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Posts tagged ‘Editors’

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 August – why writing “as soon as…” won’t get your work done

Welcome to the first Monday in August when I open this blog to your questions about writing. They can be on creative issues or business, such as dealing with agents, editors and publishers, or anything to do with the writing life.

Next week I’m presenting a workshop at the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference in Sydney, and I’m bound to come across one or more writers who intend to start writing “as soon as…” I don’t expect to be reading their books any time soon if at all, and here are three reasons why.

1. “As soon as…” never comes

What these writers mean is they will write as soon as everything in their life is under control. And guess what? Life is never that co-operative. If you truly want to write, you need to start now, no matter what state your life may be in.

Writers are good at what Oscar-winning screenwriter, William Goldman, calls, “putting off doomsday.” Yes, writing is hard. But it will never get any easier while you tap dance around the process.

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2. You will always have an excuse not to write
Do you recognise any of these? I’ll write when:
I have more time
I know what I want to write about (you find out by writing)
The weather is not so hot/cold.
Christmas/New Year/School holidays are over
I finish my research
I’ve defrosted the fridge
The world becomes perfect

Nobody ever has all the time, money or clear head space to start writing. Some of the most successful books were written under the most difficult conditions. I’ve written while moving house, when family members were sick, and when writing was the last thing I wanted to do. Writers write.

3. Writing is like housework. It expands to fit the time you have.
A meme going around the internet says that we get the most housework done in the five minutes before unexpected guests drop in. The same can be said of writing. Have you noticed how you can fiddle around all day trying to get something written. Then as soon as you know you have to be somewhere else at a set time, the words seem to flow?

If only you didn’t have to leave now.

This is your creative brain tricking you into thinking the writing is suddenly easier, knowing perfectly well that you have no choice but to leave it soon.

One solution is to pretend you have to leave the desk an hour or more before you actually do. If this spurs your writing brain, you’ll get as much done as if you’d been there all day.

Another trick is to set a kitchen timer. Tell yourself you’ll write for the next thirty minutes then you can stop. But don’t stare at the blank screen. Write something. Write garbage. But write words. This act of starting is almost magical, making it easier to keep going. You may not even notice when the timer goes off because you’re already caught up. And if you are ready to stop by then, at least you’ve put in a solid thirty minutes at your chosen task.

Remember, the world doesn’t care whether or not you write. You are the one who’ll feel you’ve let yourself down by not writing the project burning inside you. And unless the words are burning inside you, you may never write at all.

Set deadlines for yourself. Even writing one page a day (about 250 words) every day for five days a week will give you a 65,000 word manuscript – the length of a genre novel – by the end of a year. And that’s with weekends off.

How do you get past the “as soon as…” challenge? Comment using the box below. I moderate posts 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. Happy writing.

Valerie

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

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

Christmas gifts smart writers NEVER give themselves

It’s not only First Monday time again, when I open this blog to your questions about writing and publishing, it’s also the holiday season for people of many beliefs around the world. Someone posted on Facebook that this is the only time Chanukah and American Thanksgiving fell at the same time for 80,000 years. My math isn’t that great, but it is unusual. Hope you all have a wonderful time.
This is also the season for gift giving. I love giving presents (don’t mind receiving them, either LOL) and I enjoy hunting for items I hope will delight my friends and family. As a writer, I love gifts, too. But there are five items I would NEVER give myself and I hope you won’t, too.

1. Long breaks from writing
Yes, it’s holidays and you’ve worked hard all year. Maybe you did NaNoWriMo and managed to write your target 50,000 words in a month. Don’t you deserve some down time? Of course, but be careful. The point of NaNo is to get you writing every day, inspired or not, with a deadline you usually report to other NaNo-ers, keeping yourself accountable. A funny thing about writing regularly is the momentum and confidence you build up. If I don’t write for a few days, I come back rusty, taking time to get up to speed. I also lose touch with my current project and have to get back into that groove as well. Keep in touch with the work. Aim to write 200 words a day, taking the important holidays off. That’s only one page of writing a day. You’ll thank yourself after the break.
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2. Ignore health and wellbeing

It’s easy to do this anyway, with all the parties and feasting. But as well as the damage to your healthy eating plans, food comas befuddle your brain, the organ generating those precious words. Remember to alternate holiday cheer with lots of water, pudding with fruit, and couch time with swimming and walks. The outdoor stimulation may give you new story ideas, win-win.

3. Lack of time
Yes, the season is demanding and rushed. Shops are busy, crowds everywhere, calendars clogged. Giving ourselves the gift of time can be way down the list, if it’s there at all. On your crammed to-do list, include set times to write, or at least to play with story outlines and characters – this can be done on a lounger in the garden. After the holidays when, we’re still at home, is a terrific time to make progress. When the season ends, you’re raring to go because the thinking and planning is done.

