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First Monday Mentoring for July – why do we tell stories? Why do they work?

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring when this blog looks at the realities of the writing craft – the fear of the blank screen that never goes away, the sensation of being an observer in life and wondering if you’re missing the sensitivity gene. Truth is, you’re not insensitive – you’re a writer. Observing life at its most extreme: births, weddings, funerals, is what writers do. Then we translate the experience onto the screen or page and make sense of it for the non writers.

Into the Woods
Recently I read a fascinating book called Into the Woods: how stories work and why we tell them. The author, John Yorke, created the BBC Writers’ Academy and brought a vast array of dramas to British screens.
His book explores the unifying shape of narrative forms, from the archetypal fairy tale journeys “into the woods” to today’s blockbuster movies. Yorke says that stories are all rooted in the same ancient structures.
While he explores these structures in detail and shows them at work in everything from Star Wars to “kitchen sink” dramas, he doesn’t recommend that writers follow structure as a blueprint, but rather as a template to check your writing against after your first drafts are done.

Stories are not paint-by-numbers exercises.

You can follow every writing guru slavishly step by step and still not make a story that speaks to your readers. Writing is similar to baking a cake. We all use the same mix of flour, eggs, butter and flavouring – in our case, plot, characters and setting – but the results depend on how well you do the baking.
Yorke references a lot of writers I’m fond of, from Dr. Who’s Russell T Davies to William Goldman’s iconic Adventures in the Screen Trade, books I have on my shelves and refer to often. I’ve lost count of the number of copies of the Goldman book I’ve given away.
Interestingly, many of these books were written for screenwriters, before novelists discovered them. Many, like Linda Seger have adapted their books for narrative writers, but the originals – for me anyway – are hard to beat.
As Yorke contends, it’s all about structure and in this, readers raised on YouTube and Netflix increasingly expect novels to echo screenwriting principles. Get into a scene as late as possible, and out as early as possible. Keep the story moving regardless of genre. Let the readers do a lot of the work, don’t force feed them. Let them reach their own conclusions. Let them think.

If, like me, you enjoy revisiting classic TV from the 1960s to the 80s, you’ll notice marked differences between then and now. Today there’s far more showing than telling with fewer round-up scenes at the end where characters tell each other what happened and why, as if the reader hasn’t worked it out long before. Like dialogue, character actions are more natural, instead of moving around the page/set like chess pieces.

In the romance genre at least, storytelling was more fun before you could track people by their phones, or build suspense with a “secret baby” – a child the hero didn’t know he’d fathered. These days DNA testing leaves little doubt. Although a full test takes a bit longer than most TV shows and some books would have us believe.
But while limiting some story options, technology can open up new possibilities. In my Beacons sci-fi series, I used modern technology to hijack the space shuttle, and a private jet to launch it, supported by input from the jet’s brilliant designers. Google “Mandelbugs” for another topic I play with in the series.

Recently on ABC Statewide I had a fun discussion about the role of technology in modern relationships – using emojis in place of body language, for example.

Curiously, however far writers go out into space or how deeply into human psychology, as John Yorke points out, the basic story structure remains largely unchanged. The why of storytelling also remains fixed – to explain the world to us, and us to ourselves.

Why do you enjoy telling stories? Have you ever considered structure as a factor and how do you use it? Please share your experiences here. The blog is moderated to avoid spam but your comments can appear right away if you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone. Happy writing!

Valerie
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Valerie’s latest book, Outback Code, is out now
3 books complete in one volume
For international orders, print & ebook formats,
Booktopia http://tinyurl.com/hj3477e
From Amazon for Kindle http://tinyurl.com/hxmmqsk

First Monday Mentoring February – What’s the point of writing anything?

Lately I’m hearing this question a lot from writers, both aspiring and multi-published. They say creating a work of entertainment seems pointless in light of the political upheavals all around us, and shared in confronting detail on social media.

They’re questioning the wisdom of billionaire businessmen as romantic heroes when the paradigm is undermined by world leaders and politicians in the real world.

We have been here before. Waking up to the horrors of 9/11 in Canberra Australia, I first thought it was promotion for a movie. Would that it had been. Instead we all had to deal with the awareness that our world would never be the same again.

As terrorism became an escalating threat, I remember discussing with colleagues whether sheikhs could ever be heroes again, right when I had a romance novel called Desert Justice on the drawing board. Sheikhs have long been a romance staple, along with twins, secret babies and characters with amnesia. Readers enjoy these stories, especially when writers put our own twist on the trope.

