Tag Archives: valerie parv

going away and writing – does it work?

Mostly yes. The way I think about it is: If I had been here at home struggling with my manuscript, I would have gotten much, much less done.

Four days without internet was seriously pushing the boundaries…urg. Still, it takes away one enormous tool of the devil/procrastination. Unfortunately for my fellow writers, there’s a part of my brain that requires distraction whilst I write, and having no internet I took it out on them.

2-hour break for Jane Eyre, anyone?

Such a brilliant adaptation. And speaking of adaptations, am ridiculously excited about the 2011 film. Michael Fassbender as Rochester? Jamie Bell as St John?

Excuse me while I go scream into a pillow.


Where was I?

(This may give you more of an insight into how distracting I was to my fellow-writers than I intended…)

Halfway through my novel crisis, I remembered that I have a world-class mentor. After a seven minute phone conversation with Valerie/fairy godmother, in which she was as gracious and generous as ever, I had a solution.

My problem was trying to place my re-invented heroine into an existing scene, and get across where she’s at. “Why don’t you have her do something that shows us how she’s feeling?” Valerie asked.

“Oh,” I replied, things lighting up in my sluggish brain. “I just have them all sitting around, thinking.”

It’s Show Don’t Tell 101, but sometimes you just don’t have the distance to see it for yourself.

Another favourite thing from the retreat/junket/holiday (closely followed by dinner on a glad-wrapped table to save washing up):

fairy godmothers are the best

I promised I would keep you updated re VP’s feedback on my re-drafted first chapter, and boy am I happy to do so!

As always, am not sure how much of other people’s letters I can post here, but let’s just say it contained the phrases “to me, what you’ve done is wonderful. The depth and complexity of the characters in this brief glimpse is impressive.” and “You’ve definitely transcended farce and moved the story to a whole new level, frankly unlike anything I’ve read before.”


I have been struggling quite a lot recently with a huge case of self-doubt – no doubt to do with the huge re-writes/breaking apart what I had to try and make something better from the pieces.

This comes at just the right time and makes me realise more than ever how incredible this mentorship is.

hey, I still would have shared if the feedback wasn’t so good, but this is so much sweeter.


just sent Valerie Parv/fairygodmother the new draft of my first chapter and I am…nervous.

Redrafting and re-imagining something that you’ve already written is not easy. And it brings the risk factor in all over again. Some of the things I’ve had to deal with:

1. My hero is a charming rascal, but I had some feedback that made sense to me that he’s a little bit too farcical, i.e. he doesn’t allow room for an emotional journey. I’ve re-imagined him so that his charm is more obvious as a kind of defence mechanism/character flaw to hide his awful loneliness.

Given all the angsty alphas I’ve been reading lately I may have just – ever so slightly – overwritten him in the other direction.

2. Am I actually writing a completely different story? Have I lost everything that made that character what he was? This is really tricky, because he looks the same, is called the same, is being thrown into the same circumstance, but…

I imagine all writers face this when they work on manuscripts over long periods of time, because what you’re interested by changes over time, too.

3. Somewhere along the way I’ve lost contact with my “voice”. I feel like I’ve been improving so much as a writer and learning my craft/the industry. But I realised during this redrafting process that I was writing according to what makes a good scene and according to different feedback I was getting.

I took a deep breath and attempted to get back to what I love about romance novels and romantic heroes and write that. Save the rest for second-drafting. This makes it all the more terrifying to let someone else see it, because it feels raw.

Lucky for me, VP is the best mentor in the world, and I’m sure she will say whatever she has to say with great tact and encouragement, as always.

Will keep you posted.

kill your darlings

some writerly person (Hemingway?) said that about the process of cutting brilliant pieces of writing, for the sake of the whole.

Tonight, I started to see what it means. Me and Catherine drank tea and brainstormed ideas from what Valerie Parv/fairy godmother had to say about my novel. We were only brainstorming the first couple of chapters, but what came out, finally, was a much better, smoother plotline.

That cuts about a third of my book out. Let’s see, we got rid of an affair the hero has with the neighbour’s daughter that blows up in his face on his wedding night; a strained marriage after said wedding night; and a miscarriage by the heroine’s sister, to the hero.

