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First Monday Mentoring for June – should you write a book you don’t love?

Welcome to First Monday when I open this blog to discuss what it’s really like to be a writer – not the glamour stuff but the inside track on the fears, the struggles and yes, the joys of writing.

This week a writer told me she’d sold “the book of her heart.” Naturally I was delighted but curious – what was meant by “the book of her heart?”

Turns out it’s a cross-genre book about characters who’d haunted her for years, not the kind usually sought by publishers but one she desperately wanted to write, even if no-one loved it but her. She’d come close to publishing the book herself but didn’t have the cash and time to invest in the work.

That led to me to asking if she would ever write a book she didn’t love. After a long pause she said, “Almost all the time,” adding that she’d started out reluctantly, but had fallen in love with the story along the way.

This suggests you can start writing with your head rather than your heart. “Exactly,” she agreed. “I can’t afford to wait for the muse to strike. Sometimes I have to write first and the love comes later.”

And if it doesn’t? “Something else will,” she said.

With 90 books written over many years, there have been stories I couldn’t wait to tell, when the words flowed like warm honey. Others were like pulling teeth, needing many rewrites to make them work. And then there was the book on plumbing.

I’ve always treated my writing as a business, proposing book ideas to publishers who contracted me to write quite a few. At other times an editor would like my proposal but have another book they wanted me to write instead. Hence how to do your own plumbing.

First of all, technically you need a qualified plumber even to change a tap washer. Plus I had zero interest in water hammer, grease traps and septic tanks. But I’d signed a contract and I researched and wrote the best book I could, having a plumber friend vet it before submission.

Pleased as I was to have delivered the book as promised, that project made me determined to find a way to write books that I could also put my heart into.

Without the plumbing book, I might not have discovered romance novels.

I’ve always been a romantic at heart, but the plumbing book empowered me to try something new. Fifty romance and romantic suspense novels later working with editors in London, Toronto and New York, I’d become known as Australian’s “queen of romance” with translations in dozens of languages including Icelandic and Manga – Japanese graphic novels. And the only how-to books I’ve written since are on the writing craft, such as The Art of Romance Writing with editions in print with Allen & Unwin since 1993.

My muse, the wonderful actor, writer and philanthropist, William Shatner, says he believes in saying “yes” to everything. This has led him to amazing opportunities from motivating the astronauts on the International Space Station, to designing his own futuristic motor cycle. At age eighty-six he’s still the busiest man on the planet.

William Shatner recommends saying “yes” to everything

Saying “yes” to everything sometimes means writing about plumbing, but can also mean creating a sci-fi series that gave me one of the best experiences of my writing life. Google “Parv Beacons” if you’re curious.

My next “yes” is to collaborate with the talented Dr. Anita Heiss on a novel, something neither of us has done before. Who knows where that will lead?

What will your next “yes” be?

Here are three ways you can learn to love any writing project:

  1. Take pride in stretching yourself creatively. Find something to love, even if it’s the income from doing the work. How might that fund a project you really want to tackle?
  2. Use all writing as a learning experience. From writing advertising copy, I learned how to inspire readers to act on my words. From scriptwriting – how to tell a story in dialogue and action. From my nonfiction books on writing – not only what works but why, broadening my own understanding of the craft.
  3. Be open to writing many different things. Some will be fun, others not so. Learn something new from every project, even if it’s that you don’t want to spend your life writing about plumbing.

What people or projects have inspired your writing? Have you loved some writing and not others? Please share your experiences here. The blog is moderated to avoid spam but your comments can appear right away if you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing!

Valerie

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Valerie’s latest book, Outback Code, is out now

3 books complete in one volume

For international orders, print & ebook formats,

Booktopia http://tinyurl.com/hj3477e

From Amazon for Kindle http://tinyurl.com/hxmmqsk

 

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First Monday Mentoring, July 2016 – how NOT to be a writer in the 21st Century

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring, when I answer your questions about the writing craft and the fun stuff about being a writer.