I concluded that my sheikhs had nothing to do with reality and never had. They were fantasies I shared with readers all over the world. Mine were mostly reformers anyway, to fit my feminist inclinations. So Desert Justice went ahead.

Then there was the Y2K bug, (for Year 2000 bug) when we feared a worldwide computer meltdown because programmers had routinely shortened dates to two digits – 99 instead of 1999 – potentially causing every system in the world to go haywire or crash when the program spun over to 00. Time Magazine’s slightly tongue-in-cheek cover blared, “The end of the world? Y2K insanity. Apocalypse now! Will computers melt down? A guide to Millennium Madness”

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Tongue in cheek or not, Time’s publishers set up a bunker in their basement, equipped to produce the magazine in the event of catastrophic breakdowns. None of which, as we know now, were needed. The Y2K disaster never happened.

But most such fears have some basis in reality.

Nor do I mean to make light of our fears right now. In Writing in Difficult Times Kristine Kathryn Rusch blogs about her feelings after 9/11 at http://tinyurl.com/hwq5ke5 and says, “Writing didn’t matter when faced with the loss of life and the outpouring of grief. It didn’t matter in the face of the kinds of horrors human beings can impose on each other.

And the irony was, for me, I had been writing a book that I believed did matter, that it was about things people needed to know and see and understand. I felt passionate about the book, until the world changed.

“…And that was when I had my epiphany. I realized that escape is rest. It’s important. It gets us away from the horrors, the terrible things, the stresses and upsetting moments of everyday life.”644244_605309199480761_1647106081_n

I understand her feelings. Writing has never been easy even when you have a reliable publishing path and keen readers. When you have neither, the journey seems endless. But pointless? Never. I’ve been at book signings where my readers say they’ve stockpiled my books to help them through upcoming surgery. Or that something I’ve written has directly changed their thinking in some way, or given them comfort in a time of struggle. How can this not be valuable? In her blog, Kathryn sets out some sensible, doable steps to help deal with whatever crisis you’re facing. If it’s getting out there and applying your skills to help out, do that. If it’s donating money, or raising awareness, do that. It’s OK to give yourself permission not to write while you handle the crisis.

Then, when you’re able, get back to the keyboard and write your truths in your own way, as novels, movie scripts, articles or blogs. When you write from your own inner truth, your words will affect readers in ways you can’t even imagine. That’s a valuable contribution, too.

By making sense of your own world, you help your readers do the same. As long as you keep writing.

How are you dealing with the world today? Has it affected your writing? Comments are moderated to avoid spam but  appear right away for subscribers, or after you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Valerie

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Valerie’s latest book, Outback Code, is OUT NOW,

3 books complete in one volume for summer reading

For international orders, print & ebook formats,

Booktopia http://tinyurl.com/hj3477e

From Amazon for Kindle http://tinyurl.com/hxmmqsk

First Monday Mentoring November 2016 – five ways to start writing when you’d rather watch paint dry

Hi and welcome to First Monday Mentoring when we discuss aspects of writing not normally talked about.

For instance, the art of watching paint dry. I’m doing it a lot lately, not literally, but in the sense of not wanting to sit down at my desk and write actual words. After being published for four decades, and ninety books, this is a strange experience.

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I’ve found all manner of things to fill the time, from reading to giving my home a spring makeover. Watching too many real estate and renovating programs may make one thing springboard off another. I also wonder, is this how people fill their time when they don’t have stories and characters chattering away in their heads?

After a while you start to wonder if the muse has deserted you for good. Not that I’m a big fan of the muse, believing that professional writers write, inspired or not. Over many years, when I’ve been unable to conjure up the exact words I want, I’ve given myself permission to write any old how, telling myself it will be edited later.

This process has never failed me – until now. But as with everything to do with writing, there are no absolutes. The process of writing is what spy thriller writer, Len Deighton, called “a muddled system of trial and error.” He said the hardest lesson to learn is that thousands of words must be written and then discarded or rewritten before the “keepers” emerge.

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Deighton said he softened the blow by keeping his early drafts for months before throwing them away. If nothing else, this gave him the objectivity which is mostly lacking when confronting our freshly written drafts.

Writers trip ourselves up in dozens of ways. The most common, fear of failure, can lead to making sure we have no time to write that best seller. Spring makeover, anyone? Social media, while being a useful promotional tool, can feel as if we’re writing, without contributing a single word to a manuscript.

