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Posts tagged ‘writing groups’

First Monday Mentoring for October – 4 ways to declutter your writing life

It’s First Monday again, when you’re invited to ask me anything about the writing life from craft issues to working with publishers.

Right now it’s spring in Australia, when we think of freshening up our homes, possessions and gardens. This week I was asked how you can spring clean your writing life. Here are 4 sure-fire ways:

1. Let go of old, tired projects
Many writers have pet ideas and half-finished manuscripts we hope to sell “some day.” As you know, some day never comes. If you’ve worked and reworked an idea, chances are you’ve also drained it of what Hemingway called “it’s juice.”

How do you know when an idea passes its use-by date? Look at the idea itself. Is it still current or has life overtaken the concept? Have the characters lost any resemblance to real people? Are you simply tired of the project? Look at the date on the pages. You may be surprised how many years have gone by while you tried to make this book work. Give it a decent burial and move on. A truly good idea will resurface in a new way, or you’ll free up your mind to take you somewhere fresh and exciting.

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2. Let go of critique partners who no longer suit you
This is a tough call. When you got together as a group or online critique partnership, you were probably at the same stage. Are you now? Have you moved on while they’re still at the gunna stage – gunna write their best seller any day now, except they’ve been saying so for several years. On the other hand, you’ve written steadily and can see progress. You may be getting good feedback from editors and agents, perhaps had your first acceptance.

Two things can happen here. The left-behind CP may be jealous and seek to keep you at their level. Or their advice may conflict with your new editor’s. Can you stay friends with your CP or group while acknowledging that your work has moved on? Of course, if you’re the gunna, all the above applies in reverse.

3. Be honest with yourself about what you want from writing
If you’ve told friends, family and co-workers that you’re writing a book, do you feel obligated to keep going? Do you watch them having a life and feel jealous because every hour outside your day job is spent writing, thinking about writing or on some related activity? These shackles are entirely optional.

Why not take some time away from writing to test your commitment? This works as mental decluttering, and can make a huge difference to your words. Either you’ll find that you enjoy exploring other interests, or you’ll miss the act of storytelling so much that it feels like a physical loss. As I’ve said here before, writers write. We can no more stop spinning stories than we can give up breathing. Taking time out, maybe doing some real-life spring cleaning, will tell you what you want from writing. You’ll return to your projects with fresh ideas and hopes, or at the least, with a nice clean house.

4. Stay current with your writing
The publishing world is changing before our eyes. If you’re clinging to outdated writing methods and content, you may need to declutter this area of your life. Step away from your projects and take a big-picture look at where you are. Are you writing what you think the market wants? Life is short. Should you move on to that project you’ve always wanted to try, but were afraid wouldn’t sell?

Indie publishing, once derided as vanity publishing, is today’s big thing and getting bigger. Bestselling writers are reinventing themselves as hybrid authors, published by both traditional houses and under their own imprints. Others are going small-press to keep more control over their work.

The only book worth writing is the one that sings to you, keeps you awake at night and won’t let you go. If your pet book doesn’t grab traditional publishers, can you publish it yourself? Look up indie publishing, Smashwords, Amazon and the like to see what’s out there. You will need to pay for professional editing and a first-rate cover, as well as do tons of promotion including social media to give your book a real chance of success but after that, the sky’s the limit.

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What is clutter to you? How do you manage it in your writing life? Comments are moderated to avoid spam. Click on “sign me up” at right if you want your comment to appear right away. I don’t share your email details with anyone. Questions? Thoughts? It’s over to you now.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
See the new cover of Valerie’s latest book, Birthright at http://tinyurl.com/mxtmbx6

Check out Valerie’s online course, Free the Writer in You

at http://valerieparv.com/course.html

Christmas gifts smart writers NEVER give themselves

It’s not only First Monday time again, when I open this blog to your questions about writing and publishing, it’s also the holiday season for people of many beliefs around the world. Someone posted on Facebook that this is the only time Chanukah and American Thanksgiving fell at the same time for 80,000 years. My math isn’t that great, but it is unusual. Hope you all have a wonderful time.
This is also the season for gift giving. I love giving presents (don’t mind receiving them, either LOL) and I enjoy hunting for items I hope will delight my friends and family. As a writer, I love gifts, too. But there are five items I would NEVER give myself and I hope you won’t, too.

