Anyone who’s ever attempted a creative work knows the stamina required. You spend hours writing and rewriting, crafting characters and scenes, obsessing over the most minor word selection only to scrap entire sentences and start again. It’s intense and it’s personal – and many writers refuse to send their work out into the world until they’re absolutely sure it’s ready.
But how do you know something’s ready when you’re too close to see the big picture anymore? You’ve read each scene so many times that your mind sees what it knows should be there, rather than the glaring typo fresh eyes wouldn’t miss. The scenes play out in your head as you reread, so you don’t even realise you’ve forgotten to tell your reader that the murderer placed the weapon on the desk and the maid, who they think is witnessing it all, actually left the room three pages ago.
The solution at this stage is critiquing – let someone else read it. Because your work can get better when someone new is allowed to step in. Critique groups can help, but you have to be sure you have the right one. We hear so many stories of writers who’ve given up due to a bad critique from a group focussed on criticism rather than constructive feedback. If you have a great critique group, treasure it – they are a rarity. If you don’t, consider bringing a professional on board.
To make the most of a paid critique you need two important things: to know what you want from the experience and to be open to getting feedback you didn’t know you needed. Our Writer’s Surgery program has found that most critiques involve discussions of writing practice and craft; advice on structure, strengths and weaknesses, as well as suggestions for improvement; recommendations for submissions, networking and opportunities; as well as reassurance or guidance on the formatting of work for submission.
Queensland Writers Centre members find The Writer’s Surgery program is a great way to develop their professional practice while receiving objective, and respected, one-on-one advice and feedback in a supportive environment. We have professional advisors in all areas of writing including genre, literary, children’s and screenwriting. So, if it’s fresh eyes that your work needs, check out our Writer’s Surgery list and make it happen! Book your Writer’s Surgery session today and you could be on your way to a publishable work in no time.
Queensland Writers Centre is heading west and helping communities re-author their stories and send them out into the world. In partnership with Rotary Longreach and Queensland Health, through their Tackling Regional Adversity Through Integrated Care (TRAIC) program, we’re delivering a new community-driven arts-health initiative known as ‘Best of the West’. QWC tutors have enthusiastically embraced this initiative, offering their services as teachers and mentors to support Central West residents to tell their stories – whether for personal expression, social connection or to reach a wider audience.
At the heart of the project is our newest team member, Michael Lloyd. Based in Longreach, Michael is on a mission to encourage, inspire and assist Central West community members to share their stories of resilience. This is a long-term drought-affected area and it’s important that we recognise the resilience of the people who live there. Best of the West aims to empower the community to tell their stories rather than have a narrative imposed on them. It’s a celebration of life in Western Queensland that values the work being done in the community and aims to showcase their activities to attract more engagement with the region.
As a Longreach resident, Michael is an active community member and ready to help people throughout the Longreach, Barcaldine, Blackall and Winton area to tell their stories. Michael has followed an unusual path to his current role. From the age of ten Michael knew that he wanted to be an accountant. He announced this to his family by presenting them with a budget. By the age of 17 he was president of his local cricket association and district president at 18. After gaining tertiary qualifications in accounting, HR, IR and management, Michael developed his career in sports management.
Since arriving in Longreach, Michael has been developing his own writing skills through media work in newspapers and on radio. He has taught in remote communities and lived in Darwin for 12 years with his wife and son. Michael is looking forward to working with the staff of QWC to assist the Central West community to tell their stories to the world.
The Best of the West program launches in August, 2019. Look out for updates in Pen & Pixel and if you’re in the area, please get in touch with Michael.
- HOW TO BE A POET 101 – Samuel Wagan Watson
- The Short Story as a Destination – A.S. Patric
- The Joys of Belonging to a Writing Tribe – Debbie Mulligan
- When the Writer is Compelled to Speak… – Caylie Jeffery
- The Fish Bowl Residency – Jasmin McGaughey
- 2018 QWC/Hachette Manuscript Development Program Out of our Comfort Zone – Kelli Hawkin
- Sun, Sand, Surf: the Wintery Beach – Liz Ellison
- The Writer-Editor Relationship – Gail Tagarro
- ADAPTABLE MAGIC! – Claire Garth
- WIP : A Walk in Progress – Penelope Teasdale
- A Mid-Year Progress Check – Lori-Jay Ellis
- ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2019
To become a QWC member and receive the quarterly magazine, visit: qldwriters.org.au/membership
QWC members can download the PDF version of the magazine here: qldwriters.org.au/magazine/issues
One of the most difficult things about writing is that, in the end, it’s all up to you. Whether you’re an amateur or a paid professional, writing demands those hours in the chair to build the word count on a story that might never go any further than your bottom drawer. Writers have all sorts of routines to keep their momentum going. Haruki Murakami believes the repetition of his routine is important in itself; mesmerising him into a deeper state of mind. Junot Diaz wrote his first book to the soundtrack of Conan The Barbarian (not something that would inspire all of us). Stephen King, like Murakami, loves a bit of routine and describes the cumulative effect of his daily repetition, as being like a bedtime routine. Australian author, Melanie Cheng, is a fan of King’s advice but adds that you need a good editor – once the writing’s done.