So here are five ways to stop yourself watching paint drying – or real estate programs.

  1. Find your best writing time and protect it ferociously

The time needn’t be from nine to five, unless it suits you. If you are most productive in the early hours or late into the night, keep these times free from distraction and interruption.

  1. Have your own writing place

Even if it’s only a corner of a room, or in your car, having that space and associating it with writing can be a powerful tool.

  1. Develop a writing habit

Victor Pineiro, blogged here http://tinyurl.com/zym8cq4 about writing his first novel by working on a laptop during his hour-long train trip to work. He says, “The key was not getting angry at myself for writing pure garbage some days. This was just an experiment — nothing to lose. As you’ve read dozens of times, once you do something for thirty days it becomes habit .” Once his laptop was open, he says, he felt obligated to write and it slowly became a habit.

  1. Use the small chunks of time

Like Pineiro, you can write while commuting; dictate story notes on your hands-free phone as you drive; plot the next step in your book while awaiting an appointment; or read reference material online while the kids play sport. This frees up your writing time to generate actual words.

  1. Write for yourself at first

I’ve blogged here about the critic over your shoulder, the inner voice insisting you can’t write so why bother? Somehow we have to overcome the critic and write anyway. Writing for yourself alone, and not letting anyone see your work until you’re ready, often helps. You can also do what Kate Grenville told me she does – put a sign over your desk, reminding yourself, “It can all be fixed tomorrow.”

What every writer's conscience should look like

What every writer’s conscience should look like

Now all I have to do is take my own advice. Right after I check out this Tiny House makeover.

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. Happy writing!

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Valerie’s latest book, Outback Code, is available from Harlequin from November 21  

outback-code-21-nov-2017

 

 

First Monday Mentoring October 2016 – Where does money fit into your writing life?

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring when I open this blog to discuss aspects of the writing life we don’t usually get to talk about.

Money is a big one, misunderstood by almost everyone. Either you’re seen as a millionaire or living in genteel poverty in your garret. The truth is usually somewhere in between, and the vast majority of writers have paid their dues  well before hitting the big time if, in fact, they ever do.

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I was moved to discuss the money question after reading an interesting blog by Rita Award-winning writer, Barbara O’Neal at http://tinyurl.com/gwzh6mc

O’Neal’s blog was, in turn, triggered when young writer, Merritt Tierce, penned an essay despairing of being able to make money as a writer. She’d had her first novel published to some acclaim and sold 12,000 hardcover copies, not enough to earn back her unspecified five-figure advance.

Tierce’s essay revealed a problem common among some writers – a sense that they are entitled to live what they see as an author’s life on the strength of one book, sometimes while writing that book. They feel that society owes them support to follow their writing dreams.

As a mentor to emerging writers who win the Valerie Parv Award http://valerieparv.com/award.html set up by Romance Writers of Australia, I had one winner state that by the end of the mentorship she wanted to be living off her writing and keeping her family as well.

In her case it was innocence talking, and by the end of our year together, she’d become more realistic.

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Not long ago I came across a crowd funding site set up by a writer whose publisher had abandoned her series mid-stream. Her goal was sound – finish the series to keep faith with her readers – but she went a step further, asking for money to allow her time to write.

Logically, to finish any book, you need time. Many people write around day jobs, or in whatever time they can scrounge from everyday life. Those same writers resented her sense of entitlement and were so viciously critical that she felt bound to take down the crowd funding site.

From a young age I knew writing was my vocation, but far from feeling entitled , I accepted that funding the dream was up to me. Early on I set up an office where I wrote press releases, a weekly newspaper column, contributions to a gardening encyclopaedia and some twenty non-fiction titles including my now-infamous book on how to do your own plumbing.

Plumbing was never my passion but I delivered the book I’d been contracted to write, because that’s what professionals do. Afterward,  I resolved to find a more fulfilling way to write and still make a living. That’s when I tried my hand at romance novels, eventually writing over fifty titles for Harlequin’s London editors, then for New York and Toronto.

Had I known then that they received some 10,000 submissions of which they accepted about ten, I might have been less eager.  Not that I rushed in, spending months researching their books and market. Only then, I wrote the book I couldn’t find on their lists, and Love’s Greatest Gamble was eventually accepted.

While waiting for Harlequin’s response I kept writing non-fiction including the one I’m most proud of: The Changing Face of Australia, a 200-year environmental study years ahead of its time.

