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Posts tagged ‘First Monday’

First Monday Mentoring November 2016 – five ways to start writing when you’d rather watch paint dry

Hi and welcome to First Monday Mentoring when we discuss aspects of writing not normally talked about.

For instance, the art of watching paint dry. I’m doing it a lot lately, not literally, but in the sense of not wanting to sit down at my desk and write actual words. After being published for four decades, and ninety books, this is a strange experience.

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I’ve found all manner of things to fill the time, from reading to giving my home a spring makeover. Watching too many real estate and renovating programs may make one thing springboard off another. I also wonder, is this how people fill their time when they don’t have stories and characters chattering away in their heads?

After a while you start to wonder if the muse has deserted you for good. Not that I’m a big fan of the muse, believing that professional writers write, inspired or not. Over many years, when I’ve been unable to conjure up the exact words I want, I’ve given myself permission to write any old how, telling myself it will be edited later.

This process has never failed me – until now. But as with everything to do with writing, there are no absolutes. The process of writing is what spy thriller writer, Len Deighton, called “a muddled system of trial and error.” He said the hardest lesson to learn is that thousands of words must be written and then discarded or rewritten before the “keepers” emerge.

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Deighton said he softened the blow by keeping his early drafts for months before throwing them away. If nothing else, this gave him the objectivity which is mostly lacking when confronting our freshly written drafts.

Writers trip ourselves up in dozens of ways. The most common, fear of failure, can lead to making sure we have no time to write that best seller. Spring makeover, anyone? Social media, while being a useful promotional tool, can feel as if we’re writing, without contributing a single word to a manuscript.

So here are five ways to stop yourself watching paint drying – or real estate programs.

  1. Find your best writing time and protect it ferociously

The time needn’t be from nine to five, unless it suits you. If you are most productive in the early hours or late into the night, keep these times free from distraction and interruption.

  1. Have your own writing place

Even if it’s only a corner of a room, or in your car, having that space and associating it with writing can be a powerful tool.

  1. Develop a writing habit

Victor Pineiro, blogged here http://tinyurl.com/zym8cq4 about writing his first novel by working on a laptop during his hour-long train trip to work. He says, “The key was not getting angry at myself for writing pure garbage some days. This was just an experiment — nothing to lose. As you’ve read dozens of times, once you do something for thirty days it becomes habit .” Once his laptop was open, he says, he felt obligated to write and it slowly became a habit.

  1. Use the small chunks of time

Like Pineiro, you can write while commuting; dictate story notes on your hands-free phone as you drive; plot the next step in your book while awaiting an appointment; or read reference material online while the kids play sport. This frees up your writing time to generate actual words.

  1. Write for yourself at first

I’ve blogged here about the critic over your shoulder, the inner voice insisting you can’t write so why bother? Somehow we have to overcome the critic and write anyway. Writing for yourself alone, and not letting anyone see your work until you’re ready, often helps. You can also do what Kate Grenville told me she does – put a sign over your desk, reminding yourself, “It can all be fixed tomorrow.”

What every writer's conscience should look like

What every writer’s conscience should look like

Now all I have to do is take my own advice. Right after I check out this Tiny House makeover.

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. Happy writing!

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Valerie’s latest book, Outback Code, is available from Harlequin from November 21  

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First Monday Mentoring May 2016 – what to write next when you don’t have a clue

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring, when I open this blog to discuss the writing craft and what it means to be a writer, the stuff hardly anybody else talks about.

I’ve now had books published for four decades, and almost every time I’ve put a book to bed, I’ve known exactly what I wanted to write next. In fact, I could hardly wait to get started. But not this time.

Oh, I have plenty of ideas. Most writers do. There are books I can write, but nothing that won’t wait. There’s a nonfiction book so far along in development that I have a huge box of reference books getting in the way under my desk. Two potentially strong characters each want to have a book, perhaps a series each. They’re also happy to wait.

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When not writing, I’m a shopaholic online and off, whether for myself or as gifts. One day a friend, AJ Macpherson, writing as Maggie Gilbert – http://tinyurl.com/jex9dsa – shared the rule she uses to decide whether to buy a particular item. Is it a gotta wanna must have? Running potential purchases through this filter saves me a ton of money and shopping mistakes.

Can this useful phrase help you decide what to write next? Is this project a gotta wanna must write?

If an idea has stuck around for months or years without pushing you to write it, then the answer might well be no. The best stories are those that keep you awake at night thinking about them. The best characters are the ones insisting you write about them.

A gotta wanna must write story doesn’t give you a choice.

Successful New York Times’ best selling author, Chuck Wendig, says the answer is to “art harder”. Bryce Courtenay recommended “bum glue” – sticking your anatomy to the seat of the chair and getting on with it. Both work – some of the time.

But at a time when the book market is awash with books, either indie published by their authors, or trad pubbed, does bum glue work? Yes and no.