This week’s blog was inspired by an email conversation with a columnist in a regional newspaper (themselves, sadly a dying breed). The column has no website, no email, no means of getting in touch other than by mail or phone.

When I finally tracked down an email contact to compliment the writer, he was predictably pleased that I’d reached out. But on the bottom of his response was the line, “I don’t read all my emails…pick up the phone.”

Well, no. Writers don’t get to tell our readers/customers how they can read our work. That’s up to them.  I used to wonder how you could read my books on a phone. In a word, convenience. You nearly always have a phone with you.

Beacon Homeworld 2

My current Beacon sci-fi series is published by Momentum, the digital-first arm of Pan Macmillan with the last in the series, Homeworld, released last week. I had to edit the series entirely online, rather than marking up a printed copy, which used to involve a language of editorial squiggles we mostly don’t see any more. To me, the hash sign # still suggests “space out” and we’re not talking taking illicit substances, but spreading out a piece of copy.

No longer. I love hashtags because they connect people to your conversation. The Twitter hashtag #AmWriting is read by millions around the world who share an interest in the writing process.

I admit I sometimes struggle with technology. Sometimes it’s me; sometimes the technology. But I soldier on because it’s fun  being part of this exciting world.

Celebrating a couple of decades working together, my agent gifted me an iPad Mini, a generous gift by any standards. I felt totally challenged by it but persevered and it’s now the best camera I’ve ever had. Not long ago, I had a live chat on it with writer friend, Jennie Adams. For her, it was early evening in Australia. For me, it was midnight in Las Vegas and we chatted as I waited for a flight #lovemyiPad

Other ways NOT to be a writer today:

Refuse to deal with ebooks.

Like most writers, I like print books, but my Kindle has over 500 books on it. Sometimes I’ll read the ebook version because I can have it NOW. Then I’ll order a print copy, especially nonfiction, to study at leisure.

Overlook technology in your stories

I see this a lot with entrants in the Valerie Parv Award run by Romance Writers of Australia. Too often characters are stuck in last century. There’s almost nowhere your characters aren’t linked by their devices. I’m judging this year’s finalists very soon with the hashtag #ValerieParvAward on Twitter and I’ll be looking for tech savvy characters.

Change the story to take account of real life. You can only have batteries go flat so many times. Likewise, in a story, you can only have doubt about a person’s parentage for two weeks or less, before DNA testing gives the answer. In Private Sydney, written with James Patterson, Kathryn Fox wrote about new technology that gets it down to one hour and while not as detailed as the longer tests, still reveals a lot. Using technology can broaden your story. Need characters to find answers to something? Let them share on social media or Google the details. Every writer I know blesses Google for making research a breeze.

If you aren’t already, get good at researching. Writing Homeworld, the final  book in my Beacons sci-fi series, I needed to know if you could launch a space shuttle off the back of a Global Express private jet. My net search turned up the PR division of the plane’s makers who sent my query to the designers. They not only wrote back that it could be done but included diagrams, thrilling me with their generosity. Learn the tricks to search terms and dive in.

You notice the difference if you dip into the past for entertainment. I enjoy the1980s cop show, T J Hooker, starring William Shatner, my tweetheart. Thanks for that lovely word, Joanna Sandsmark. He’s seen here with fellow Star Trek alumni, Leonard Nimoy. Watching him in action is fun, but I can’t help wishing for a cellphone every time he has to find a phone to take care of police business.

Kirk T J Hooker 2

Another fav. Is  Murdoch Mysteries, a detective show set in the 1890s where everything is old school. Yannick Bisson as eye candy in the title role doesn’t hurt, either. Former VPA “minion” (what previous award winners call themselves) Erica Hayes writing as Viola Carr, writes a fun series about the daughter of Dr. Jeckyll who inherited his affliction. In these page-turners,Viola employs the tech of the day – plus some neat inventions of her own – beautifully. Don’t take my word for it. The Wall Street Journal reviewed the first in the series – you can’t do much better than that.