I was doing what O’Neal said she wanted most to tell Tierce, “get back to work. Write another book. Write three. Write ten. Keep writing until you find the next thing.”

This is good advice for any writer. No-one knows which book might be the charm. Bestsellers are made by readers, movie moguls and plain random chance. All we can do is write the stories we feel compelled to share; the work being its own reward. If more comes, wonderful. If not, we’ve honoured our gift.

It’s great to be paid for writing and I know how lucky I am, as well as how hard I’ve worked. As agent and author Donald Maass commented on O’Neal’s blog, “Money? Yeah, well that’s nice to have. But it’s not everything. When people envy writers, it’s not their income that they envy. It’s their freedom.”

To me, that freedom is priceless.

How do you feel about money and writing? Share your questions and comments in the box below. This blog is moderated to avoid spam but your comments can appear right away if you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Valerie

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Valerie’s Beacon sci-fi  series is OUT NOW

from Momentum/Pan Macmillan

http://momentumbooks.com.au/authors/valerie-parv/

via Amazon.com.au Amazon.com & Amazon.co.uk – also
Barnes and Noble (Nook devices)

Google Play (All devices except Kindle)

iBooks Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac)

Kobo (All devices except Kindle)

 

 

 

 

First Monday Mentoring for November – 3 spooky things characters do that smart writers allow

It’s First Monday again, when I open this blog to your thoughts and questions to do with any aspect of writing and publishing. With Halloween just over and even the Australian shops still full of treat-sized chocolate and witchy products, I’m looking at our characters, the weird things they do to us – and why it’s okay.

1. Characters spring surprises

Long ago, I learned that a good character takes on a life of their own. I’ll do all the preparatory work, know their hair and eye colour, and what they want from life. Then I’ll be writing a draft and that same character will quietly let drop that they have a sister, a pet dog or an unusual hobby I didn’t know about.

Experience has shown me that this is part of my mind telling me what the story will need later on. The sibling or the hobby will turn out to be a vital part of that character’s story. I leave it in place with a side notation to check it again at the editing stage, and keep writing. Almost always, that detail will be essential to the story development.

2. Characters talk to you
A fully realised character will have their own thoughts on their world. How do you find this out? By asking them.
I learned this method from Gene Roddenberry, creator of the Star Trek universe. He took a sheet of paper – it doesn’t work as well on a screen – and drew a vertical line down the middle, creating two blank columns. On the left-hand one he wrote a question he wanted to ask the character, then wrote the character’s answer in the right-hand column.

At first this will feel forced and you’ll be aware of playing both roles, but if you persist over however many pages it takes, a spooky thing happens. The character starts to answer in their own voice, giving you insights that you hadn’t considered. Or more accurately, weren’t aware of knowing.

This process isn’t metaphysical. It’s your own subconscious revealing itself through the character, but it feels as if you really are in touch with this person, and you’ll find out far more than their physical description. Sometimes “their” insights will astonish you.

Gene Roddenberry said he used this process to create the logical Vulcan, Mr. Spock, so it’s definitely worth a try.

One caveat – writing is hard work. It’s common for a minor character to insist that you write their story as well, and you may start to imagine a series featuring all these people. Whether or not this ever happens doesn’t matter. The competing ideas are your brain’s way of dodging the work ahead. Make notes on whatever comes up, then finish the current book.

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3. Characters know what they want
Woe betide the author who doesn’t listen. You’ll end up with cardboard-cut-out people who do your bidding but have no life of their own.

In my Beacons science-fiction series, my three main characters are all aliens living on Earth. Elaine Lovell is a Watcher who can see whatever she chooses, wherever it may be. Her day job is media psychic. Garrett Luken is the beacon’s Listener, a former US Air Force pilot, now a best-selling sci-fi writer. Adam Desai is the team’s Messenger, a scientific genius who doesn’t know his alien history until he meets the other two.

My romantic side wanted them all partnered by series end. Elaine was the easiest, and found herself a Hawai’ian multimillionaire. Adam could only ever love the capable governor Shana Akers, who is more than his match mentally and physically.

My problem child was Garrett, gorgeous, talented and single. In three books and two novellas, I tried matching him with several other characters and he’d have none of them. Naturally, the only woman he fell for was the one I’d considered the least likely.

No spoilers, but when Garrett did let this person into his life, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of her. He knew who he wanted; I just had to take notes.