4. Second-best equipment
So you’re writing at a wobbly table, sitting on a dining chair, killing your back and creativity. Even if your writing isn’t paying its way yet, think of good equipment as an investment. Use the holiday sales to buy yourself an ergonomic chair. Mine adjusts every which way with a pump gadget to adjust the lumbar support exactly right. Look for a hand-friendly mouse, jelly rest for your wrist, whatever helps you create safely. Your body will thank you. And keep the receipts. When your writing does make money, ask the tax pundits about what you may be entitled to claim back.

5. Giving up on dreams
This is 100% not a gift you should give yourself, ever. In the early days, your self belief is the only thing keeping you going. It takes enough of a battering with rejections from editors or agents, or well-meaning but tough comments from critique partners and writing groups. ALL of the writers who are now legends were once told they couldn’t write, their books didn’t work, they should stick to (insert thankless day job). They persevered and gave us our greatest reading pleasures. They didn’t know they were writing classics, any more than you or I know that now. History is the judge. All we can do is write the best books in us to write, follow our passions even if they’re not trendy, and keep going no matter what the rest of the world says. Best of all, dreams are free. Hold on to them.

What gift would you NEVER give yourself as a writer? Have you come close with any of these? Please share your experiences with us in the comment box below. I regret they must be moderated before appearing, to keep out rudeness and Spam. To have your comment appear right away, click on “sign me up” at lower right. I don’t share your email details with anyone.

Happy holidays and may your words flow freely,
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

First Monday mentoring for November – 5 selfish reasons to join writers’ groups

Happy first Monday in November, when I open this blog to your questions about writing. They can be on creative, craft or business matters. So ask away using the comment box below, or share your experiences as a writer with others.

I’m sorry that comments need to be moderated to avoid a lot of spam and rudeness we can all do without. To have your comment or question appear immediately, just click on “sign me up” to subscribe. I don’t share email details with anyone.

To kick things off, here’s a question I was asked at GenreCon in Brisbane recently. Why should writers join groups?

We all know the noble answers – to support other writers, share knowledge, give back to the profession yada yada yada. But what do YOU get out of belonging? Here are my five “selfish” reasons. See if you agree.

1. To find your tribe.
It’s human nature to want to belong. We’re tribal animals. As soon as I moved to the country town where I live, I went looking for a writers’ group. It turned out to be one primarily set up for new writers, but I joined anyway. Despite being at different levels of craft and experience, all the group members are writers, first and foremost. They understand the ebb and flow of ideas, and how hard it is to get started sometimes. They are my tribe.

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2. To get inside information.
In writing, insider trading isn’t a dirty word, it’s a necessary part of finding your way through the publishing maze. The more you get to know agents and editors via conferences and group newsletters, the easier it is to submit work to them when the time comes. You get to know what they’re looking for and how you should present your work. And they see your membership of a group as a sign of professional commitment.

3. You get encouragement and support

Yes, you support the other group members, but they are also there for you when you need it. Mention that you wrote 200 words today, and your non writer friends will look at you as if you’re crazy. Only 200? What did you do with the rest of your day? Only another writer understands that sometimes writing words is like pulling teeth. Dragging 200 or even 20 words out of your brain is an achievement to be celebrated. Ask anyone taking part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) throughout November, and they’ll tell you what a struggle it is to keep up your word count day after day, with the goal of writing 50,000 words by month end. You need your cheer squad.

4. Misery loves and needs company
Getting a rejection from a publisher or agent can be crushing. They’ve told you that your brain child is ugly. This is a lot to bear, and only your fellow writers fully get what you’re going through. They also understand the importance of a “good” rejection, when your work may not have crossed the finish line yet, but it’s still in the race. Non writers don’t understand a good rejection, but we do.

5. Celebrating your milestones
In the writing business, the steps to success can be a long way apart. From an editor requesting your partial manuscript, to asking to see the full (manuscript), then sending suggestions for revision, perhaps in a couple of rounds, to accepting the book – yay – can take a year or longer. Non writers only see two steps – submitting the book and becoming J K Rowling. Nothing in between makes sense to them, the way it does to us. Other writers will help you celebrate each step and cheer you on to the next. They won’t think you’re a failure because your book has taken a year of work and still isn’t “out there.” We know you’re making progress.

What do you get out of knowing other writers, either online or in person? Share your experiences via the comment box below, or ask a question and I’ll do my best to answer, cheer you through whatever stage you’re at, or pop the virtual champagne when you get there.

Valerie
http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

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

First Monday Mentoring for May – 5 ways to know you’re a writer

Happy first Monday in May, the day when I open this blog to your questions about writing. They can be on creative, craft or business matters. No question is stupid except, as the saying goes, the one you didn’t ask. So ask away using the comment box below. You can also share your experiences as a writer with others.

