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Posts tagged ‘Scrivener’

First Monday Mentoring May 2020 – what you CAN write during the crisis…and a challenge

Last month I looked at why many writers are finding it hard to write during the Covid-19 crisis, even if you have more time at home than ever.

One meme going round the Internet says:

I was going to write my novel when I have time.

Now I realise the problem wasn’t the time.

Instead we’re fitting in an orgy of bread making, cooking, crafting, and organising our homes. The clue may be under our noses. All these activities are largely governed by our left brains, the areas of logic, reason, order, judgement and the like. The right brain deals largely with creativity, possibility, daydreams and fantasies.

Rather than physical divisions, right and left brains are now regarded more as groups of function located in different parts of the brain, called on in various combinations according to the task at hand.

It may help to imagine your left brain being in charge of facts, while the right deals with fantasy. For us to feel comfortable our left brains prefer “everything in its place”. At present, few of us are in familiar territory. Even at home we may be working remotely, overseeing children’s lessons, worrying about family and friends. Sometimes it’s hard even to remember what day it is. With much of our world in crisis, the left brain tries hard to stay in charge, making it easier to cook, sew and organise, than to access the creative zone needed for writing.

 

The problem can be unrelieved stress which impacts health in everything from disturbed sleep to major illness. Feeling uncertain and out of control much of the time compounds the problem. Getting accurate information without overwhelming yourself can help manage stress levels.

Some writers can work anywhere, taking their creative space with them in the form of favorite pens, laptops, or whatever else their left brains need. Used often enough, they can reassure the left brain that it’s safe to relax, allowing the right brain to do its thing.

If you write full time, working from home may be slightly less difficult, but having the family around all the time, and your attention pulled a dozen different ways, can still be a strain. So how do you get your left brain into its happy place and out of the way of your creative right bran? Here are five suggestions.

  • Set up your writing place. If your desk has been taken over by children studying at home, find another quiet spot to set up your writing device, favourite stationery, coffee mug and project notes.  Until the new space feels familiar, aim to tackle left-brain tasks such as outlining a story, developing characters or writing cover blurb. Set up a small whiteboard and coloured markers, file cards, a program such as Scrivener, whatever works for you.
  • Set realistic goals and word counts, even if they’re below what you can usually achieve. My mantra is, “It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be done.”
  • Try to go to your writing place at a similar time each day. Sit there staring at the screen even if nothing comes. Set a timer for how long you’ll stay put. Your right brain is soon bored. Write a few words in the general direction of your project and you may find your right brain getting the message.
  • Use rituals to encourage a creative mindset. Favorite music, scented candles, even a few games of Solitaire may help. Set a time for the rituals to end and the writing to begin. Interviewing a character can help. Ask them who they are and what they’re doing in your story. Write stream of consciousness. Keep going, asking the character questions until they start to answer back. I suggested this process to the current holder of the Valerie Parv Award. She tried it and emailed back, “OMG this is amazing. You’ve just taught me automatic writing.”
  • Be grateful for whatever progress you make, and tell yourself you look forward to your next creative session. Then reward yourself with something enjoyable; gardening, cooking, sorting through old photos or playing with pets. These let your right brain mull over what came from your previous session. If you find this happening, grab your phone or notebook and capture whatever comes. Ideas can be easily lost if not noted down.
  • Be kind to yourself and appreciate whatever you manage to achieve. Write whatever you can, wherever you can. Keeping up your writing practice will stand you in good stead when you’re able to get back to it on a more regular basis. Remember not to compare yourself to others for, as the Desiderata says, always there will be greater or lesser persons than yourself. And remember Plato’s advice – life must be lived as play.

English actor, Jacob Scipio (Bad Boys for Life) is stuck at home in London. In an interview with journalist, Duncan Lay (Sunday Telegraph, May 3, 2020), Scipio said, “ I try to write every day and I‘ve been writing more in quarantine. What’s helped me is a bit of routine, cocooning myself and trying to find some enjoyment in this time.”

Usually I suggest adding your thoughts in the space below. This time, I invite you to contribute a few words of actual writing. Using some of the suggestions here, create a title for your new story, briefly describe a character, or write a grabby opening sentence, and share the result in the comment space. Or use the challenges when you’re in your own writing space, and let us know how you did.

Let’s make some new words happen.

Happy writing,

Valerie

Valerie is a Member of the Order of Australia

Author of 90 books in 29 languages

Australia Day Ambassador

Life Member, Romance Writers of Australia

Australian Society of Authors’ medal recipient

On Twitter @ValerieParv, Facebook and www.valerieparv.com

Represented by The Tate Gallery Pty Ltd, Sydney

 

 

 

 

First Monday Mentoring March 2020 – what to write after writing the book

The End.