There it is, three spooky ways your characters will – like Pinocchio – become real, if you let them. Now it’s over to you to share your experiences.

Comments are moderated to avoid spam, but if you want your post to appear right away, click on “sign me up” to subscribe. I don’t share your details with anyone. How do you develop characters? Do they talk back to you? How does it affect your writing?

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 June – what does writing mean to you?

It’s First Monday again, when you can share your thoughts and ask me any questions to do with writing, editing or publishing your work. Today isn’t so much a question as sharing what I’ve discovered about writing in the last week.

Mostly I want readers to have the best possible experience through my books. Then there are the writers for whom I write this blog, and the entrants in the Valerie Parv Award run by Romance Writers of Australia.

Each year I mentor the winner of the award, and feel like a kid at Christmas when one of my minions (their own name for themselves as former VPA winners) lands a new publishing contract, wins a book award, or makes a bestseller list as they frequently do.

I see this as giving back to an amazing profession where I sometimes have to remind myself that this is work. So imagine my excitement when The Australian Society of Authors awarded me the ASA Medal 2014 in Melbourne last week.

Here’s what was said about the medal, and some of my response. As more and more people at the presentation, and many hundreds of online friends, offered congratulations, I was reminded again of why I write – for the joy of telling stories. That my stories and work with other writers should bring me such an extraordinary honour as the ASA Medal, I consider the icing on my writing cake.

Valerie with Executive Director of the ASA, Angelo Loukakis, after the presentation

Valerie with Executive Director of the ASA, Angelo Loukakis, at the presentation

“The ASA Board awards the ASA Medal bi-annually to honour members of Australia’s writing community who have contributed significantly to our literary culture. Your contribution has been judged outstanding across the board, from the quality of your writing to your hard work in support of other authors, the principles of authorship and this organization itself.”

“This is one award that has to be earned” – Angelo Loukakis

In accepting the medal, I said in part:

“As one whose first books were chiselled on cave walls, I am honoured to be given this award and would also like to congratulate my fellow honoree for 2014, Nadia Wheatley.

My first published book, Growing and Using Herbs (Ure Smith), caused little fanfare in my family, not being a blockbuster or even a novel.

It took joining the Australian Society of Authors to make me realise I’d done something that mattered, I’d written a book and had it published, the first of more than eighty novels and non-fiction titles. I’m proud to be that rare breed, a writer supporting myself through my writing since my twenties.

In the Australian Society of Authors, I had great mentors, not only in matters of craft but also in the importance of giving back to a profession that has been good to me.

As well as the ASA executive and membership, I’d like to thank my agent of twenty years, Linda Tate. She not only has my back, but my front and the top of my head as well, even if I’m still waiting for that body double I asked for.

Receiving such an important award decided by your peers has to be as good as it gets. Thank you so much.”

Now it’s over to you. Why do you write? What gives you the greatest pleasure in your work? Share your thoughts in the comments below. If you want your comment to appear without moderation, click on the “sign me up” button to subscribe. I don’t share your email details with anyone.

Valerie

About the author:
Valerie Parv is one of Australia’s most successful writers with more than 29 million books sold in 26 languages. She is the only Australian author honored with a Pioneer of Romance Award from RT Book Reviews, New York. With a lifelong interest in space exploration, she counts meeting Neil Armstrong as a personal high point. She loves connecting with readers via her website valerieparv.com @ValerieParv on Twitter and on Facebook. She is represented by The Tate Gallery Pty Ltd tategal@bigpond.net.au

Share with me the joy of having written. For one day only – join in my Big, Beautiful Birthright Buyfest and be the first to read a brand new related novella

In this blog I write a lot about the struggles and challenges of being a writer. Today I want to celebrate the best part – having written.

There’s no doubt this is when writing really rocks. Your story world, your characters, and all the events once trapped in your head are alive on the page for readers to enjoy.

Then your publisher says the magic words, “We love the book, we want to publish it.”

YES!!!!!!!!!!!

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It happened this week with my new science fiction romance – Earthbound, the sequel to Birthright, books I and II in my Beacons series, published by Corvallis Press, USA.

