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Posts tagged ‘mentoring’

First Monday Mentoring October 2015 – 3 things I learned about writing from teaching and mentoring

Teaching master classes and mentoring new writers is a great way to shine a spotlight on your own writing process.
Focusing on how you construct a story reveals what works and – crucially – what doesn’t. The alternative, sadly, is learning by trial and error and many wasted words.

AORW cover
A few days ago, my agent, Linda Tate and I were working through a detailed outline of a new book.

It’s sci-fi, not a field she normally reads. Her feedback was invaluable for precisely that reason. She took nothing for granted, asking the “why” questions that someone more into science fiction might not think to ask.
During our talk I had one of Oprah Winfrey’s “light bulb moments” when a metaphorical light goes on over your head.
I knew why the bad guy was acting as he was. The key characters had to find out the hard way, as is proper. You should never make things easy for your characters. Far better to “get your characters up a tree and then throw rocks at them.” The rocks being the difficulties you put in their way so they have to fight for every bit of progress.
I’d done all that. In my story things go from bad to worse, and then to catastrophic. But I’d overlooked one thing I’d learned from teaching –

What the writer tells the reader does not have to be the same as what the characters tell each other.
Sure, you want to stay inside their viewpoint as much as you can, so readers feel as if they’re living the story rather than being told about it.
But an element called “reader superiority” lets readers in on information your characters don’t have yet. By sharing secrets, you heighten your readers’ enjoyment of the story as they wait for the characters to catch up.
A good example comes from Where Are the Children by Mary Higgins Clark. Her heroine may have murdered her children and gotten away with it. The woman has started afresh under a new identity, when the children from her new relationship mysteriously disappear.
If we thought that she’d actually killed her children, we’d have little sympathy for her. So Ms Clark sets up an opening scene where someone sinister is watching the heroine. At first, we don’t learn what he’s about, but we know the heroine is not the villain. However, the other characters only know her kids have disappeared twice under suspicious circumstances. They believe she’s a killer who got lucky the first time, and they want her to be caught.
Had we, as readers, not known she was being stalked, we might feel the same.
You don’t have to step outside the book and tell the reader. As Ms Clark did, you can show us what’s really going on, so we empathize with the character. Knowing she’s innocent, we want the truth to come out while fearing it will come too late to save her. The result is a real page-turner.

My lightbulb moment:

Rather than springing the truth on characters and readers at the same time, I need to reveal my bad guy to my readers before the characters work it all out. This can be done with a scene where we meet the bad guy when the leads aren’t present. It’s a multiple-viewpoint book so it’s perfectly legitimate.

I just have to remember to take my own advice.

Valerie as first Writer in Residence at Young NSW Library . Photo by Maree Myhill.

Valerie as first Writer in Residence at Young NSW Library . Photo by Maree Myhill.

The 3 things I’ve learned from mentoring and teaching –
1. Giving advice is easier than taking it
2. Knowing why something works means you can do it again…and again.
3. Say yes to every teaching opportunity; you never know what you might learn.
Share your thoughts in the comment box below. It’s moderated to avoid spam, but you can have your post appear right away by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.
Happy writing,
Valerie
http://www.valerieparv.com

Sydney Oct 17, join Valerie at the Australian Society of Authors’ special event:
When Worlds Collide

adding romance to your speculative (and other) fiction.
Discounts available for participants attending from out of Sydney.

Click on car icon with $ sign on it.

To book phone: (02) 9211 1004 or go to
https://www.asauthors.org/event/14450/special-series-valerie-parv-am

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First Monday Mentoring for August – as a writer, what kind of role model are you?

A meme that’s been around since the cave days – i.e. before Facebook – says if you can’t be a good example, you’ll have to be a horrible warning. Like it or not, we are all role models, but especially as writers and custodians of our society’s stories.

This week I served as the first Writer-in-Residence at Young Library and I found myself talking about the role models who influenced me as a writer. The first, of course, were my parents.

Valerie at Young NSW Library July 2015. Photo by Maree Myhill, used with permission.

Valerie at Young NSW Library July 2015. Photo by Maree Myhill, used with permission.

Few of us think of our parents as role models. Mostly we think they were the worst people ever to have children. It takes many years before we can admit they have a few virtues. And whether they were role models or horrible warnings is seldom clear. Usually we come to accept – particularly if we’re parents ourselves – that they did the best they could.