Currently I’m developing a book where one lead character steps back in time. The other remains in the present with all its technical goodies, while my character has to deal with the comparatively low tech of the time she finds herself in.

Love it or loathe it, this is our reality as writers today. Technology also changes how we write – but that’s a subject for another blog.

How do you deal with technology in your writing? What books do it best for you as a reader? Share your thoughts in the comments below. They’re monitored to avoid spam, but your comment can appear right away if you click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Valerie

Valerie’s Beacon sci-fi series out now!
Beacon Starfound OUT NOW
Beacon Earthbound OUT NOW
Beacon Continuum OUT NOW
Beacon Homeworld OUT JUNE 30

via Amazon.com.au Amazon.com & Amazon.co.uk – also via
Barnes and Noble (Nook devices)

Google Play (All devices except Kindle)

iBooks Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac)

Kobo (All devices except Kindle)

 

 

 

 

 

STORYCRAFTING LIKE A PRO – First Monday Mentoring January 2016

Welcome to a new year of writing adventures. On the first Monday of every month, I answer your questions, invite you to share war stories, and help you along your writing journey.

If you’re a regular here, you’ll know one of my favourite tasks each year is mentoring the winner of the Valerie Parv Award, established in my honour by Romance Writers of Australia. For details of the 2016 award click on http://www.romanceaustralia.com/p/110/Valerie-Parv-Award.html

Previous winners are nearly all multi-published now, taking out dozens of Australian and international writing competitions in all genres along the way.

What every writer's conscience should look like

What every writer’s conscience should look like

This year’s VPA holder is CARLY MAIN with her Roman-set novel, Memento Mori. With Carly’s permission, I’m sharing some questions she asked as we worked on her current chapters.

Your contributions are always so helpful. I’ve tried a few critique partners before, but nobody has ever suggested new plot points or new ways of telling the story. Is it largely a matter of experience? Do published authors tend to view manuscripts in a different way?

I’m also starting to think about my next book. I have two complete drafts which I now realise – as a result of [the VPA mentoring] process – I need to flesh out in terms of character development, motivations, conflict etc. and I’m worried I won’t be able to repeat the process.

Carly, 2016 is a milestone year for me. My 90th book will be published by Momentum (Pan Macmillan), meaning I’ve had books published every year for the last four decades. I was, of course, a child prodigy.

So experience is obviously a factor. Plus I’ve studied the writing process – my own and others’ – to discover not only what works, but why. Cultivating this awareness solves your concern about repeating the process.
I also try to give my minions (the name the VPA alumni gave themselves long before the movies) tools they can apply to any writing project. They’re tools I use in my own books, and they work.

Minions take over world

SO HERE ARE MY TOP 4 STORYCRAFTING TOOLS –

1. Ask yourself what work the writing has to do
Whether it’s a sentence, a scene or a chapter, every piece of writing MUST have a job to do. It can be revealing character, moving the plot forward, deepening the conflict, filling in needed background or planting clues and red herrings (in a mystery). Even better if the scene has more than one job.
When you’re editing, if you identify the purpose of the scene, you open up dozens of ways to achieve your purpose, rather than simply rewriting the scene in different words.

If the scene is only “pretty” or titillating, consider deleting it or combining with another scene. In Carly’s case, she had a crucial character to introduce and chose to combine the introduction with a scene that, until then, was doing no identifiable work.

2. Explore as many story options as you can
Say you have a love scene to write and plan to set it in the hero’s (or heroine’s) bedroom. Fine as far as it goes, but can you do better? I suggest listing at least 20 ways you could handle this scene to make it more original. Is there a mountaintop, a cabin, a creepy basement, or other setting you can use? Depending on the story, could you play out the scene on a private jet, in an office, under a circus tent, in an opal mine? I’ve used all of these and had a ton of fun with them. Readers enjoy the freshness, too.

