Easy Writing – interview with Rob Parnell (6 January 2007)

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Introduction

In one of the newsletters I subscribe to, an article written by Rob was featured. I found that article informative and went over to visit his website. I can tell you his website has even more useful information for authors. I contacted Rob and asked him if he would consent to an interview. He agreed and without further ado, I have great pleasure in introducing to you Rob Parnell …


Aneeta: Rob, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Rob: It’s my pleasure, Aneeta. I feel very honored.

Aneeta: Please provide us with some background information about you – where were you brought up, your family and so on.

Rob: I was born in Winchester in the UK and went to school there. I was brought up on what’s called a Council Estate because my parents couldn’t afford to buy their own place. I had a fairly ordinary upbringing. My mother always told me I shouldn’t expect too much from life and my Dad used to regularly tell me I was useless – he says now, as a joke. To be honest, I couldn’t wait to get away – maybe to prove them wrong.

I started writing fiction fairly early on and my teachers were always encouraging. One in particular, Mr Dillon, our 10th Grade English teacher, used to read out my stories to the class and say, “Now, this is how it’s done.” It was quite embarrassing – and sometimes dangerous to your health – for a 15-year-old in an all boys school to be singled out like that.

But at least it sparked something in me, a realization: for some inexplicable reason, I’ve always completely understood fiction. How it works, why it works and how to make it the most effective it can be. It’s stood me in good stead all my life.

Aneeta: Now, I’ve read about your ebook, The Easy Way to Write a Novel in 30 Days or Less, from your website, http://easywaytowrite.com. My questions are these:

  1. Is it really possible to write a novel in 30 days?

Rob: It was taking part in the Nanowrimo challenge for a couple of years in a  row that made me realize that yes, it was possible to write the first draft of a novel in 30 days. I’m not saying it’s automatically easy but it can be, if you have the right mindset, which is why my book spends its first half tackling just that issue.

Most novice writers have this idea that writing should be hard, that every word should be wrenched from deep within – and is sacred once it’s on the page. This is the kind of thinking that needs to be dismantled if you want to write for a living. Working writers know that words are just tools to help communicate your vision to everyone else.

  1. What makes your ebook different and special?

Rob: Now that I have some distance from it (I wrote the book initially in 2002 – it’s been updated since then) I think the book’s main strength is that it motivates you to be a writer. It encourages you to let go of disabling attitudes and let yourself write well and quickly. Getting the first draft down is usually the hardest thing for would-be writers to do, and so many never get there. I think that’s tragic. I want writers to get over the first draft hurdle – then they’ll know they can do it and have the courage to proceed.

My philosophy is that the way to improve as a writer is just to write. No amount of soul-searching or agonizing will make you better. You have to sit down and do it – every day – and that’s what my e-book tries to encourage – and support.

When I wrote my e-book, there was only Steve Manning’s ‘Write a Book’ package on the Net. I considered buying it but was talked out of it by people that felt it didn’t live up to its hype. I wanted to write something more practical, objective and affordable. In all the four years I’ve been selling it, I’ve had nothing but praise for the book because it’s honest and doesn’t promise anything that isn’t practical.

Of course now there are a lot of books about writing quickly – in 28 days, 14 days, even 7 days. I saw an ad the other day for writing a book in 24 hours! The Net is like that. Lots of hype and silliness. I’m proud that my books and courses and I have stood the test of time. To me it shows that people realize I’m sincere and really care about writing and writers in particular.

Aneeta: Let’s move on to your newest book, The Easy Way to Write Romance. Tell me a bit about this book.

Rob:
(This is not actually my newest book – far from it!) Actually the romance course was initially written in 2003. It was a huge success so I decided to keep it running. At any one time there are about 45 writers on the course and I tutor them all individually. I made the course available as an e-book recently because some people find that more convenient.

Since the Romance course, I’ve run courses on all kinds of genre fiction: Thrillers, Mystery, Dark Fantasy, Horror, Fantasy, Screenwriting, Poetry, Women’s Fiction, Journaling, you name it. (Most of them are still running.)

(BTW: in order to find all these courses, etc, you need to click on the ‘Search This Site’ tab on the index page.)

