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Posts tagged ‘X-Factor’

First Monday Mentoring Sept 2017 – are you the next Valerie Parv Award writing winner

The Romance Writers of Australia national conference is done for another year, and with it the crowning of the latest Valerie Parv Award winner for 2017. She is Joanna Nell whose entry, The Unmentionables, deals with life and love in later years. I’ll be mentoring Joanna during the year of her award.

Joanna is the newest of my minions – the name past winners chose for themselves. They keep in touch, share their achievements, and we hold our annual Minions’ Breakfast at conference each year. Tiaras are worn and Joanna received hers at the RWA annual conference in Brisbane recently.

Judging and presenting this award is an exciting challenge and an honour. Thanks Romance Writers of Australia and Romance Writers of America’s former Australian Chapter where the award began.

As I read the short list I am very aware of the commitment behind every one. I know it’s a cliché but I see every finalist as a winner. You’ve shown you can write a book to suit your chosen market, and you’ve met the contest deadline.

Reaching the finals means your work has something special. I write an appraisal of every final entry to encourage you to keep striving. Minion achievements include everything from RWA’s Romantic Book of the year, to Romance Writers of America RITA awards for published books, and Golden Heart for unpublished. Minions regularly grace the Australian Romance Readers Awards , the USA Today and other bestseller lists and in one case, get reviewed by the Wall Street Journal.

Congratulations to JOANNA NELL (left)
Valerie Parv Award Winner for 2017

Winners’ books are published by all the major publishing houses here and internationally and their readers number in the millions. You can see who they are on the VPA Hall of Fame at www.valerieparv.com/vpa.html

Entries needn’t be exclusively romance. This year’s finalists included a Regency-set historical with a heroine posing as a pirate; my first-ever heroine specialising in dung-beetle reproduction; a beautifully-handled disabled heroine; a runaway bride and a reunion romance with a cranky heroine. Plus of course, Joanna Nell’s topical romance in later years.

So how do you become the next VPA minion? I take four aspects into account.

  1. You need to write from the heart

Every highly placed entry over the last 18 years has been a labour of love – and it shows. The writer has written a story s/he’s passionate about and can’t wait to share with readers. They aren’t always perfectly written, but they have compelling characters we care about from the beginning.

  1. You need a touch of originality

You don’t have to break the mould with a defrocked nun or a Playboy model character, although we have had a cross-dressing Regency hero, a gnome kidnapping conspiracy, and fairies on crack among past winners. If two entries vie for the top prize, I tend to favour the more original. Yes, there are conventions in every genre, such as the happy-ever-after in romance and the dead body in a mystery, but there should be something that transcends genre, giving us story we haven’t read before.

  1. You need to be a storyteller

I don’t use a score sheet to judge the final entries. I’m more interested in whether you give me a strong opening, a story that comes to life right away, and people I can care about and want to see succeed against the odds. I’m happy to read in any setting or time period and will forgive a few mistakes as long as you tell a gripping story. This doesn’t mean ignoring grammar or spelling, but they can be fixed. It’s far harder to fix a lifeless story.

  1. You know where you want the book to go

The winner can pick my brains, share questions and concerns, and have me critique work as we go along. I read with an editorial eye, helping the author to spot issues they may have missed through being too close to the work. The one thing I don’t do is alter the author’s voice. Ultimately, this is your story told in your unique way.

Finally there’s the X-Factor. Call it natural talent, star quality or the X-factor, it’s the extra something readers recognise as soon as they see it. The moment I start reading I know when the writer’s voice has the power to lift the hairs on the back of my neck. The book may not be the one I want to choose as the winner, but the choice will be inescapable.

Does your story have these qualities? The Valerie Parv Award 2018 opens on April 9 and closes on April 30, 2017. Details at http://tinyurl.com/y74gar78  Have you entered previously, or plan to next year? Share your thoughts 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

STORY MAGIC WORKSHOP, TOWNSVILLE

Valerie will present her Story Magic Workshop in Townsville, Queensland
on Saturday October 7
Valerie will also attend a Romantic High Tea on Sunday, October 8
Contact the
Townsville Writers and Publishers Centre

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Valerie’s 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

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Of course my story’s original, it’s about a defrocked nun: the X-factor and your book

When you ask an editor what they want in submissions from writers, the usual answer is they want something “fresh and original”. Publishers of category romances such as Harlequin Mills & Boon say the same. The other perennial answer is “a good book”. Problem is they can never define what they mean by a good book that is fresh and original; only that they’ll know it when they see it.

The deal is a lot like the reality shows such as X-Factor and Wherever’s Got Talent. Being able to get up and sing,  juggle or play an instrument, however skilfully, is not guaranteed to make you a winner. You might hit all the right notes, look fabulous on camera, and have nearly every attribute the judges are seeking. But unless you possess one other magic ingredient – the X-Factor, for want of a better term, you won’t reach the top of the tree. This X-Factor is sometimes called star quality, and the truth is we DO know it when we see it. One performer will come out on stage with a voice less special than the previous contenders, may be less well presented and not all that physically attractive, and yet…and yet…we can’t take our eyes off them.

There's no denying a Lightbulb Moment

IMO this elusive X-Factor can’t be taught, and the lucky few who possess it are born with it.  Most of them would deny they are anything special. They do what they do for love, because they don’t feel complete unless they are practicing their art. Is that you? I don’t know. But if  your work is placed in front of me, I’ll know it in an instant, as would any editor or publisher. The words may be raw and unpolished, the grammar wobbly at best, but if you possess that quality your story will be so compelling that I need to read on and on to find out what happens next. This is not to say that you shouldn’t try to polish your writing and master the principles of grammar and spelling. Publishing is such a competitive industry that you need to do everything you can to make your work stand out. But above all, write a story that grabs YOU and won’t let you alone until you tell it. You’ll know it’s the one because you’ll be smiling as you read it back, which you have to do because you were spilling words out so fast your fingers could hardly keep up.

This is the story editors will see as fresh and original, because it felt that way to you. You couldn’t wait to get to know these characters and share their story. You won’t have to turn handsprings to come up with something no other writer in your genre has done, because the characters will take care of that for you. They may be perfectly ordinary people in a perfectly ordinary setting, but you’ll be so in love with them you’ll take us along for the ride. No need for an invisible heroine or a defrocked nun, though I suppose they too have their stories.

Every year I have the privilege of judging the final entries in the Valerie Parv Award organised by Romance Writers of Australia. And almost every time, there will be one book that jumps out at me because it has that elusive star quality. I almost always know it the moment I start reading, and I suspect most editors would too.  To be fair I’ll read every other entry with the same care but once that X-Factor entry has grabbed me, it rarely lets me go. Doesn’t matter if it’s a genre I personally enjoy reading or not, it’s the one and that’s that.

Can you spot the X-Factor in the work of others? What about in your own? I’d love to hear your experiences.

Valerie

On Twitter @valerieparv

and on Facebook

http://www.valerieparv.com

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