To celebrate, I’m holding a Big, Beautiful Birthright Buyfest, so you can get up to speed on the Beacons and their adventures, before we start counting down to the sequel. The Buyfest takes place over 24 hours only. To take part, simply go to the Birthright page on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Birthright-Valerie-Parv-ebook/dp/B00A0C07BK/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top and purchase the book. You don’t even need a Kindle. Amazon has a nifty free app that lets you read any ebook on your computer or tablet.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE
.
If you email me Amazon’s Order Summary Code for your purchase within the next 24 hours, you could win one of seven pdfs of my brand new Beacons novella, Starfound, continuing the story begun in Birthright. You’ll be one of the first people in the world to read this story. The prize is only open to those who buy Birthright and email parv@iinet.net.au with Birthright in the subject line, within the next 24 hours.

Why I love this series, and I hope you will, too

In Birthright I combine the emotional appeal of romance with the wonder of science fiction which has fascinated me for years. Set in my invented country of Carramer, the story deals with a space shuttle mission about to be launched from the island kingdom – a mission that hides a secret agenda involving a threat to the entire world. While writing the book, I came to love my alien characters, Garrett, Elaine and Adam so much that the novella, Starfound, and sequel, Earthbound continue their story, with the final chapter, Homeworld, now in the works. It’s proving to be quite a ride.

What readers are saying about Birthright

“…a memorable read. Very well written and one for the keepers shelf.” Desere Steenberg

“My sensors were in overload, I loved it! I couldn’t put Birthright down.” TashNZ

“Note the 5 stars. I do not give them lightly. A book really has to be a winner for me to rate it this high!” Kathi Harris

“Gripping futuristic tale with an unstoppable plot and fantastic, unique, gripping characters. For anyone who grew up wanting to be an astronaut (like I did!), you will adore this book. I cannot WAIT for the sequels to come out. I’ll be preordering every single one!” Iopele

Buy, enjoy, email. Three easy steps. Way easier than writing the books. But not half as much fun as having written.

Feel free to leave a comment in the space below. If you want your comment to appear right away, click on “sign me up” at right. And welcome aboard.

Valerie

About the author
Valerie Parv is one of Australia’s most successful writers with more than 29 million books sold in 26 languages. She is the only Australian author honored with a Pioneer of Romance Award from RT Book Reviews, New York. With a lifelong interest in space exploration, she counts meeting Neil Armstrong as a personal high point. She loves connecting with readers via her website valerieparv.com @ValerieParv on Twitter and on Facebook. She is represented by The Tate Gallery Pty Ltd tategal@bigpond.net.au

First Monday mentoring for 2013 – focus your writing life

Happy New Year.

Is this the year you finish your manuscript, self-publish new work, try a new genre? Whatever your hopes and dreams, this is a great time to bring them into focus.

First Monday Mentoring is our water cooler. Join me here on the first Monday of each month to talk about your plans, ideas and aspirations. Some talented writers and teachers visit this blog. Whatever your question about craft, writing life or getting published, you can ask it here.

To get us off and running, here are some ways to bring your plans into focus and reach your goals.

Set goals for yourself, never mind what others think

Set goals for yourself, never mind what others think

1. Know what you want to achieve.

Before setting off on a trip it helps to have at least some idea of where you want to end up. Depending on where you are in your writing journey, your “destination” may be to enter a contest and get feedback from the judges, or have a set amount of work written for a critique group or online support group every time you meet. If you’re more experienced, your goal may be to find an agent. Researching which agents work in the areas where you want to be published is a good start. Next would be writing or emailing them, or arranging to pitch an idea to them at a conference. Some writers may want to check out epublishing your own book or backlist. Again, what time frame would get you there?

2. Set definite steps to reach your goal

If you want to finish a novel or novella this year, how many words do you need to write? Breaking the total up into a weekly or daily word target will help you stay focussed and reach your goal in your preferred time frame. Remember to build in some time for family emergencies, illness and life getting in the way. If you want to meet a certain agent, you’ll need to plan ahead, find out any conferences where they may take pitches, and sign up. Or send out a certain number of emails each week until you get a positive response. Submitting work to publishers or teaching yourself epublishing can be handled in the same way.

3. Celebrate your milestones

When you get a positive response, even if it’s a “no” for now, celebrate. You kept your deal with yourself, sent out the emails, wrote the daily or weekly word count. Break out the champagne, chocolate or celebration of choice, see a movie, meet friends and share the joy. In the writing game, progress can be dauntingly slow.  Don’t wait till the book is in the ereader or on the shelf to celebrate your achievements. By then, readers will be looking for your next work. Take time now to enjoy the journey.

Can you think of any other steps to get you closer to your goals this year? Do you have questions you’d like answered? This is the place. I’ll be over by the water cooler ready and willing to help.