I also have a popular Writing Short Stories That Sell e-book that I give away free at the site, along with free writing lessons and a weekly newsletter. www.easywaytowrite.com

I regularly commission other writers to write e-books for me under the easywaytowrite banner – on Self Editing, Re-Writing, Article Writing, Copywriting, Writing Reviews for a Living, Beating Writer’s Block, Getting an Agent, Resume Writing, Character, Plot and Point of View, Bible Studies, even writing for the Mind, Body and Spirit market – all of which are available at the site. I’m proud that so many writers want to write for me. (I share the profits, of course!)

Recently I teamed up with Robyn Opie, author of 64 published books, to promote her site and her Writing for Children course that I think is the best on the Net.

Next year, we’ll be offering courses on Writing Autobiographies, Historical Fiction, Advanced Thriller Writing, Writing YA Novels, Science Fiction to name a few. I like to keep working hard and getting new things out to people. I have over 21,000 subscribers now that seem to be very hungry for whatever I can produce!

Oh, and did I also tell you (you did say it was okay for me to blow my own trumpet) I created the Australian Writing Academy in 2004 – it’s an offline writing college that caters for around 300 students in Australia currently. I’m planning to expand it to the US in the coming year.

Aneeta: Sounds very busy! I see also that you run 2 forums: Easy Way to Write Writer’s Forum and Easy Way to Write Critique Group. What is the difference between these 2 forums and what do you offer?

Rob: The first forum is a writer’s chat group where writers can share their thoughts, successes and frustrations with their peers. The critique group is a place where writers can submit their work to other writers and receive feedback. There are a few rules that you must abide by – being kind, supportive and encouraging etc – it’s a popular and friendly place.

Aneeta: Am I right to say that you offer a service called ‘Professional Manuscript Assessment’? If so, what does this service entail and indeed, what other services do you offer?

Rob: Every writer needs something different, at different stages of their career.

MS assessment entails providing a thorough critique detailing strengths, weaknesses, advice and addresses many of the technical issues associated with preparing a manuscript for submission to publishers. I mostly assess novels but have also worked on short stories, articles and non fiction books.

Other writers need their books copyedited or just proof read. I do that too.

Mostly I enjoy mentoring authors through their books. At any one time I’ll be mentoring around 12 to 20 authors, giving one on one advice, support and encouragement as well as a line by line edit of their work (if that’s what they need). Most of my authors have gone on to be published – usually within a year of me working with them, which is very gratifying.

It’s difficult to quote generic prices for these services so I usually don’t advertise that I do this. Most authors are referred to me or just contact me direct to talk about their writing first – then we take it from there. If writers want to get in touch with me to talk about mentoring, assessment or any other kind of personal coaching, they can reach me on rob@easywaytowrite.com I answer all my emails.

Aneeta: As you know this website is catered for storytellers. What advice would you give them?

Rob: Most novice writers make the mistake of thinking that writing stories is about them. It’s not, it’s about the reader. Always the reader.

Too many stories are rejected because the writer believes their vision of the world, their agenda, their way with words will dazzle and impress. It usually won’t.

Readers want to be entertained with story and stories are at their best when they focus on the characters, their agendas, obstacles and how they go about resolving their problems or gaining enlightenment.

When it comes to story, no words, no sentences, paragraphs or set pieces are sacred. The only thing that matters is the story. As I say often (and has been said many times before) if you come across a passage of your writing that seems particularly fine to you, immediately strike it out – it’s probably going to bore the reader/editor/publisher and label you as self indulgent. Write only for the reader and you won’t go far wrong.

Aneeta: Rob, I have come to the end of my series of questions. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Rob: Only that I believe that writing is the most important thing anyone can do with their lives. Writers are creators, they want the world to be a better place, which is fabulous.

Just think, all of the great civilizations, philosophies, religions, inventions, leaps in progress, art and technology began with the simple act of someone sitting down to transfer their thoughts onto paper. Now, to me, there’s something miraculous about that.

Aneeta: Rob, thank you.

Rob: It’s been a great joy, Aneeta. Good luck with your site and with everything that you do.


This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

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