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Posts tagged ‘Romance Writers of America’

First Monday Mentoring – don’t forget to enjoy writing

It’s the first Monday of the month (or the first Sunday if you’re in the northern hemisphere). You’re invited to ask writing-related questions here for me to answer. Your thoughts and writing experiences may also help others.

Questions posted ahead of time will be answered during Monday November 5.

Sometimes the questions go past Monday into the week, and that’s okay too.

To kick things off, here’s a question I was  asked at the RWA conference in August: writers have so much to do with all the blogging, tweeting and other social networking,  getting work ready to pitch to editors and agents at conference, designing and promoting your books if you’re indie published (and even if you’re with an established publisher)…it never seems to stop. When do we get to enjoy the writing process itself?

This is a good question, and one we need to address if we’re not to burn out

First, accept that you can’t do everything. If you hate doing live blog tours, don’t commit to days or weeks of them. Can the blog owner send you some questions you can answer in your own time? If you love Twitter and hate Facebook, focus on building your Twitter following. You’ll need a Facebook presence, but you don’t have to be online every minute or even every day. Aim for most days.

Put a value on your time

This was one of the earliest lessons I learned as a freelance writer. Work out roughly what your time is worth per hour, easy enough if you have or had a day job. If you can hire someone to handle your website while you write, that may be a fair trade. Business people don’t think of doing all their own grunt work – why should writers? Farm out gardening, laundry, anything you can afford, freeing up more time to write. This also helps you to see yourself as professional, and less likely to fritter away precious writing time.

Most of all, remember why you want to write

The one thing every publisher, editor and agent asked for at conference was “a good story”. They want to read the adventures, romances and fantasies bubbling away inside you. A perfect lawn won’t make those stories happen. Only you can do that, and it must be important to you or you wouldn’t have chosen to write. Tell the stories only you can write, and let yourself enjoy the experience. As little as an hour a day can make your dreams happen. Everything else other than precious family time can wait or be delegated.

Agree? Have questions or other thoughts? First Monday Mentoring is the place to share what’s on your mind.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

 

 

Still chipping away at the writer’s block

One of the most-read posts on this blog was when I wrote about the difficulty I was having putting words together. Not getting ideas, I have plenty of those, but lacking motivation when I sat down to write.  At one point I was boring myself, and that’s never good. The many comments and suggestions told me the one thing writers most need to hear – that we’re not alone.  Other jobs can be equally lonely – train drivers for instance, except that they don’t have to first invent the train.

The publishing industry has never been more turbulent. As well as what to write, we’re faced with where to submit the work – to a traditional publisher,  a digital imprint, or even to publish it ourselves. Self publishing used to be considered “vanity” and not to be compared with “real” publishing. These days, writers are zooming up the bestseller lists with work they’ve published themselves. The process even has a new name – indie publishing.

One of my friends, Tori Scott, had plenty of encouragement from editors. She was nominated for a prestige Golden Heart unpublished manuscript award by Romance Writers of America. She kept hearing how terrific her writing was, and how she should keep submitting. All while doing soul-destroying day jobs that kept her away from the work she most wanted to do – writing books.

Deciding to self publish was the smartest thing Tori could have done. She knew she could write – editors and contest judges kept telling her so. Still, the learning curve was steep. She had to teach herself to edit, format and upload her books to the various ebook websites. Find the best ways to market her work. And keep on writing new books.  Read part of her inspiring journey here http://toriscott.blogspot.com.au/search?updated-max=2011-10-06T20:57:00-07:00 And she’s been able to give up her day job.

Reading stories like these and all your thoughts on dealing with writers’ block kept me inspired too. The idea that resonated most was to try something new. I’m pleased to report that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m currently working on a movie script with a romantic theme, to be produced in Australia. I’ve written documentaries and a feature film before, but it’s exciting and energising to be scripting a story  of my own, knowing I’ll be able to see my words come to life on screen. My dining table is disappearing under notes, scene cards and sticky notes and it feels good.

Thanks to all of you who posted encouragement and personal experiences. How’s it going for you? What sharp turn do you see your writing taking now or in future? Have you dived in or are you standing on the edge of the pool, as I was doing for a while?  Writer’s Block is an occupational hazard and will no doubt loom again at some time. For now I’m writing and loving it. Hope you are, too. I welcome your comments.

Valerie

Proud Friend of the National Year of Reading 2012

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

http://www.valerieparv.com

On Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

 

 

 

The writing blog that almost made me cry

I’ve blogged recently about the Valerie Parv Award as it’s dear to my heart, not least because Romance Writers of Australia saw fit to carry it on in my name. I thought that sort of thing only happened when you’re no longer around. Or am I  mixing this up with street names? Thankfully, I didn’t have to drop off my twig for this honour, and after more than a decade of mentoring the winners, the award is an important part of my writing life. Personal life, too, as the winners – affectionately known as minions – are now friends as well.  The Minions’ Breakfast is a fun part of the RW Aust conference each year, when we catch up and welcome the newest winner. You can spot us by our tiaras.

This year’s VPA opened on April 23, restricted to a maximum of 80 entries for the first time. By the I posted this, all 80 openings were taken in under 24 hours. Today’s blog by Anna Cowan about her experiences as a minion moved me almost to tears.  http://annacowan.com/2012/04/23/the-valerie-parv-award-a-minions-tale/

The (in)famous Minions' Breakfast with tiaras

Knowing that you’ve been part of someone’s creative journey is rewarding and humbling.  Many winners are successfully published. Among them are Kelly Hunter, Mel Scott, Bronwyn Clarke writing as Bronwyn Parry, Rachel Robinson writing as Rachel Bailey, Erica Hayes, Kylie Griffin winning a prestige award from Romance Writers of America and seeing her first and second books published this year. This month,  Barbara Jeffcott Geris writing as Barbara de Leo was contracted to Entangled. Others are breathtakingly close. Yes, I’m looking at you, Anna and Michelle de Rooy.

The VPA started life as a contest run by the one-time Australian chapter of Romance Writers of America. In 1999 the award was renamed and placed on Romance Writers of Australia’s calendar in 2005. This year, RWA set a limit on the number of entries because the judging was getting out of hand. My work begins when I receive the final entries, and I guess statistically, your chances of reaching the finals this year are higher than ever.

It’s a rare year when one final entry doesn’t leap out at me much as a singer on The Voice grabs the attention of one or more of the judges within a few bars. Star quality is instantly apparent, and while I give every other entry a fair reading, that quality is usually unbeatable. In the acknowledgement to her first novel, Shadowfae, Erica Hayes even quoted me “wanting so hard for [her book] not to win.” She’s right, I didn’t want to spend a year living in her demonic worlds, but the quality of her writing couldn’t be ignored.

Have you entered or won an award that impacted on your writing? I’d love you to share your experiences by commenting here.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

Proud Friend of the National Year of Reading 2012

Established Writer in Residence at Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre, Perth July 2012

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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