If you’re not sure what you’d like to achieve this year, why not read in your choice of genre and learn as you go, studying how the books are written, who is publishing them, and how you can make yours special within the demands of that genre.

Hint: if romantic suspense with a hint of science fiction appeals, you can read my latest book, Birthright (Corvallis Press) on Amazon for Kindle and Barnes & Noble for Nook. Post a review anywhere on line before the end of January and share the link here, to be in the running for a $50 Amazon gift voucher judged by my agent, Linda Tate. The winning review will be reposted here.

Let’s make 2013 a year to remember.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

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on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Read some reviews already up at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

Tips for writing a good book review, and a contest

For something new, I’m chatting with my lovely agent, Linda Tate (pictured below), about my near-future romantic suspense novel,  Birthright, which has already received some great reviews. To celebrate, I’m off on a blog tour starting January 8. I’ll tweet and Facebook the stops. Feel free to visit and comment to win a download of the book and a personal authorgraph.

LINDA: to help things along I’m launching a contest for the best review of Birthright posted anywhere online during January.

Linda at Valerie launch

VALERIE: a contest means prizes, right? I’m thinking a date with Hugh Jackman.

LINDA: Me too, but being practical, I’m thinking $50 Amazon gift card from your publisher, Corvallis Press, and posting the winning review here for all to enjoy.

VALERIE: No Hugh, sigh. But this is a challenge. What do you think makes a good book review?

LINDA: I like to see the book details and cover photo up front, giving the reader a feel for the book without having to hunt for the information.

VALERIE: then show us what the book is about, without retelling the story or giving too much away. A review isn’t a plot summary.

LINDA: yes, for example I like the way fantasy author, Erica Hayes, calls Birthright a “romance with aliens and evil astronauts”, covering the key elements in a clever way. To grab me, a reviewer also needs to write about what they liked and didn’t like about the book, and why.

VALERIE: the blurb gives an overview of the story, but avoid spoilers. Using brief quotes is one way to give readers a taste of the author’s style.

LINDA: I like reviewers who write in their own style, as if talking to a friend. The reviewer’s excitement, or otherwise, should come through, a bit like when I read a new manuscript.

VALERIE: I like to know how well the reviewer thinks the author built the book’s world/setting. And did they relate to the characters enough to care about them.

LINDA: when I first read Birthright, I felt you brought characters such as Adam to life. He’s gorgeous and brilliant, but a Neanderthal around women. Having strengths and weaknesses makes him very real.

VALERIE: he’s one of my favourites, but then all the characters are. I like reviews that comment on the theme, what the book is really about, and whether it kept you reading to the end.

LINDA: and it helps to give the book a rating, whether as a ‘keeper’, with stars, coffee cups or whatever the site awards.

VALERIE: not every review has to cover every point, as long as they have the general idea.

LINDA: so reviewers, here’s your challenge – review Birthright and post the link (not the whole review) in the comment space below, or on Valerie’s timeline on http://www.facebook.com/valerieparv to win the $50 Amazon Gift Card. Good luck.

VALERIE: See you on the blog tour. Happy holidays and happy reading!

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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

First Monday Mentoring for April, your writing questions answered

It’s baaa-aack, the first Monday of every month (or the first Sunday if you’re in the northern hemisphere) 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 invited to contribute a question or your thoughts on an answer, or a writing experience that might help others.

There’s another reason for holding First Monday Mentoring.

The 2012 Valerie Parv Award named in my honour by Romance Writers of Australia opens April 23 and closes May 4 or earlier once all places are filled.  http://www.romanceaustralia.com/vpa.html

The award is now limited to the first 80 entries received, so enter early or you may miss out.

With only one award and entries being limited, I created a program called MentorXpress, where you can experience working with me as your mentor.  Details and cost are on my website http://www.valerieparv.com

First Monday Mentoring gives you somewhere to post YOUR writing concerns and questions, or share YOUR experiences. You can post your questions ahead of time if you like and answers will go up during Monday April 2.  I monitor the blog and post answers throughout the day.

I’d also like to congratulate former Valerie Parv Award winner

If the answer isn't on here, it's probably in here

Barbara Jeffcott-Geris who sold her first book a few days ago, joining the many winners of this award (now in our twelfth year) who are now successfully published authors. It’s a special joy for me that so many winners have published. Stay tuned because another couple are >< to success. 

Happy First Monday, all!

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

On Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

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