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Posts tagged ‘Lawrence Block’

First Monday Mentoring for July – 4 things to do after you write ‘the end’

It’s the first Monday in July, when I open this blog to your questions about writing. They can be on creative, craft or business matters. For starters, here’s a common question: what happens after you finish a book?

As I write this, I’m in the best possible place – at the end of a new book. Even more importantly, I’m at the end of a 300,000 word trilogy, my Beacons series for Corvallis Press, Oregon.

As of last night, all the tales have been told, the loose endings wrapped up, and the big finish I wanted for the series is definitely there.

Fittingly, it’s also just after the Fourth of July for my American friends. Although I’m in Australia, my book had fireworks and lots of celebration. As it should be. As suspense writer, Lawrence Block, put it in his excellent book, Writing the Novel from Plot to Print, no one brings your manuscript a squeaky toy, as they do when a baby is born. More often, you finish in a haze of exhaustion and surrounded by catch-up work screaming to be done.

Yet writing “the end” doesn’t mean the book is truly finished. There’s anything from a few months to a few years’ worth of work remaining. Sometimes a book is never done. Among the 83 books I’ve written, one still niggles because of a glitch in the opening chapter.
The title is among my most popular, although no reader has noticed the issue and I’ve had no emails, but the niggle bothers me to this day. I’m in good company. Hemingway was said to hang around the presses as a new book came off, wanting to make changes even at that stage.

celebrate everything

So what are the four things you need to do after writing the end?

1. Step away from the manuscript.
Perfect though it looks now, there will be flaws. Sometimes continuity issues, questions, typos, facts to check, and the writing to polish. Now is not the time. Bathed in the beatific glow of having written, we’re too close to the work to be objective. Give yourself all the time you can to separate yourself from the material, then put on your editor hat and revisit the work. You’ll be astonished what sneaked through in the interim.

2. Catch up with everything you neglected
I once asked the amazing Nora Roberts what she does between books. She told me she ploughs through all the tasks that piled up while she was writing, catches up with friends and family, then she wanders around the house, wondering what people do with their time when they don’t write. And she starts writing again.
I won’t depress you with how fast she goes through this cycle, but it’s obvious from the quantity and quality of her output. Some writers need more time between books than others. Take what you need, and start writing again only when you’re ready.

3. Get a life
William Shatner made this phrase famous when he did a comedy skit on Saturday Night Live, reminding Star Trek fans that it was “only a television show” and they should get a life outside their favourite program. The same can be said of writing. Unless we have lives outside writing, sooner or later we end up writing about writers. You need balance in your life. I’ve seen the areas recommended as work, family, spiritual and personal wellbeing. Between books is a good time to assess where your life is and what needs more attention.

4. Start dreaming
Most writers have more ideas than we know what to do with. Between books is the perfect time to let your imagination run wild. What book calls you to write it next? What marvelous idea fills you with excitement? It isn’t enough to start writing because you feel you must, or you’ve goofed off long enough. Your idea should drag you to the computer, desperate to capture the lightning. Play with your ideas. Read, think, explore, scribble notes. Scribble more notes. When the scribbling won’t stop, you’re ready to start again.

What do you do between projects? How do you know when a new book is ready for attention? Comment using the box below. I moderate comments 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.

Meanwhile, I have a life to catch up on. 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

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One among many – should you plan to write one book or a series?

I love Twitter. It can be frustrating trying to reduce a Big Idea down to 140 characters but great fun. And inspirational. Today I posted a Lawrence Block quote using the hashtag #quotes4writers. On Twitter, a hashtag automatically groups together tweets (twitter messages) on a related subject – in this case quotes writers might find helpful.

This is the quote I tweeted:

“Concentrate on the book at hand. Projecting an entire series merely dilutes your efforts” – Lawrence Block #quotes4writers

Within minutes, this blog topic was born. Considering how many writers tell me the book they’re working on is intended to be the first in a series, it’s a fairly common concern. But should an author, especially a new author, tell an agent or editor that their book is part of a series? And how much of the series should you develop?