Mine gave me the means to become a writer. First, they introduced me to the library before I was even school age. Borrowing books, reading them, being read to were a natural part of our family life. As I began to create my own stories, again very early, I was never told it was “bad” or “a waste of time” to make things up. My father was dead set against lying, yet he was untroubled as long as it was clear I knew the difference between lies and stories.

This aspect resonated with the audience at Young Library. Many people came up to me between talks and said they would pass this information on to their children or grandchildren. Most who had a creative child in the family, had seen that child told to do something more “useful” or to go outside and play. Good advice in its way, unless you have the writing gene.

My father taught me to think before speaking, a habit still with me decades on. And by extension, that thinking itself was a skill worth mastering. How many of us get impatient with ourselves for daydreaming? Yet daydreaming is a vital precursor to writing, and while working on a story or novel.

I encourage new writers not to go with the first idea jumping into their heads, but to explore more story possibilities, and then still more, until they arrive at something excitingly original. You can’t do that without spending time staring out a window.

Member of the Order of Australia medal

Member of the Order of Australia medal

If you’ve visited my website, you know that in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List, I was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM). While overwhelmed by that recognition, I was delighted that the citation referenced my work as a mentor to emerging writers.

Mostly done through the Valerie Parv Award, run by Romance Writers of Australia, mentoring is about the most satisfying work I do. I’ve just finished reading the finalists for 2015, to choose my new “minion” – what previous entrants dubbed themselves long before the movies. I mentor the minion while they hold the award. The VPA has existed in its present format since the year 2000. http://valerieparv.com/award.html

It’s a joy to see each minion blossom throughout their year. One former minion, best-selling author, Kelly Hunter, said she was pleased I hadn’t tried to change her voice. My job, surely, is to help them make the most of their voices and considerable talent.

Writers are also role models through story. What kind of morals and ethics do you share via your characters and plots? I aim to make the good guys noble. This doesn’t mean perfect, but at least striving to be better than they are.

My villains do bad things, but I give them reasons (motivation) for their evil, so they’re understandable, rather than simply evil for my convenience.

As a writer, what kind of role model are you? Do you describe yourself as hard working, or “lucky.” Luck may come in when submitting work to a publisher or agent, in that you may have just what they’re looking for at that time.

Inborn talent also needs luck, to win the genetic lottery. But do scientists or mathematicians call themselves lucky when their talent leads them to some great discovery? Not in my experience.

Likewise, luck seldom comes into play in writing. You may be born with the talent but without commitment, application and hard work, the talent stays hidden, like unmined gold.

What kind of role model are you and the characters in your stories? Share your thoughts in the comment box below. It’s moderated to avoid spam, but you can have your post appear right away by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Check out Valerie’s online course, Free the Writer In You
At http://www.valerieparv.com/course.html

First Monday Mentoring for March – 5 ways William Shatner inspires my writing life

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. Today’s question has to do with who I regard as my mentors? There are quite a few, writers, philosophers, motivational psychologists. But today I want to talk about one role model in particular, and the reasons why he is such an inspiration, probably not the ones you expect.

It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that I’ve been a Star Trek fan as long as the shows have been around. My collection of original series books numbers in the hundreds. Dozens more sit on my Kindle. Once upon a time, when I helped to organize Star Trek conventions in Australia, I had enough Star Trek memorabilia to stock a store. Some of my earliest fiction, now living among their collection of my literary papers at the State Library of NSW, was set in the Star Trek universe, and I number its creator, Gene Roddenberry, among my writing mentors.

But my greatest inspiration comes from actor and director, William Shatner. Not only because of his iconic portrayal of Captain James Kirk, but because Shatner himself is such a powerhouse of energy and enthusiasm that it’s dizzying trying to keep up with everything he’s doing.

From his memorable portrayals of Kirk to Boston Legal’s Denny Crane, his career spans Emmy-award winning roles, directing, writing many books, winning international horse riding events, charity fund-raising on a grand scale, even crowd-funding his own watch design late last year. Did I mention he’s doing all this and more at age eighty-two?

Still that same killer smile.

Still that same killer smile.

