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Posts tagged ‘writing workshops’

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.

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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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Books in my head, inside a writer’s brain

Many years ago a dear friend, Pat Kerry, gave me a poem she’d written called Books in My Head. The last lines have stayed with me because they’re so true –  “books in my head will never get read/ unless I get up and write them.” She was talking about those dreamy times straight after waking, when our heads are full of thoughts and ideas.  Unless we get up and write them down somewhere, these precious words are likely to vanish forever. All we’ll remember is that we had a great idea, but not what it was.  Whether you record your ideas on a laptop, tablet, cellphone or a notebook kept by the bedside – and I recommend you keep something handy for this purpose – doesn’t matter as long as you capture your thoughts. You can edit and develop them later. The main thing is to get them down somewhere.  Our brains aren’t wired to make memories out of the thoughts we have in the time between sleep and waking. That’s when the slower brainwave cycles called alpha and theta waves occur and we’re most likely to have great insights and inspirations. Frustrating when you think it’s also when we’re least able to remember them.

There’s another way of looking at the lines from the poem, too. It’s that wanting to write a book, intending to write one and talking about your wonderful ideas to your friends won’t produce one page of words  unless you actually “get up and write them.” It’s probably why so many people dream of writing a book but the majority never actually do. Writing is hard work. And news flash, it doesn’t get easier with practice. As I’ve found writing 25 nonfiction books and over 50 romance novels, you get better at  putting words down in a readable order and seeing where the work can be improved. But every book is a first book. As one would-be writer asked me, “How do you know when you sit down to write, that you can do it?” The answer is, you don’t. You write to find out IF you can do it this time, with these characters, telling this story. When I sat down to write this first blog, I had no idea how it was going to turn out. All writing is a voyage of discovery. That’s the fun part. And it’s the part which keeps me writing even when the going gets tough. We writers are very lucky, we get paid for doing the very thing that got us into trouble as kids, making things up. Like my next book. And this blog. It’s no coincidence that I chose to write my first post about what’s going on in a writer’s brain. My two great loves are human psychology – what makes us tick, and how we turn books in our heads into worlds for readers to come play in. Whether you’re a reader or a writer or both, I hope you’ll come play here again soon.

Valerie

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