Make sure you get the continuity right.

In Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, Lawrence Block makes his thoughts clear, adding, “The agents and publishers are not much impressed. Their interest in a manuscript is in its own merits…”

Even if you have the makings of a series – in a fascinating lead character, setting or profession – the first book has to sell before the second become a twinkle in an agent’s eye.  Not because they don’t like series. They do. And readers love them. But there are traps. The first is the need to read series books in the order they’re written. What if you miss book one? Readers feel cheated if they buy a book without knowing it’s part of a series. They must either buy the first book(s) or try to fill in the gaps as they read.

Giving each book a complete story in its own right is a good idea. You can also fill in necessary background with a light hand to avoid boring the pants off regular readers. Giving the book to a reader who’s coming fresh to the series can help you find out what works. The writer can’t know because the back story is all in our heads, although ideally the details should be in more accessible form, in journals or charts you can check to ensure the orphan in book one hasn’t acquired parents by book three without any explanation.

Another trap is “saving” a great story idea for later in the series.  Give your first book your absolute all and trust that more ideas will come if and when you get to write future volumes. In my experience, ideas emerge as the series’ characters and settings grow. When I wrote The Monarch’s Son I never dreamed that I’d set thirteen books in the fictional kingdom of Carramer or I wouldn’t have made divorce illegal. In future books,  I could only end marriages by killing off one or other party.  I could have changed the law but in book one, my monarch had made much of not doing so to suit himself. On the other hand, I was forced to become more inventive.

By all means let an agent or editor know you have other books in mind but 0nly offer a brief paragraph summing up each proposed sequel until you catch their enthusiasm. And most of all, take Lawrence Block’s advice and concentrate on the book at hand.

What are your thoughts on series books, either to write or to read? Have you fallen into any traps? How did you fix them?

Valerie

Proud to be a Friend of the Year of Reading 2012

http://www.valerieparv.com

on twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

What’s it all about, Alfie? Where do you get ideas?

When I confess to being a writer, I can usually count on being asked one of three questions, if not all three.

1. Where do you get your ideas.

2. How long does it take you to write a book?

and

3. How much money do you make?

I’ve never understood why people need to know how long it takes me to write a book. When I did a radio interview in Sydney with the amazing Nora Roberts, her answer was, “As long as it takes every time.” Do you think people are hoping we’ll say we dashed the book off in a week? They certainly seem disappointed when I tell them a romance novel takes me around three months to complete. The book may have been germinating in my head for a lot longer, sometimes years, until I find the right characters and conflict to make the story work. Sometimes the act of writing the book is much faster, and perhaps that’s the element most non-writers associate with “writing”. But as I’ve said many times, a writer (ie me) is working when they’re staring out a window. Which leads me to the big question, where writers get ideas.

American novelist, Lawrence Block, said he tried telling people he subscribes to The Ideas Book, a magazine filled with plot ideas from which subscribers could pick and choose. They could reserve an idea they liked and build a book around it. None of this was true, of course, there’s no such publication. But too many people believed there was, and asked Block how they could become subscribers.

What is an idea, really? Is it a grand flash of inspiration? Where does it come from and why does it land on some people and not others? The answer is often simply practice. Writers and artists get more ideas/flashes of inspiration because we spend more time looking for them. We train ourselves to see 2 plus 2 and answer – a pair of swans or 22. And then keep asking the question until we get really bizarre answers like aliens who live and die in pairs, or mirror image creatures called 2 and plus2. You can play this game yourself and I’ll guarantee you’ll start getting excited about at least one of your answers. Maybe enough to want to write about it.

At my website http://www.valerieparv.com I have a home study course called Free the Writer in You which gives you more tools like this to improve your own creativity. I tutor every students individually, which is why you should probably sit down before clicking on the cost. But you will learn how to handle the hardest part of the writing process – overcoming your fear. I’ll deal with fear in another post, because it’s a big issue and more common than most would-be writers realize.  In the meantime, you now know at least part of the answer to where we get ideas.

As to how much money I make, I can only say that people have a lot of strange ideas about that, too.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

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