My lists sometimes run to 100 or more options, including the outlandish and plain silly, before I hit on something that excites me. The trick is to avoid self-censoring, just let your imagination run wild. Only when you’re written out, should you evaluate your list, combine or develop the most promising options.

3. Ensure your characters’ actions DO speak for them
It’s all very well telling readers that a character is kind, honest to a fault, and loves small children. But do you show us these qualities? For example, a single mother is desperate for money for her child’s medical treatment. She finds a bag of money by a roadside. Having her use this money, even fully intending to pay it back, creates a different image of her than the one you intend. Equally, if she lies to gain a job to earn the money she needs, what does this say about her? It’s okay to show her being tempted, but she shouldn’t give in. It may nearly kill her to turn the money in, but you can use this to show her honesty is hard-won. You could show her attraction to the detective who takes her statement, or have him protect her from criminals who stole the money and think she has it. Or he thinks she’s in league with the bad guys. Showing the character’s struggles is a great way to reveal their true character and can lead to some wonderful, character-driven stories.

4. Use fewer words to better effect
This definitely comes with practice. Sadly, the words generally have to be written before we can edit out the repetitions, the information dumps (when we tell readers everything we’ve researched), and the slow passages. Give yourself permission to write as much as you feel you need. Let the finished work lie for as long as you can, a few weeks is good. Then read with a fresh eye and a sharp red pen.

Every writer is different and not all tips work for everyone. But it’s the old story about giving a woman a fish and feeding her for a day, or teaching her how to fish and feeding her for a lifetime.

You never stop learning. I still read how-to books on writing, seeking to gain even one new insight. Last week, it was Not Just a Piece of Cake: BEING AN AUTHOR by Hazel Edwards, author of the Australian childrens’ classic, There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake
Writing is a never-ending learning curve.

Feel free to comment or share your experiences below. The blog is moderated to avoid spam. If you’d like your comments to appear right away, click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone. What are your best storycrafting tips?

Valerie

Member of the Order of Australia
Australia Day Ambassador
http://www.valerieparv.com
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

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.

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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

5 things writers should not take into the New Year

It’s not only First Monday time again, when I open this blog to your questions about writing and publishing, it’s also the start of a New Year when many are making resolutions for how you want to be in 2014. Common ones are to be thinner, fitter, more successful and preferably richer than in the year gone by. As writers we may also resolve to get more writing done and set the bar higher in terms of what we expect of ourselves and our work.
All these are worthwhile goals. And as the saying goes, if you shoot for the moon and miss, you will still land among the stars. But while you’re shooting for the moon, consider 5 things you should NOT take into 2014.

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1. Unhelpful habits
Many writers “fuel” ourselves in ways that aren’t good for us. Chocolate, anyone? This year, resolve to change some of those habits for better ones that support you and your work. Before writing this, I headed for the kitchen for coffee and a home-made cookie. In my head I heard, unhelpful habit, and stopped to ask myself what besides a cookie would meet my needs, picking up a small bowl of grapes instead. I can also look at alternatives as creative fuel. Some writers use music, scented candles, a workspace set up a certain way, or playing a game or two to get themselves into the right frame of mind. As we move into 2014, what unhelpful habits can you switch for more helpful ones?

2. Procrastination
Depending on how long it goes on, procrastination can show itself as anything from a sudden need to clean out the refrigerator (in the domestic sense, rather than point 1 above), to full-on writer’s block when you can’t produce words at all. Start by asking yourself whether you’re distracted or blocked. When I find myself dodging a project, it’s almost always because it’s not ready to start yet. I either need more information – say about characters or story elements, or I’m trying to force the story to go in the wrong direction. Taking stock, doing some brainstorming with a supportive friend, or on paper; or filling in the research gaps often gets me going again. If you’re blocked because of fear – of not being good enough, or of looking foolish, for example – it helps to reread something you’ve already written to remind yourself of what you can achieve. If you’re a new writer, you might join a group or sign up for a workshop as a way to get over your fears in a helpful environment.

