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Posts tagged ‘Nora Roberts’

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

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

Three things writers tell ourselves. Only one is true.

We writers are very good at spinning yarns – that’s why we’re writers. But we are also very good at telling ourselves stories. Lies if you like. The trouble is when we start believing them. Here are three I’ve heard, and told myself, countless times. Can you spot the one truth?

1. I don’t need to write my idea down. I’ll remember it in the morning.

This is a big one, and no, you won’t remember in the morning. All you will remember is that you had a brilliant idea. If you’re lucky, you may remember enough fragments to sort of recapture the idea. But you will always know there was more. If only you’d made the effort to scribble down a few notes, dictated your thoughts into a recording device, or left yourself a voice message as a reminder, you’d be on your way. The moments directly before and after sleep are known to produce brainwaves associated with creativity. Unfortunately, they are also least connected to short-term memory, which is why this problem occurs. Capture the lightning. Make notes. Your brain isn’t hard-wired to remember your brilliant ideas in these brief but fertile moments.

2. I won’t write today. I can catch up tomorrow.

You know this for a lie the moment you read it. We all do. Whether your target daily word count is five hundred words or five thousand (yes, these freaks of nature do exist), you’re wise to try to write them, even if you think they suck pondwater.  Kate Grenville told me she has a sign over her desk saying, “It can all be fixed tomorrow.” Another amazing writer, Nora Roberts,  said at an Australian writing conference, “You can fix a bad page, you can’t fix a blank page.” Skipping a day because of an emergency is one thing. Skipping because you don’t feel like writing is dangerous. One day can easily become many, until you have to question how much you really want to write.

3. I’ll think of a better ending later

Strangely, this isn’t a lie. Sometimes the only way to solve a writing challenge is to write your way through it. When writing my screenplay recently, I knew what I wanted to have happen at the climactic scene. What I didn’t know was how the scene would go. I wrote a treatment (synopsis) for the producer and told him that the scene would change. When I got there, it took me several long nights of brainstorming on paper to resolve the problem. What if? Why would she…? Could she do that? What if he…? until I had the breakthrough I needed. The result was a nifty twist I couldn’t have foreseen at the start, because I hadn’t lived in my characters’ world for long enough.

“If you build it, they will come” is often true of writing. Capture your ideas. Commit to showing up most days and meeting your chosen word count. Your reward will be a world that comes to life for you and your readers.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @valerieparv and Facebook

now writing for Living Magazine http://www.livingmagazine.com.au

First Monday Mentoring, ask your burning question here

Half-way through the year already, where did the time go? The first Monday of every month (or the first Sunday if you’re in the northern hemisphere) is 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 welcome to contribute your thoughts on an answer, or share a writing experience that might help others.

 Questions can be posted ahead of time if you like and I will answer during Monday July 2.  I monitor the blog and post answers throughout the day. To kick things off, here’s a question I was asked at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writing Centre during the last week:

Which is better, staying in one characters point of view or having a variety? I was told not to “head hop”

The viewpoint character is the person through which the reader “enters” the story. Like putting on a garment, we “put on” the character’s view of the story (POV) and see everything as it happens through that person’s eyes. If there’s more than one viewpoint character, we get to see the story as it’s experienced by two or more people.

In romance novels we used to see the story only through the heroine’s eyes. She would guess or imagine why the hero did things, or what he was thinking. These days, readers want to see both sides of the romance. so it’s common to switch between the heroine’s POV and the hero’s. To avoid confusing your reader, it’s a good idea to switch viewpoints only when we have something new to learn from the other character. She might think he’s not attracted to her, for example. In his POV, we find out that there’s danger and he’s pretending not to care to get her out of the way.

There are no rules, only what works in your story.

It all depends on your point of view!

If a critique partner or editor says you’re “head hopping”, this means you’re not staying in one character’s viewpoint for very long before switching to another, and this can get confusing. Some writers – Nora Roberts is a good example – switch so effortlessly we don’t notice it happening. A lot depends on your skill as a writer.  You need to be aware of whose POV you’re writing in and when you make a switch, so the reader isn’t lost.  Also beware of accidentally slipping into the head of a minor character by having them “think” about the hero or heroine as they take their coats, for instance. Rather, have the POV character assume that the minor character doesn’t like them by their snooty expression, so we stay in the right head.

Got a question? Advanced or basic,

I’ll do my best to answer.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

Proud friend of the National Year of Reading 2012

Established Writer in Residence 2012, Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre, Perth WA

On Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

11 amazing things to LOVE about writing… #11ElevenLive

  1.  Writers get paid to make things up. All the stuff that got you into trouble as a kid is what publishers will pay you to do now. The more convincing your made-up world, the more successful you’re likely to be.
  2. You’re never too old or too young to write. Among the world’s youngest published authors were a four-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy. Among the oldest was Helen Hoover Santmyer, whose book, And Ladies of the Club, came out when she was ninety. My first paid article appeared in the Australian Women’s Weekly when I was fourteen.
  3. Nothing you write is set in stone. Give yourself permission to write badly. Get rid of the critic over your shoulder telling you this is crap, you can’t do it etc etc. and simply write. As Nora Roberts says, “You can fix a bad page, you can’t fix a blank page.”
  4. You can get away with murder. If somebody seriously annoys you, create inventive ways to kill them in your story. Give them a different name and details, but have fun making sure the bad people in your life get theirs. Ditto the good people. They become your heroes and favourite secondary characters, although we’ll swear any resemblance is coincidental.
  5. You can steal and get away with it. Not other people’s words, of course. That’s plagiarism. Don’t do it. Write your own words, but take inspiration from the successful writers you admire. Study their writing to see how they work their word magic.

    Who says your author picture has to look like you?

  6. You can be famous without the hassle. You don’t see paparazzi camped outside a writer’s door. Even if you’re Stephen King, hardly anybody will know you on sight. I sat beside a woman reading one of my books on a plane. My photo was on the cover, but she didn’t look at me twice as I hugged my secret to myself.
  7. You’re working while staring out of a window. It’s hard convincing friends and family of this one, but it’s true. Losing yourself in daydreams and playing “what if?” with interesting concepts is your equivalent of laying foundations for a house.
  8. Every cool thing you want to do is research. I learned this after cruising from Cairns to Thursday Island. Deciding to treat the trip purely as vacation, I didn’t record expenses or keep a travel diary, just enjoyed the experience. A year later I used the details in my Harlequin novel, ISLAND OF DREAMS, which was serialised in Woman’s Day magazine.
  9. You can live and work anywhere.  I have writer friends in Sweden,  Alaska, Alice Springs, everywhere. We work in jammies, in the garden and in bed. Next October I’m working at Daku Resort in Fiji, leading a writer’s retreat. http://paradisecourses.com/category/writing/
  10. Writers need never be bored. Stuck in traffic, in a waiting room, in line at the bank? You can let your thoughts wander, solve a tricky plot point, create a character inspired by the lady in front of you, or imagine spending your next royalty cheque.
  11. Writing is the best fun you can have with your clothes on. Writing used to be a solitary business. When you’re deep in putting words on screen, it still is. But thanks to social networking, we can find each other, brainstorm ideas, commiserate over rejections, and celebrate successes. And you get to be part of fun things like #11ElevenLive  a worldwide link-up of artists, writers, film makers and musicians celebrating this once-in-two-hundred-years date.

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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