start, here’s a question that arose this week. How can you be sure to have a productive 2015? The answer is to place these invisible gifts under your tree.

1. Faith in yourself
Self-doubt is one of the demons haunting many writers. Sadly, the ones least likely to doubt themselves can be those least talented. The rest struggle along, wondering if our success to date has been a fluke.

An award-winning writer I know said in a speech that she believed her publishers would knock on her
door one day and demand their money back. Of course her success wasn’t a fluke. She wrote stories millions of people wanted to read.

The best way to deal with self-doubt is to be what a motivational speaker calls part Clint Eastwood and part Mr Spock – hard-nosed and logical. Do you have a body of work you’re proud of, even if it’s not yet published? Do you write on most days? Do you study your craft through books, a writing group or online? Do you finish what you start? By all hard-nosed, logical reasoning, you are a writer and self-doubt has no place under your tree. Replace it with faith in yourself.

409734_298928983485799_198200690225296_921464_1952604955_n

2. Determination
This is the twin of faith. Determination…okay, sometimes called stubbornness…keeps you going when the going gets tough. Critique partners can tell you the work isn’t there yet; agents and publishers can reject you. You can stare at your writing and wonder why you ever thought you could do this.

Determination is what makes you stay at the keyboard and keep writing. You are in love with your characters and can’t wait to tell their stories. You know you still have plenty to learn about writing craft, but the only way to learn it is by doing. Determination knows that. Fill a huge stocking with this vital quality, and hang it by the chimney with care. Or at the foot of your bed. But make sure it’s there to unwrap any time you need it.

3. Excitement
Every child knows about excitement. It’s what has them scrambling awake before dawn to see their gifts. You can admire your gifts, too, even though they’re invisible. Talent is your gift and you’ve known it was there since you were a child yourself.

People ask me when I became a writer. You know, I honestly can’t remember. I wrote before I knew what a writer was. I thought everyone made up stories to entertain their siblings on the way to school, or lay in bed at night rewriting the ending of a movie because it didn’t end the way I thought it should.

Sometimes those stories turn into real, publishable work. But first, the excitement must be there before I can spend the weeks or months needed to turn an idea into a story for others to read. Excitement is what gets me out of bed in the early hours of the morning, eager to share the wonderful people and events in my head.

Right now I’m hatching a series about three people who didn’t exist until they started talking to me. So far they’ve told me their names, their histories and how they want to relate to each other and I’m savouring every minute of this stage. Anything is possible. It doesn’t even qualify as work. Soon, however, I’ll have to start the real work of getting words down. For that, you need fuel. Excitement is your fuel.

4. Resilience
Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to train yourself to survive the long haul of writing and rewriting your words until they transmit the message (story) to your readers as accurately as possible. The story will always fall short of the visions in your head. Expect this. Tell yourself it doesn’t matter. What matters is getting the words down then editing them until they’re close to your vision.

Expect to fail in other ways, too. More books are rejected by publishers than ever see the light of day. Not all are bad books. Sometimes they’re similar to something else the editor has in production, or not right for the market at that time. Even if you publish your work yourself, there are no guarantees. Indie publishing is not only acceptable these days, it’s eating into the numbers of manuscripts publishers are seeing, and they’re fretting over this.

Nor are all indie publishers beginners. Many are hugely successful with traditional publishers, and see self-publishing as a way to retain control of their work and incomes.

You still need to package up a huge does of resilience and place that under your tree to open when your faith and determination run low. Successful writers need skill, persistence and a little luck to succeed. As NASA says, failure is not an option. You only fail if you quit. Don’t quit.

Can you think of other essential gifts writers should give themselves these holidays? Share them with us in the comments below. I moderate comments to avoid spam, but if you want your comment to appear right away, click on the “sign me up” box at right to subscribe. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy holidays to all, and to all – a good write.

Valerie
http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
See the new cover of Valerie’s Beacons 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 July – don’t be a no-account writer

Today is the first Monday in July, when I open this blog to your questions about writing, publishing or any aspect of the process, and answer them here. The blog is read by many terrific writers who’ll add their thoughts or experiences to the mix. Post your questions and ideas, argue with mine, share your war stories. This is the day, heck, sometimes the whole week.

I regret that comments must be moderated before they appear. But turning that off leads to an avalanche of spam and rudeness we can do without. 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.

To kick things off, I’m looking at accountability. The new financial year (in Australia, anyway) makes us think of accounts in the money sense. How much or how little did you earn? And where did it all go? How can you manage better this financial year? When can you give up your day job? All fodder for a later blog.

391697_312282105534590_663040700_n

There’s a kind of accounting that can make or break your writing future. It’s your output. It’s OK to want to BE a writer. A lot of the time, being a writer is more fun than writing. Attending groups, workshops, posting on Facebook and Twitter, reading craft books and critiquing friends’ manuscripts are all part of the scene, but they’re not writing.