1. Long breaks from writing
Yes, it’s holidays and you’ve worked hard all year. Maybe you did NaNoWriMo and managed to write your target 50,000 words in a month. Don’t you deserve some down time? Of course, but be careful. The point of NaNo is to get you writing every day, inspired or not, with a deadline you usually report to other NaNo-ers, keeping yourself accountable. A funny thing about writing regularly is the momentum and confidence you build up. If I don’t write for a few days, I come back rusty, taking time to get up to speed. I also lose touch with my current project and have to get back into that groove as well. Keep in touch with the work. Aim to write 200 words a day, taking the important holidays off. That’s only one page of writing a day. You’ll thank yourself after the break.
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2. Ignore health and wellbeing

It’s easy to do this anyway, with all the parties and feasting. But as well as the damage to your healthy eating plans, food comas befuddle your brain, the organ generating those precious words. Remember to alternate holiday cheer with lots of water, pudding with fruit, and couch time with swimming and walks. The outdoor stimulation may give you new story ideas, win-win.

3. Lack of time
Yes, the season is demanding and rushed. Shops are busy, crowds everywhere, calendars clogged. Giving ourselves the gift of time can be way down the list, if it’s there at all. On your crammed to-do list, include set times to write, or at least to play with story outlines and characters – this can be done on a lounger in the garden. After the holidays when, we’re still at home, is a terrific time to make progress. When the season ends, you’re raring to go because the thinking and planning is done.

4. Second-best equipment
So you’re writing at a wobbly table, sitting on a dining chair, killing your back and creativity. Even if your writing isn’t paying its way yet, think of good equipment as an investment. Use the holiday sales to buy yourself an ergonomic chair. Mine adjusts every which way with a pump gadget to adjust the lumbar support exactly right. Look for a hand-friendly mouse, jelly rest for your wrist, whatever helps you create safely. Your body will thank you. And keep the receipts. When your writing does make money, ask the tax pundits about what you may be entitled to claim back.

5. Giving up on dreams
This is 100% not a gift you should give yourself, ever. In the early days, your self belief is the only thing keeping you going. It takes enough of a battering with rejections from editors or agents, or well-meaning but tough comments from critique partners and writing groups. ALL of the writers who are now legends were once told they couldn’t write, their books didn’t work, they should stick to (insert thankless day job). They persevered and gave us our greatest reading pleasures. They didn’t know they were writing classics, any more than you or I know that now. History is the judge. All we can do is write the best books in us to write, follow our passions even if they’re not trendy, and keep going no matter what the rest of the world says. Best of all, dreams are free. Hold on to them.

What gift would you NEVER give yourself as a writer? Have you come close with any of these? Please share your experiences with us in the comment box below. I regret they must be moderated before appearing, to keep out rudeness and Spam. To have your comment appear right away, click on “sign me up” at lower right. I don’t share your email details with anyone.

Happy holidays and may your words flow freely,
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

First Monday Mentoring for July – don’t be a no-account writer

Today is the first Monday in July, when I open this blog to your questions about writing, publishing or any aspect of the process, and answer them here. The blog is read by many terrific writers who’ll add their thoughts or experiences to the mix. Post your questions and ideas, argue with mine, share your war stories. This is the day, heck, sometimes the whole week.

I regret that comments must be moderated before they appear. But turning that off leads to an avalanche of spam and rudeness we can do without. To have your comments appear right away, click the ‘sign me up’ button at lower right to subscribe. I don’t share your email address with others.

To kick things off, I’m looking at accountability. The new financial year (in Australia, anyway) makes us think of accounts in the money sense. How much or how little did you earn? And where did it all go? How can you manage better this financial year? When can you give up your day job? All fodder for a later blog.

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There’s a kind of accounting that can make or break your writing future. It’s your output. It’s OK to want to BE a writer. A lot of the time, being a writer is more fun than writing. Attending groups, workshops, posting on Facebook and Twitter, reading craft books and critiquing friends’ manuscripts are all part of the scene, but they’re not writing.