Ah, the plot gymnastics of first novels.

Valerie said to me “If it’s a choice between what the characters are doing and who the characters are, always pick the latter.” This makes a lot of sense to me, and I know these two characters love just hanging out and talking about things like what exactly to call women’s bits and still be delicate.

It’s a pretty confronting process, especially as I loved writing so many of the scenes I’ll be axing, but now that the initial shock has begun to wear off I feel good about it. It’s like lancing a wound, or coming clean about a secret.

As Valerie put it, it’s like writing your thesis without proper documentation of your argument. It doesn’t matter how polished the writing is, you can’t hide that kind of blackhole.

Readers aren’t idiots, in other words.

1 to 20

So I met Valerie Parv the other day, my mentor extraordinaire/fairy godmother for the next year. It’s quite an experience getting your novel critiqued by a pro. Humbling, terrifying and exciting. I glimpsed the novel it could be, which I hadn’t even considered before – to me it just was what it was.

One of the best pieces of practical advice she gave me for finding solutions to problems was: Write the numbers 1 to 20 down a page and come up with 20 possible scenarios.

Possible outcomes from using this technique:

1. I write the best novel in the world.

2. My novel ends up with lists in it.

3. I break the literary mould and win the Man Booker.

4. My hero spends more time climbing in and out of windows than is strictly necessary.

5. Ditto singing inappropriate songs/discovering long-lost half-siblings.

6.  My staring-at-the-screen time will quadruple.

7. I will despair that I have far too little imagination to be a writer by about number 7 when I can’t think of any more scenarios.

8. I will learn to push through my limitations.

9. I will sit at my desk and laugh and say “Limitations? I don’t know the meaning of the word!”

10. My laughter may or may not turn maniacal.

11. Valerie Parv will be called to the asylum to explain herself (with magic wand in hand, one hopes).

12. Ich schreib’ meine Liste ganz auf Deutsch.

13. My hero comes back from war wounded in his soul.

14 My heroine has an uncanny affinity for wounded animals.

15. Oh, wait…isn’t that a Lisa Kleypas novel?

16. By about 16 my doubt turns to despair.

17. I realise that setting my Regency Romance novel in space is the best idea I have ever had.

18. It will be like Steam Punk on steroids/in a spacesuit.

19. I do the exercise and new bits of my brain open up.

20. I close the scary doors and use the rest to my advantage.

meeting the fairy godmother

I get to meet Valerie Parv/fairy godmother next week – yay! Some things to ask:

1. Could Borris ever work as a hero’s first name?

2. So my manuscript’s pretty much perfect, right?

3. Should I call, er, you know: a) woman’s place b) pleasure centre c) venus fly trap?

4. What exactly is a “lantern jaw”?

5. So how powerful is your magic wand, Val? Are we talking agents, contracts or New York Times bestsellerdom?

6. And speaking of magic wands…hey, that’s a pretty neat euphemism for, er, you know.

I think we’re going to get along just fine.

a BIG piece of good news

Last Saturday I came home just before midnight after a very long day investigating how I live through my communication. I found special k just where I most expected him to be: lying splat asleep on the couch, with a weird French film on the tele.

I touched his face just for the pleasure of watching his eyes open and go from sleep to sleepy adoration.

“I have to tell you something,” he said.

“It’s about the award, isn’t it?” I had remembered about 2 hours earlier, and my heart had started thumping away in my chest; the Valerie Parv Award had been announced that evening.

Special k looked at me with those still-asleep eyes and didn’t say anything. That silence gave my mind a lot of space for thoughts like Shit, I didn’t even place, did I?

Then every feature in his face focused on me, his eyes sharp with intent. “You won!”

Now I really wouldn’t be coy admitting that a small voice in my head went “of course I won” at this point. But it didn’t. I was absolutely and completely floored by the news. Then I laughed a lot. And then I realised:

This changes everything. I now have a mentor for a year. And not just any mentor – Valerie Parv has been successfully, and more importantly professionally writing romance for 20 years. She’s also a great spokesperson for romance within Australia, and an experienced teacher of the craft.

Over the weekend I made a commitment: I will be the breadwinner in my family by my 30th birthday. Being mentored by Val (fairy godmother) is the first, brilliant step in that direction.