As author, Neil Gaiman, says, “Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.” That’s writing. Set yourself a word target you commit to meeting no matter what. It doesn’t have to be seven days a week, or an impossible number. Writing 500 words a day every week for six months gives you a 60,000 word manuscript, the length of a novel these days. And that’s with weekends off. 500 words is about two typed pages.

Recently a writer friend, Diane Curran, posted on Facebook that instead of asking members of her group what they wanted the group to do for them over the next year, she asked them to name their writing ambitions. Then asked what they needed to do by the next monthly meeting to get them closer to their goals. As Diane said, making the members accountable for their progress kept her accountable, too.

There are many ways to make yourself step up. NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, is probably the best known. It’s an international must-do for thousands of people who commit to writing 50,000 words during November. Some make the total, some far exceed it. Others do 20,000, 30,000 or whatever they can manage. But every one of them produces more than they would have going solo.

In June, Romance Writers of Australia runs 50k in 30 days. https://romanceaustralia.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/need-a-push-to-get-the-words-down-50k-in-30-days-is-here/ Then there are “sprints” when writers challenge each other to achieve targets such as #1k1hr on Twitter. This stands for one thousand words in one hour. You simply tweet that you’re looking for a 1k1hr partner to start sprinting at the quarter, half or full hour mark. You don’t have to know your partners or live in the same country. Adding the #1k1hr hashtag to your tweet links you up. You write like crazy, achieve whatever part of 1,000 words you can and report back an hour later, using the same hashtag. Sure, you can lie, but this is all about being accountable. Writing is an account of…your character’s adventures….and yours, too.

What does accountability do for you? How do you achieve it? Share your thoughts and experiences here.

Valerie
“In conversation” about romance writing at Southern Highlands Writing Festival in Bowral NSW July 12-14

189650_437726069621804_1397664210_n

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

Read some reviews already up at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

Mentor as anything – how to get the right writing help for you

Critique partners and groups can be a great encouragement to your writing but by and large, the members share a similar level of knowledge and skill. Where do you look for help at a more professional level?

The answer is mentoring. At their best, a mentor will be your guide through the minefield of completing your first or subsequent books, provide answers to your questions, help you through the “stuck” periods when the screen stays stubbornly blank, and be there for you through the ups and downs of professional life. At worst, a mentor could try to shape your writing so it sounds more like theirs, or create a dependency that does neither of you any long term good.

When Romance Writers of Australia took over the Valerie Parv Award http://www.romanceaustralia.com/vpa.html from the Australian chapter of Romance Writers of America ten years ago, I was pleased to continue as final judge and mentor the winner for the year they hold the award. This involves a learning curve for both of us, as each winner has different needs and expectations from the process. Some want to work on their winning manuscript, others to explore issues such as working with agents and dealing with contracts, usually it’s a mix of the two.

Breakfast of champions, past Valerie Parv Award winners welcome 2011 winner Michelle de Rooy, far right, alongside Valerie.

One of the greatest compliments I received came from Kelly Hunter http://www.kellyhunter.net/About%20Kelly.html , a rising star among Harlequin authors, who said in the time we’d worked together, she appreciated that I’d never tried to change her voice. Given that her voice is unique and special, that would be a crime anyway. But it’s key that your mentor doesn’t expect you to write as they would.  H.G.Wells notoriously observed that the greatest drive in all the world isn’t love or sex, but the desire to change someone else’s copy. It takes a strong person to recognise when changes would make your work different, not necessarily better.

Nor do you want a mentor who nitpicks. Spelling or grammar can all be fixed later. The main focus should be on the writing. What story are you telling? Is it coming across as you intend? Are the characters consistent and likable? Do we share their emotional journeys?  How can you fix these elements if they’ve gone off track? I encourage my mentees to specify the areas they want to work on. Being a mentor is about giving a service. My satisfaction comes from seeing them blossom and grow, and sharing their joy when they finally get “the call” from an editor offering a publishing contract.

Apart from winning the VPA, how can you find the mentor for you? I work with a very few promising writers through my MentorXpress program via my website http://www.valerieparv.com You can check with your state writing centre, as many offer mentoring programs. Then there’s Writing Australia, a new umbrella organisation of writing centres. Their recently announced Unpublished Manuscript Award offers a $10,000 first prize and $2,000 toward a mentor of your choice. Together with distinguished literary figures, Mark Macleod and Peter Bishop,  I’ll be judging this award which closes on October 13, 2011. Enter at the Writing Australia website http://writingaustralia.org.au/events/event/unpublished-manuscript-award/

Who was or is your greatest writing influence? What tips on this do you have for other writers?

Valerie

@valerieparv on Twitter

Tag Cloud