Most writers agree, there are no more satisfying words to type. The hard work is done. The book is complete, leaving only the champagne to pop or the chocolate to break out.

Sadly they aren’t the end of anything except getting your story down in one place, a major achievement you can and should celebrate.The book that has haunted your waking hours and sometimes your sleep, is finished. At least until an editor takes over, whether someone you’ve hired or one associated with a traditional publisher.

But this isn’t the time to think about editing. You should enjoy this moment to the full.

Then there’s your writing place to sort out. All those notes and references to be filed. Not discarded, you may need them later. Domestic chores to catch up on. People to reconnect with. Remember them? The family and friends you texted or PMd on Social, promising to catch up after you finished the book?

Give yourself some catch-up time

If possible, resist the temptation to attack your manuscript. You’re still too close to it to be objective. Better let it sit for as long as you can. There are other things to be doing while the book is fresh in your mind.

If you wrote a synopsis before starting the book, does it need updating? I find them easier to write once the book is done, but some publishers request a synopsis and sample chapters before they’ll consider reading the book.

If you’re an indie publisher a synopsis is optional, although it can be handy in preparing blog entries or other promotional materials. In The Art of Romance Writing, I list the elements needed in a synopses:

  • Who the main characters are
  • How they come together, with a hint of the setting
  • The nature of the conflict between them
  • How they resolve the conflict through their own efforts
  • Brief details of any subplots
  • How you tie up the story at the end

The length usually depends on the book. A short genre novel may run 2-3 pages, while a complicated family saga may need a dozen pages. If submitting to a trad publisher, check their submission guidelines and follow them as closely as you can.

By the way, the terms outline and synopsis are often interchangeable. I think of an outline as a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, a tool for my reference. Likewise outlines made on Scrivener or similar programs, whatever you find useful.

Generally a synopsis for submission is written in first person, present tense. She did…he went…and so on. The pages can be single or double spaced as suits you. It helps to start the synopsis with a hook, making the editor want to read on. Stick to the key elements and characters, mentioning minor characters as they relate to the main characters – Brad’s housekeeper, Zoe’s brother.

If a publisher asks for a proposal, also known as a partial, this usually means a covering letter, synopsis, and sample chapters. Always send the first three chapters in order.

Some publishers prefer a query letter before they read anything more substantial. Try to keep your letter/email to a single page, with a balance between sounding businesslike and overly friendly.

Elements you may include:

  • A very brief summary of the book. Mention the word length and that you have finished the manuscript.
  • Your writing history. If you’re published, have won contests, or belong to writing organisations, mention these. Rather than saying this is your first book, be positive in presenting yourself.
  • Any personal background that prompted you to write this book. There’s a growing interest in writers and books from varied backgrounds. If the book concerns characters with whom you share a background or ethnicity, definitely say so. If you’re writing outside your own history, mention why you feel qualified to write this book, any sensitivity reads you’ve had done, and anything else giving the book a strong basis to connect with readers.

Even if the book is to be self-published, having these details ready helps you prepare cover blurb, interviews, bios and blog posts.

Another useful element is the so-called elevator pitch. Imagine you meet an agent or editor at a writing conference. They ask your name and what you’re working on. You answer with a tightly honed one or two sentence-description of your book. Some authors say this is tougher to write than the book itself.

For example, I might say, “I’m Valerie Parv. I’m currently working on a memoir to share my life and writing secrets with emerging writers.”

For a novel you might give the story highlights, especially the page-turning intrigue or conflict. For my book Crowns and a Cradle, I might say, “A single mum battles Crown Prince Josquin who believes Sarah’s infant son is the heir to the Valmont throne, and will stop at nothing including romancing her, to get what he wants.” I may polish the pitch, but these are the elements I’m likely to include.

For the cover it’s helpful to write a logline, an even briefer pitch using my “Three Cs.” These are Character, Conflict and Content. For Crowns and a Cradle, the character is single mum, Sarah, her conflict is with the Crown Prince, and the content, sometimes called the stakes, her baby’s future. For example: a single mum must defy a dashing prince who claims her baby son is his rightful heir.

These skills are good to practice no matter where you are in your writing journey. How do you handle the synopsis, elevator pitch and logline? Share your thoughts here. They’re monitored to avoid spam but you can have your post appear immediately by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing,

Valerie

On Facebook and Twitter @valerieparv

Website www.valerieparv.com

 

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