As author, Neil Gaiman, says, “Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.” That’s writing. Set yourself a word target you commit to meeting no matter what. It doesn’t have to be seven days a week, or an impossible number. Writing 500 words a day every week for six months gives you a 60,000 word manuscript, the length of a novel these days. And that’s with weekends off. 500 words is about two typed pages.

Recently a writer friend, Diane Curran, posted on Facebook that instead of asking members of her group what they wanted the group to do for them over the next year, she asked them to name their writing ambitions. Then asked what they needed to do by the next monthly meeting to get them closer to their goals. As Diane said, making the members accountable for their progress kept her accountable, too.

There are many ways to make yourself step up. NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, is probably the best known. It’s an international must-do for thousands of people who commit to writing 50,000 words during November. Some make the total, some far exceed it. Others do 20,000, 30,000 or whatever they can manage. But every one of them produces more than they would have going solo.

In June, Romance Writers of Australia runs 50k in 30 days. https://romanceaustralia.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/need-a-push-to-get-the-words-down-50k-in-30-days-is-here/ Then there are “sprints” when writers challenge each other to achieve targets such as #1k1hr on Twitter. This stands for one thousand words in one hour. You simply tweet that you’re looking for a 1k1hr partner to start sprinting at the quarter, half or full hour mark. You don’t have to know your partners or live in the same country. Adding the #1k1hr hashtag to your tweet links you up. You write like crazy, achieve whatever part of 1,000 words you can and report back an hour later, using the same hashtag. Sure, you can lie, but this is all about being accountable. Writing is an account of…your character’s adventures….and yours, too.

What does accountability do for you? How do you achieve it? Share your thoughts and experiences here.

Valerie
“In conversation” about romance writing at Southern Highlands Writing Festival in Bowral NSW July 12-14

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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

Finding your tribe, why it’s vital to writers

Okay, writing isn’t the only solitary occupation. Train driving is also lonely – but you don’t have to first invent the train.

I’m writing this from the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in Perth, Western Australia, where I’m their Established Writer-in-Residence for four weeks. The centre is the oldest of its kind in Australia and is set in the green hills behind Perth. My cottage is surrounded by bushy garden, a few minutes from the main house.  As this is my first experience as a writer-in-residence, I didn’t expect to feel so completely at home within minutes of getting here.

I shouldn’t be surprised. I was among my ‘tribe’

Anyone who has attended a writing conference will know what I mean. You may never have set eyes on these people before but you feel an instant kinship with them. They “get” what you’re about. If you talk about killing someone, they don’t call the police. They know you mean in your fiction. (At least we hope!)

They don’t look at you sideways when you mention writing 500 words in a day, because they know it’s progress on the day before when you wrote none.

They also understand that writing words is the most important thing in your life after your family. Well maybe equal with.

And that’s okay too.

It’s great to fit in

They don’t feel slighted if you break off in mid-conversation to write something down so you won’t forget it. They’ve been there and done that.

They completely understand why you’re still in your jammies at 4pm

Far from making you a slacker and a slob, it means you had other priorities, most of them to do with writing.

They also understand the meaning of a “good rejection.” No other profession gets so excited when a publisher turns you down, but with encouraging comments about your work.  We know how much that means.

Settling in to this place dedicated to writers and writing was practically instant. I love that my accommodation has a huge desk under a window, with a view all the way to the Perth skyline. That’s inspiration for you. And that it has a proper office chair so I can spend as long as I want writing without killing my back.

The cottage also came with a basket of goodies including Lindt blueberry chocolate, Ferrer Rocher chocolates, fresh dates (are we sensing a theme here?) and wonderful fruit teas.

All they ask in return is that I write and talk about writing

During my stay I’ll complete my own project, give a workshop, read my work at a literary dinner, and talk about books at a breakfast open to the public. Many writing groups meet at the centre and I want to visit as many as I can. I started with a poetry group and loved every minute, even though poetry isn’t my thing. Hey, it’s writing and they’re writers, what more do I need?

Where is your tribe? At a particular place? Perhaps online? How did you find them and what do they mean to you?

To me? Everything.

Valerie

In residence at www.kspf.iinet.net.au

http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

 

 

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