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First Monday Mentoring for December – the gifts your writing gives to readers

Welcome to the first Monday in December when I talk about the nitty-gritty of being a writer. A week ago I was reminded of perhaps the best part of the writing life, one we seldom think about – the effect our writing has on other people.

I was reminded of this a week ago while I was in Los Angeles attending a live event hosted by Reading Rainbow, an organisation dedicated to instilling the love of reading and learning in children everywhere. A few months ago, LeVar Burton, original Reading Rainbow TV presenter and Star Trek The Next Generation’s Geordie LaForge, relaunched Reading Rainbow for the 21st century at https://www.readingrainbow.com/

At the event, LeVar and two Star Trek legends, William Shatner and Sir Patrick Stewart, read some childrens’ books to a delighted audience – we adults as enthralled as the children. Then LeVar talked about the power of “what if…” the cornerstone of many a writer’s new idea., and played the Reading Rainbow theme song reminding us that readers can “go anywhere” and “be anything” in their imagination.

After the readings, I got to sit down and chat with Bill Shatner, who readers of this blog know by now is one of my greatest inspirations, as well as LeVar and Sir Patrick. Exciting indeed and a story for another day.

L to R: William Shatner, Levar Burton and Sir Patrick Stewart read at the Reading Rainbow event I attended

L to R: William Shatner, Levar Burton and Sir Patrick Stewart read at the Reading Rainbow event I attended

Writers generally focus on the work of writing, the struggles, fears and disappointments when the story fails to live up to our hopes.

But what about when we succeed?

As Reading Rainbow reminded us, that’s when magic happens.

Whether you write in longhand, on a tablet, on a program such as Scrivener, or on cave walls, the process is the same. You start with a “what if…” and trust that your idea will capture your readers’ imagination the way it did yours.
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In the struggle to birth a story, it’s easy to forget that you’re taking readers on a journey with you, giving them the gift of your creativity and insight. Whether your readers number in the dozens or millions matters not a bit. When you make a story, wrap it in your words, and present it to readers, you’ve shared a piece of your soul.
In troubled times, stories can give hope – not by saying that all men are brothers, but by showing the brother and sisterhood between our characters. Others campaign for an end to domestic violence; we show how that goal might come about. When the future seems bleak, we show a positive future, as Star Trek itself has done since its first airing nearly 50 years ago.

These are gifts writers have been giving to the world since the cave days. Whether you celebrate Channukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or any other festive season, you are giving the world your gift of possibilities through your stories.

How you publish is also less important than, what and why you write. It may be a beloved hobby or your life’s work, as writing has been mine for decades. What matters is the sharing of your ideas with your family and the wider world.

The ability to create stories is a rare blessing. I believe it’s the reason why we keep writing despite the pain of rejection and the frustration of chasing a near-impossible dream. As the song says, we are aiming for a star that seems unreachable much of the time. But when we do reach it, the sense of achievement is incomparable.
You’ve spoken your thoughts through your writing, and been heard and understood by at least one reader. There’s nothing quite like it.

This season, I wish that feeling for all writers. Write because you love it; because you must; and because it’s the most fun you can have and still call it work.

If it’s in you to write – write. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you. Your vocation is to be a bringer of light to the world. Do it with joy and pride, and the curiosity of a child. Write even when it hurts.
The more you write, the more you’ll discover you can write. Only by sharing your words are you truly honouring your gift.

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.

To all writers everywhere, thank you for giving me the gift of your stories and letting me share the fruits of your imagination. They make you more special than you will ever know.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

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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

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 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

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