I’m sorry that comments need to be moderated before they appear.
I’m often tempted to turn that off, but friends who’ve done so report an avalanche of spam and rudeness we can all do without.

To kick things off, here’s a question I was asked while attending Conflux National Science Fiction Convention in Canberra. The event was wonderful, attended by writers, editors, publishers and fans of fantasy and SF. During a coffee session, I was asked, “How do you know if you’re a writer?” A good question.Time is precious.No-one wants to slave away on stories that are going nowhere. Here are some clues that might help.

1. You look at stories differently
You read a book, watch a movie or TV show and mentally write a better ending. You get impatient because you know who the villain is before anyone around you. A pen on a desk is never just a pen. It’s a potential weapon and you’ve already thought of a dozen ways it could be used. You’re either a psychopath or a writer, possibly both.

2. You feel things more acutely
You lose someone and while grieving, store away the feelings in case a character can use them later. You attribute motives to actions, even if the person doing them was merely acting on impulse. As a writer, you know that actions must be motivated, even if not in real life.

To a writer, everyone & everything is a story

To a writer, everyone & everything is a story

3. You observe everything
Yes, even your own suffering. As writer, Anne Lamott says in her wonderful Bird by Bird, if you’re held up, you don’t actually think, “So this is what it’s like staring down the barrel of a gun” but you come close.

4. You turn everything into a story
You wonder if you’re heartless because you channel your tragedies and suffering into story ideas. Judy Nunn calls this meta-observing “the third eye.” All writers have it, and we can’t turn it off.

5. You set the bar high
I’m convinced we write to prove to ourselves that we can do it…again and again. After quitting my day job, I wrote the same number of words full-time as part-time, because I expected more of myself. Make the New York Times bestseller list? Next time aim for #1 spot. Sell half a million copies? Next time it better be a million.

Far from being a cruisy, wrist-to-forehead profession, writing is one of the toughest gigs I know. How did you find out you were a writer? What’s good and bad about it for you? Love to share your comments.

Valerie
http://www.valerieparv.com

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on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

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

Of course my story’s original, it’s about a defrocked nun: the X-factor and your book

When you ask an editor what they want in submissions from writers, the usual answer is they want something “fresh and original”. Publishers of category romances such as Harlequin Mills & Boon say the same. The other perennial answer is “a good book”. Problem is they can never define what they mean by a good book that is fresh and original; only that they’ll know it when they see it.

The deal is a lot like the reality shows such as X-Factor and Wherever’s Got Talent. Being able to get up and sing,  juggle or play an instrument, however skilfully, is not guaranteed to make you a winner. You might hit all the right notes, look fabulous on camera, and have nearly every attribute the judges are seeking. But unless you possess one other magic ingredient – the X-Factor, for want of a better term, you won’t reach the top of the tree. This X-Factor is sometimes called star quality, and the truth is we DO know it when we see it. One performer will come out on stage with a voice less special than the previous contenders, may be less well presented and not all that physically attractive, and yet…and yet…we can’t take our eyes off them.

There's no denying a Lightbulb Moment

IMO this elusive X-Factor can’t be taught, and the lucky few who possess it are born with it.  Most of them would deny they are anything special. They do what they do for love, because they don’t feel complete unless they are practicing their art. Is that you? I don’t know. But if  your work is placed in front of me, I’ll know it in an instant, as would any editor or publisher. The words may be raw and unpolished, the grammar wobbly at best, but if you possess that quality your story will be so compelling that I need to read on and on to find out what happens next. This is not to say that you shouldn’t try to polish your writing and master the principles of grammar and spelling. Publishing is such a competitive industry that you need to do everything you can to make your work stand out. But above all, write a story that grabs YOU and won’t let you alone until you tell it. You’ll know it’s the one because you’ll be smiling as you read it back, which you have to do because you were spilling words out so fast your fingers could hardly keep up.

This is the story editors will see as fresh and original, because it felt that way to you. You couldn’t wait to get to know these characters and share their story. You won’t have to turn handsprings to come up with something no other writer in your genre has done, because the characters will take care of that for you. They may be perfectly ordinary people in a perfectly ordinary setting, but you’ll be so in love with them you’ll take us along for the ride. No need for an invisible heroine or a defrocked nun, though I suppose they too have their stories.

Every year I have the privilege of judging the final entries in the Valerie Parv Award organised by Romance Writers of Australia. And almost every time, there will be one book that jumps out at me because it has that elusive star quality. I almost always know it the moment I start reading, and I suspect most editors would too.  To be fair I’ll read every other entry with the same care but once that X-Factor entry has grabbed me, it rarely lets me go. Doesn’t matter if it’s a genre I personally enjoy reading or not, it’s the one and that’s that.

Can you spot the X-Factor in the work of others? What about in your own? I’d love to hear your experiences.

Valerie

On Twitter @valerieparv

and on Facebook

http://www.valerieparv.com

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