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First Monday mentoring for April – 4 ways good writers avoid fooling themselves

Yesterday I discovered I’d been driving an unregistered car for who knows how long. I hadn’t overlooked the paperwork. My car was registered until the middle of this year. Unfortunately, the car registry computer had been told otherwise. A missed key stroke or other error had fooled it into thinking my license plates had been handed back to an office in Sydney, five hours’ drive away.

The only solution was for me to take my car to the nearest registry and have them physically verify that the plates were still on my car. They did, and all was well, but to sort the problem out, I had to risk driving unregistered.

I don’t usually catastrophise but even my positive outlook was shaken by all the things that could have gone wrong.

The first was that I could have delayed opening the letter, worried it contained a traffic fine I’d been unaware of incurring. Or I could have been so confident my registration was OK I’d left the letter for later.

Luckily, I didn’t fool myself into leaving the letter untouched. I took immediate action and all was well.
I realized that the habit of not fooling myself works with writing as well. I’d dodged the first two of the ways many writers fool themselves. Check to see if you recognize any of them.

1. I can write it tomorrow.

None of us is guaranteed another breath, far less another day. This isn’t gloom and doom; it’s simply a reality check. Even if you do live to tomorrow, and I pray you will, tomorrow brings its own issues. You could spend half a day fixing a problem you hadn’t expected, like me with my car. There went the precious hours I’d planned to spend writing. Luckily I’d kept my bargain with myself and written the day before, and the one before that. Losing a couple of hours wasn’t a disaster, but what if today had been the only day I’d set aside to enter a competition or meet a deadline?
Good writers don’t put off writing. They write today and every other working day, even if it’s only a couple of sentences.

You may fool others, but never yourself

You may fool others, but never yourself

2. Someone else has already written my story.

They may have written about the same events, but they haven’t written “your” story. A very dear friend talked a lot about a story she wanted to write about what she called the battle of Sydney, when Japanese mini submarines invaded Sydney Harbour. Working for ABC Radio, she’d had a box seat to see the events of that night unfold. Her perspective was unique; her writing style very much her own. Yet she passed away with the book unwritten for a whole stack of reasons, I suspect mostly 1. and 2. here.
Good writers tell their own stories in their own way.

3. I don’t have time to write.

If we let excuses make the running, the joke is definitely on us. Nobody ever has all the time they need to write. In my book, The Idea Factory, I supply a long list of reasons not to write, from the weather to kids being home on holidays, to broken technology (there’s still paper and pen) to other demands on our time. There will always be reasons not to write. Writing is work. I tell others that I’m working rather than writing, because we’re hard wired to respect work. Writing is often seen as a hobby, something to be picked up or put down on a whim. Wrong, so wrong.
If you have a love affair with words, and stories you long to tell, you make time to write them. Good writers don’t fool themselves with excuses.

4. I’m not good enough to write this.

This is the saddest April fool’s joke of them all. Someone in your life – perhaps even you – made you think that you don’t have what it takes to be a writer. The real joke is that nobody knows what makes a writer.

You may be the worst writer in the whole world, although I doubt that, but how will you know what you can achieve until you try? No writer thinks they’re good enough, even those most of us regard as the greats. In my career, I’ve found the opposite to be true – the writers most strongly plagued by self doubt are usually those whose words make the sweetest reading. The story in your head is shining, perfect gold, but turns into base metal as soon as you start to write. Accept this as the way things are. Be glad of your fears because all the best writers have them.
Write your story in spite of your fears. Do the best you can at the time.

Now, over to you.

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Do you resist these April fool’s jokes? Can you think of other ways writers might fool themselves? Share your thoughts in the comments 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
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Order 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

How a writer’s agent is your good/evil twin

Today I read a blog about why authors need agents by Australian writer, Alison Booth. She describes what her agent has done for her, and how “lucky” she was that she was taken on.

I agree with all her points except, possibly, the luck part. Yes, you do need to be in the right place at the right time, even to submit the right book. But the search, the craft, the years of preparation that made Alison ready for an agent owes far more to talent and hard work than to luck. Read Alison’s blog http://writingnovelsinaustralia.com/2013/04/16/why-have-a-literary-agent-by-alison-booth/

I’ve worked with my agent, Linda Tate of The Tate Gallery in Sydney, for 20 years. I’ll write more about that closer to our anniversary in October. Now, I’d like to echo Alison’s blog and share some of what Linda and I do together. Note, I’m not saying “does for me” because the agent-author relationship is a team effort. The agent can only market what the writer writes. They can also only promote a writer who knows where they want their career to go.

Otherwise it’s like jumping into a taxi and asking the driver to take you somewhere, without telling them where. You end up paying for a ride that delivers you to the wrong destination.

The most crucial role Linda plays for me is as my good/evil twin.

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As twins go, we’re the Danny De Vito/Arnold Schwartzenegger variety, not in the least alike, and this is good. Linda’s way feistier than me, going where I fear to tread. She’ll telephone anyone anywhere in the service of my work. Her entertainment industry background means she sees no point in waiting endlessly to hear from a publisher. She calls them.

As my evil twin, she ensures I get paid. This is a topic for another blog, but my hobby horse is that ALL writers should be paid for professional activities, whether speaking at conferences, libraries or workshops, or selling their work. I might be reluctant to ask for a fee increase or to chase up money I’m owed, but Linda never is.

As my good twin, she analyses contracts and royalty statements. I read them, too, since I’m the one signing on the dotted line or the echo-sign these days, but she looks at contracts differently. Hands up any author who does NOT go first to the bottom line to see how much they’ve made? Linda looks at what markets a book has gone into, which are still to be exploited, and any patterns arising out of the paperwork, discussing them with me in depth. New contracts bring out her good and evil side. Good twin wants the book sold, evil goes after the best deal.

Good twin vets all promotional material. Does this biography or photo support my “brand”. How am I being presented online? In the media? At conferences? The regular status reports she prepares include updated bios in varying lengths for us to tweak. I still remember when we switched my linear (she was born…she started writing…) bio. for a shorter, web-styled look. Today we consider how my photos and book covers look as thumbnails on mobile devices. An agent can and should keep you current.

Evil twin keeps me writing. You’d think this would be good twin’s job, but she’s too nice. Sometimes a writer needs a spur to creativity, keeping you going when it’s easier to give up. Good twin is the one reading the work when it’s done, patting me on the back while evil twin keeps track of timelines and body counts. Even romance writers kill people off sometimes.

Good twin or evil twin, I wouldn’t be without either of her. What about you? How do you see the author-agent relationship?

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @ValerieParv

and Facebook

Read some reviews of Valerie’s latest book, Birthright at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

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