Thinking about writing doesn’t get anything written, far less your master work. And as you battle to get the words down, you can’t know whether you’re writing a bestseller or wasting your time. Not one successful author knew which they were writing. Not J K Rowling, not George R R Martin. Not even Shakespeare. http://tinyurl.com/jcffftk Okay, maybe James Patterson, but he’s in a category all by himself.

Beacon Earthbound, Book 3 in my sci-fi series is out May 12

Beacon Earthbound, Book 3 in my sci-fi series is out May 12

There are three things you can do to get yourself moving again.

  1. Stop fretting and write.

In this, Chuck Wendig is right. The harder you art, the more likely you are to stumble on what you need to be writing. It may mean discarding the current words and tackling something else, but at least you’ll know what you don’t want to write.

  1. Fall in love with the words you’re writing now.

Writing books is like an arranged marriage. Sometimes you have to take the step and hope to fall in love later. Many times, a publisher has asked me for a book that is far from a gotta wanna must write, but I’ve taken on the project and surprised myself by enjoying the journey. Not always. The book I was asked to write about doing your own plumbing comes  to mind (yes, it was a real thing). However, saying yes to that project made me determined to write books I could put my heart into, leading to a long career as a romance novelist.

  1. Don’t be afraid to stop writing

If you’re a born writer, and only you know that, the drought won’t last forever. I was there when writers of the stature of Morris West announced their retirement from writing. Yeah, sure, whatever. You’ll be back. And they were. Story ideas will nag at you until one becomes that magic thing – a gotta wanna must write. Then you’ll be lucky if you can art hard enough to keep up. Welcome back, writer.

Are you struggling to find your next project, or to finish one that’s gone cold on you? Share your thoughts in the comments box below so we can all benefit. This 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

PS Since writing this blog, a new idea pushed its way into my head – a gotta wanna must write idea. Stay Tuned!

On Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Follow Valerie’s Beacon sci-fi  series

Beacon Starfound OUT NOW

Beacon Earthbound released MAY 12

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

Google Play (All devices except Kindle)

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Kobo (All devices except Kindle)

Full list of titles and publication dates http://www.valerieparv.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 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

First Monday Mentoring for August – handling your writer’s grumpy brat

Today is the first Monday in August – how did that happen? Today I open the blog to your questions about any aspect of writing and publishing, and answer them here. The blog is read by many terrific writers who add their thoughts or experiences. Post your questions and ideas, argue with mine, share your war stories. This is the day, heck, sometimes the whole week.

I regret the need to moderate comments 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 addressing a problem all writers share – dealing with our inner grumpy brat. You can be a New York Times bestseller or an emerging writer, but sooner or later Grumpy Brat Writer will appear, usually when you’re facing a deadline or a contest closing date. You need to be ready. Just like a parent in a supermarket when their toddler throws themselves down on the floor and screams blue murder, you need coping strategies to stop your Grumpy Brat Writer from winning the day.
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Here are 5 things you’ll hear Grumpy Writer Brat whine:

1. I don’t wanna

GBW never wants to do anything, especially if it involves work. And most writing involves a LOT of work. GBW would much rather play with her friend, Google, on research sites. Even then, she may start out on topic and be distracted by the first shiny link that comes her way. Which leads to another link and another until your research topic is a speck on the digital horizon. She also loves toys. Solitaire is to GBW what Lego is to most toddlers, and just as hard to get them to put away.
The solution: GBW loves rewards. Don’t wait until the end of a project (or dog forbid, a whole book) to reward her. Give her little treats along the way. They can be time outdoors, a little taste of chocolate, a phone call to a friend, or some reading time when she does what you want.

2. Why do I hafta?
This goes to the question of motivation. Writers have to be self disciplined to get anything done. Unless you have a publishing contract, no one is pushing you to finish the book. Non-writer friends and family don’t get why it isn’t done in a week. And without a goal, you’ll find GBW cleaning out the refrigerator, brushing the cat, or lining up pens in colour coded rows.
The solution: Motivate GBW with whatever works. Enter a contest with a submission date. Choose one that you can meet without too much stress, but that’s close enough to keep you at the keyboard. Tell your writer friends you’re writing. If you’re on Twitter, use a hashtag like #amwriting. Hashtags are like secret handshakes. They link together people who are otherwise unconected. but share a common interest – like getting the writing done. Sign up for NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. These days Nano is international. Participants aim to write 50,000 words during November. Nobody says they have to be good words, although published novels have come out of these rough drafts. If all else fails, buy a cute kitchen timer and set it for ten minutes. Almost anybody can stay on task for ten minutes. Tell GBW that’s all she has to do, write until the timer goes off. Chances are she’ll still be going after the timer rings. And if not, reward her and come back for another 10 minute sprint later.