Here are 5 ways he inspires my writing life:

1. PASSION
Everything William Shatner does is fueled by this powerhouse ingredient. It’s obvious that he lives every day with passion for whatever he undertakes. Whether it be breeding Dobermans, riding American Saddlebred horses, writing or directing movies, he puts his whole being into the task, and the passion shines through.

2. ENERGY
When he was in his early seventies, he starred in the Star Trek movie, Generations, working horrendously long days in arduous desert conditions, filming the death of his best-known character, a huge milestone for any actor. In an interview, he was asked how he kept going. He said he simply told himself he wasn’t tired. I took that to heart and whenever I feel pushed to the limit, I tell myself I’m not tired, and the energy flows back.

3. SENSE OF WONDER
Shatner is never afraid to try new things, to experiment, to grow. Far too many people stop growing and learning in their teens. He has explored every kind of acting, written a wide variety of books, spoken to huge convention audiences in countries around the world, been a spokesperson for NASA, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And still he’s developing new ideas and new projects.

As the saying goes, growing old is unavoidable, but growing up is optional.

4. LOVE OF LIFE
Shatner has had dark times, recorded in his various memoirs, beyond anything most of us have to deal with. But he has always picked himself up and gone back to living life to the full, setting a shining example for the rest of us.

5. RESILIENCE
For a writer, this ingredient is key. As with acting, writing involves putting yourself and your work out there, dealing with rejection and finding the will to keep on going. William Shatner has endured pretty well every tragedy that life can throw at a person, while still wringing the most out of every day.
These qualities are not exclusive to a Hollywood legend. They are available to each of us, every day of our lives. How many of these qualities do you make sure you have? If you’d like your comment to appear right away, please click on “sign me up” at right, to subscribe. I don’t share your email with anyone else.

Valerie

About the author
Valerie Parv is one of Australia’s most successful writers with more than 29 million books sold in 26 languages. She is the only Australian author honored with a Pioneer of Romance Award from RT Book Reviews, New York. With a lifelong interest in space exploration, she counts meeting Neil Armstrong as a personal high point. She loves connecting with readers via her website valerieparv.com @ValerieParv on Twitter and on Facebook. She is represented by The Tate Gallery Pty Ltd tategal@bigpond.net.au

First Monday Mentoring for October – are you writing or wasting time?

Hi and welcome to First Monday Mentoring for October. If you have questions about writing and publishing, I answer them here. Post your thoughts, argue with mine, share your experiences. This is the day for it, heck, sometimes we take the whole week.
I regret I have to moderate comments to deter spam and rudeness. 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.
Here’s a question on the minds of many of us: should we be writing more, or does staring out of windows count as work?

Firstly, it helps to accept that stories come in their own time.
I can be leafing through magazines or playing online, sometimes for days, while the work sits there driving me crazy. Why can’t I get on with it?

Simply put, I can’t get on with it any more than you can will a baby into existence much before nine months. Your brainchild – the child of your brain – needs its own gestation period to grow.
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As well, new story ideas are often a spark rather than a plot. What if a man discovers the single mother he’s hired as his PA is still a virgin? This is a spark, needing more layers if it’s to work as a book. For instance, what if the baby isn’t the heroine’s and she is out to get revenge for the hero’s mistreatment of the real mother, the heroine’s sister? Now we’re getting somewhere. FYI this idea became Baby Wishes and Bachelor Kisses, part of Big W’s newly launched ebook range at http://ebooks.bigw.com.au/search?q=valerie+parv&x=0&y=0

How do you know whether you’re in this gestation period or wasting time? Try looking at the writing you’ve done over the last months or years. If you’ve finished a manuscript or two, some plot ideas and contest entries or submissions to editors, you have a body of work and the daydreaming time is a normal part of your process.

Every writer works at a different pace. Nora Roberts has writer’s block. She just has it in shorter bursts than most of us. It’s also true that a story may resist you because you’ve gone off track. Do you need to start further in, choose another viewpoint character to tell the story, or add a twist to surprise the reader?

Repeat after me: writers are working when we’re staring out of windows. Or when we do boring tasks like mowing lawns or doing dishes. Taking the pressure off yourself can be the best way to get a story going. How do you keep your writing moving? Share your experiences by leaving a comment here.

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 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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valerie

@valerieparv on Twitter

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