3. Tired ideas
If you’ve been struggling to write and don’t feel you’re making progress, use the new year to put away tired material. If you’re sick of it, readers are unlikely to be inspired, either. Try something new – a new style, format, genre – invent a new series character or world, and see where they lead. Freshen your approach and you’ll very likely recapture the excitement of writing as you go into 2014.

4. Negative self image
The nature of writing can lead us to question ourselves and even our sanity. Are we crazy spending time listening to voices in our heads, writing about imaginary people, and mentally living in made-up settings? But it’s not crazy, it’s what writers do. Then we share our stories with readers as our gift to the world. (See my previous blog on using your unique gifts.) We also ask ourselves why we think we’re good enough to follow in the steps of the great writers before us. I have no doubt they asked themselves the same thing. A healthy dose of uncertainty can be a spur to success, as long as it doesn’t overwhelm you.

5. Over-confidence
This may seem to contradict point 4, but it doesn’t. As I mentioned, having a healthy dose of uncertainty is good, whatever we want to achieve. It keeps us striving to do better, to prove that one story or one book wasn’t a fluke. Writing anything can seem like a miracle – and it is! But we must be able to step back from the work and see its flaws as well as its magic. Both are usually in the writing you’ve just completed. Setting it aside for a while and starting something new can restore your objectivity. In writing as well as in life, we need a balance between under and over-confidence, to achieve our best.

As a writer, what don’t you want to take into 2014? Share your experiences in the comment box below. I regret they must be moderated to avoid 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 New Year and may your words flow freely,

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 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 February – what comes first?

If you’ve been here before, you’ll know that on first Monday of each month, I answer your questions on writing.  February already. Wasn’t it Christmas just days ago? Only last weekend I was in the beautiful city of Bathurst, helping the community celebrate as their Australia Day Ambassador. I count this a real  honour and always have a great time meeting new people, especially helping to welcome some brand new Australian citizens.

Meeting local writers is always special. Giving a talk at the Bathurst Library, I met (or remet) several from past writing conferences, as well as the present owners of Abercrombie House, one of the finest colonial houses in Australia. Lots of story material in that weekend.

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Which leads me to a question to kick off First Monday Mentoring for February. Where do I start my stories – with plot or characters, and which is best.

Whatever works for the writer is the best way. I like to start with an interesting person, perhaps an unusual occupation that sparks a “what if?” question. Can be either hero or heroine, but usually I imagine my heroine first. What does her job involve? What’s her family like? How did she get started, and where does she work? Self employed or for a business? Then the big question – what problem is she facing when we meet her? If the book is a romance, what role does the prospective hero play in her problem? Ideally, he’ll be the cause of it or have a key role.

In my SF romantic suspense, Birthright, the first character we meet is Adam Desai, who was also the first character I imagined when I started the book. Having been found in a shipwreck, he knew nothing about his past.  His perfect match therefore had to be someone very secure in her heritage. Enter Shana Akers.

Interviewing a character is a good way to get to know them. At first it feels strange asking questions and writing down the answers, but if you stick with it, they soon start expressing their own opinions faster than you can write. It’s not spooky, only you accessing the parts of yourself the character represents.

Do you start with character or plot? What tips and tricks have you used that you can share here? If you have other questions to do with writing, feel free to ask them here as well.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

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on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Read some reviews of Birthright at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

First Monday Mentoring August, are we writing too much?

August already, where did the time go? 

The first Monday of each month is when you can ask your writing-related questions and I’ll do my best to answer. Questions can be posted ahead of time and I’ll answer during Monday August 6.  I monitor the blog and post answers throughout the day.  Sometimes discussions go past Monday into the week, and that’s OK too.