3. Are we there yet? (usually repeated over and over)
We’ve all heard GBW on this. She wants the work finished and the fun to start. Especially if you’re writing a book, the finish line can be months and sometimes years away. No wonder GBW gets restless and whiny.
Solution: The kitchen timer in #2 helps to let GBW know when she’s “there” at least in the short term. Choosing a set number of words you’ll achieve each day no matter what and not stopping until you’re “there” can help. Even if your goal is as few as 200 or 500 words, make a deal with GBW that you won’t stop until they’re written. If you write more than your goal, great, but beware of writing 4,000 words and then finding you can’t write again for several days. Slow and steady wins the race.

4. No! (said with jutting out lower lip and folded arms)
Sometimes I think this is the first word that GBW learns. Whatever we ask of her, we get the one word answer and the stubborn body language. How can you deal with such an implacable, “No?”
Solution: GBW is looking out for herself, but she also has an almost subliminal sense of what else is going on with your work. Every time I’ve come up against GBW’s flat refusal to co-operate – every time – it’s been because the writing is going in the wrong direction. Coming up against that “No” leads me to look at what my characters are doing. Is this where the book should be at this time? Could I change settings or characters? Add a new character? Have somebody produce a gun? Magically, as soon as I address what’s bothering GBW, she starts saying yes to me.

5. Hers is bigger/better/shinier
This is GBW looking around and wanting what other writers have. Whether it’s a publishing contract, a prize, an award, great cover art or fantastic reviews, the little green monster brings out the worst in GBW. Often, she’s so consumed with the shiny goodies others seem to have that it stops her from writing anything.
Solution: tell GBW it’s okay to feel jealous. Maybe the other person does have a bigger better shinier whatever. On the other hand, they may also have ill health, financial woes or family issues GBW doesn’t know about. Most of us show the world our best side, but there’s nearly always a dark side lurking. Remind GBW about this and also of the line from the Desiderata, “Never compare yourself to others, for always there will be greater or lesser persons than yourself.” While GBW is busy envying other writers, just as many would like to be her.

How does your Grumpy Brat Writer show his or herself? How do you deal with it? Share your thoughts and experiences here.

Valerie

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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 June – a writer’s to-don’t list

Happy first Monday in June, the day when I open this blog to your questions about writing. They can be on creative, craft or business matters. 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.If you’d like your comments to appear right away, click the ‘sign me up’ button at lower right. I don’t share your email address with others.
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I do share blogs and information I find exciting. My new fav find is a blog called Marc and Angel Hack Life. Their thoughts and comments on living are well worth reading (and subscribing as I’ve done). Recently they blogged about making a “to don’t” list here http://www.marcandangel.com/2013/05/28/7-things-you-need-to-stop-doing-every-day/#more-621 Right click on the link to open in a new tab without closing this one.

Most people have a “to do” list, many are pages long 😦 For writers, here are some things for your “to don’t” list. Since it’s First Monday, feel free to share what you’d add to the list.

DON’T compare yourself to others

This month, Romance Writers of Australia are running 50k in 30 days – not as someone thought, 50 kilometers, but 50 thousand words during June. Like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November, these are ways to get writers writing instead of hoping, dreaming or planning. Both events involve reporting progress to a group or forum. This is where things get sticky. If other writers are reporting 2,000, 3,000 or 5,000 words and you wrote 500, how do you feel? Under the ‘don’t compare’ rule, you feel pretty darned good. You wrote 500 words. Over 30 days, that totals 15,000 words. Keep going for 5 or 6 months and you’ll have a novel, just by writing 500 words a day. Your output is your output.

DON’T wait till you’re ready

As Henry Ford famously said, you can’t succeed by what you’re going to do tomorrow. Today, this minute, is all we have. Start writing now. Pour your thoughts and ideas onto the screen or page then edit afterward. Same with research. Leave gaps where you need to look something up. I write “tk” a printer’s mark for “to come” when I need to find some important detail. Get that first draft down without interrupting or second-guessing yourself. Only then can you edit, correct, fill in gaps and – as I do – layer in elements you missed first go round.

DON’T expect perfection
By all means aim for wonderful, but settle for whatever comes as long as it’s the best you can do at the time. Remember, if you shoot for the moon and miss, you’ll still land among the stars. And don’t use perfectionism as an excuse. Erica Jong wrote that for years she never sent any work out. As long as it was ‘work in progress’ it couldn’t be rejected. Fear of rejection, of not being good enough, is an occupational hazard writers must learn to live with. Write anyway.

and most importantly…
DON’T give up
Every writer I’ve ever met, whether New York Times bestseller or not, has moments of thinking their success is a fluke. Multi award winning romance writer, Marion Lennox, says she still expects her publishers to tell her it’s all a mistake and want their money back. It won’t happen. Nor does Marion let anything stop her from writing her books. That’s the bottom line. DON’T stop writing.

This is First Monday so the blog is open to your thoughts, ideas and questions. What would be on your ‘to don’t’ list?

Valerie
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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

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