First I’d like to ASK a question – are we writing too much?

With all the blogs, interviews, articles and courses about writing out there, plus the vast number of “indie” published books for sale, there has never been more choice of writing or information about the craft.

Some information is amazing. You can access practically every editor and agent in the business. You can ask questions, make comments, take part in discussions. You can also chat with your favourite authors, review books and read reviews by others.  So how do you sort out what’s useful?

Here are my three tips:

1. Look at who’s giving the advice.

Are they published? In what markets? Are their books successful? If the answers are mostly yes, you know they speak from experience. You don’t have to agree with everything, but it’s worth your time to consider.

2. Is the advice written on tablets of stone?

If it is, approach with caution. The best teachers of writing recommend using what you find useful and leaving the rest. I’m  wary

of anyone who suggests there’s only one way to write. There are as many ways as their are writers.

3. Is the information current?

In a landscape where changes are occurring daily, you need to know the advice you’re relying on is up to date.. Even better if it’s forward looking and willing to explore where we might go from here.

What do you look for in workshops, how-to books and writing advice? What are you not getting but would like to?

Let First Monday Mentoring begin. Feel free to post about these or any other aspects of writing, I’ll do my best to answer.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

Friend of the National Year of Reading 2012

on Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

Valerie’s Coffee Break Reads now in Living magazine http://www.livingmagazine.com.au

First Monday Mentoring for April, your writing questions answered

It’s baaa-aack, the first Monday of every month (or the first Sunday if you’re in the northern hemisphere) 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 invited to contribute a question or your thoughts on an answer, or a writing experience that might help others.

There’s another reason for holding First Monday Mentoring.

The 2012 Valerie Parv Award named in my honour by Romance Writers of Australia opens April 23 and closes May 4 or earlier once all places are filled.  http://www.romanceaustralia.com/vpa.html

The award is now limited to the first 80 entries received, so enter early or you may miss out.

With only one award and entries being limited, I created a program called MentorXpress, where you can experience working with me as your mentor.  Details and cost are on my website http://www.valerieparv.com

First Monday Mentoring gives you somewhere to post YOUR writing concerns and questions, or share YOUR experiences. You can post your questions ahead of time if you like and answers will go up during Monday April 2.  I monitor the blog and post answers throughout the day.

I’d also like to congratulate former Valerie Parv Award winner

If the answer isn't on here, it's probably in here

Barbara Jeffcott-Geris who sold her first book a few days ago, joining the many winners of this award (now in our twelfth year) who are now successfully published authors. It’s a special joy for me that so many winners have published. Stay tuned because another couple are >< to success. 

Happy First Monday, all!

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

On Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

NEW FOR 2012 – “First Monday Mentoring” – Your writing questions and problems answered here

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring.

On the first Monday of every month (or the first Sunday if you’re in the northern hemisphere), 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 invited to contribute a question or your thoughts on an answer, or a writing experience that might help others.

There’s another reason I decided to hold First Monday Mentoring.

The 2012 Valerie Parv Award named in my honour by Romance Writers of Australia now opens April 23 and closes May 4 or earlier once the 80 available places are filled.  http://www.romanceaustralia.com/vpa.html

Note, the award is now limited to the first 80 entries received.

I mentor the winner of the VPA for the year they hold the award. With only one award and entries now being limited, I created a program called MentorXpress, where you can have a short experience of working with me as your mentor.  Details and cost are on my website http://www.valerieparv.com

Between the limited number of entries RWA accepts and the fact that there can only be one winner a year, means First Monday Mentoring gives you somewhere to post writing concerns and questions, or share experiences.

DAY ONE IS TODAY – MONDAY FEBRUARY 6

You can post your questions ahead of time if you like and answers will go up during Monday February 6.

I’ll monitor the blog and post answers throughout the day.

Happy First Monday, all!

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

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