So how do you find your own writing routine? One that fits in with your life and gets your idea out of your head and onto the page? And once you’ve started, how do you get to ‘The End’? Because we’re all hoping to get to the stage of handing our work over to an editor.
At the Queensland Writers Centre we’re always working to come up with ideas that help our writers do exactly that – reach ‘The End’ and get your work in print. Our new writing consults are designed for writers at any stage. Come in and spend a half hour talking about your work with someone who understands. We want to hear about your work, your plans, your successes, and your failings. Then we’ll be the writing best friend you never had, who tells you how it is and gives constructive advice on what to do next. This isn’t a critique, it’s a time for judgement-free fresh ears. We want to find out where you’re at and send you back to your work with three recommendations to help get you on your way. Each session comes with a follow up email to see how you’re going. This offer is exclusively available to members. At $100 per session, it’s the perfect price to gift yourself or others and a small investment in what we hope will be a great end result.
Developmental book editor, Laurel Cohn, has been helping writers with editing and manuscript development for many years. You can read a bit about her experience of getting writers through the development phase here. Laurel is running a workshop for writers with a completed draft on 22nd June. If Laurel’s story sounds like you, book in for her course and start developing your work this Saturday – members enjoy a discounted rate. And when you’ve typed ‘The End’, let us know. We love to hear your success stories.
You’ve finished your manuscript. What next?
To give your work the greatest chance of success, whether you want to approach an agent or publisher, or you want to self publish, you need to develop your manuscript to the highest possible standard. It is important to revise your work as much as you can before you offer it another reader for feedback. And it is immensely helpful to get feedback on your work from trusted readers and professional assessors or editors who can bring fresh eyes to the work and point out the strengths and weaknesses in the manuscript, guiding you through the next draft. Then you revise again. There is a repeated pattern here: revision – feedback – more revision – more feedback. Eventually you will send your work out, and then perhaps it requires still more revision before it is accepted for publication. This is the development phase, from the end of the first draft through to publication, or to the manuscript’s final resting place, which may or may not be a bookshelf.
The development phase can be challenging and frustrating but also incredibly rewarding. It is likely to take longer than you thought. Many years. It is not uncommon for a first novel to take seven years from inception to publication. I don’t say this to put you off (I heard the groans), but to prepare you for the realities of the development phase. If you are committed to becoming a writer, you can’t avoid it. And it is, ultimately a voyage of discovery.
As a developmental editor I am privileged to work with writers on this voyage, helping them understand their own work and how they can take it to the next level. But over the years I have been struck by how many writers are ill-prepared for the long haul, even those who end up achieving their writing goals. It got me thinking. Perhaps if writers had a greater understanding of how to navigate the rough seas and smooth sailing, and how to sustain themselves through the unexpected setbacks when they feel adrift or are blown off course, it would make the voyage not only easier, but more satisfying, and it would ultimately make them better writers.
If you identify with being in the development phase, I invite you to drop anchor for a day, step away from the desk and explore concepts, strategies and tools to help you reach your destination. Join me in the workshop Surviving the Development Phase to delve into separating yourself from your work, seeking and managing feedback, surviving rejection, recharging your batteries, building resilience as a writer, and answering that perennial question – when am I done? Life vests will be at the ready.
LAUREL COHN is a developmental book editor passionate about communication and the power of stories in our lives. She has been helping writers prepare their work for publication since the mid 1980s, and is a popular workshop presenter. She has a PhD in literary and cultural studies. www.laurelcohn.com.au
A huge congratulations to Queensland Writers Centre member and tutor, Caylie Jeffery, on being awarded the 2019 John Oxley Library Community History Award for her Under the Lino project.
Inspired by Caylie’s find of bankbooks and money under the lino flooring of her 1912 Queenslander, the Brisbane writer created a community-based research project that brought together people with similar stories and interests. Caylie first shared her discover on Facebook’s Old Brisbane Album, where hints about her home began to emerge. In uncovering the mystery behind her find a community evolved, and a book created to document and share this important part of Queensland’s cultural heritage.
Caylie accepted the award at the official Queensland Memory Awards ceremony held at the State Library on Wednesday, 29th May. The Community History Award is part of a range of research fellowships and awards presented annually as part of the Queensland Memory Awards. The Awards recognise the valuable contribution individuals and organisations from across Queensland make to the investigation, preservation and celebration of Queensland’s rich history.
Applications for the 2020 Queensland Memory Awards will open early next year. If you have your own piece of Queensland history you’ve been looking to get creative with then now is the time. Or learn how to turn any historical source into fiction with Melissa Ashley’s Alchemy of Research workshop on 15th June.
3 On-Brand Authors to Inspire Your Online Presence
An important part of any author’s brand is their official website – the place where people go to find out more about you and your writing. It’s the place to answer those burning questions of who are you, what do you do, and why should readers care?
Done well, an author’s online presence allows readers to get to know their favourite writers better. Consider these three authors and the things we know about them. Stephen King hates adverbs and loves his corgi Molly. J. K. Rowling loves feuding with Donald Trump and traumatising her fans with anecdotes about the bathroom habits of pre-plumbing wizards. And George R. R. Martin loves… anything but finishing the last Game of Thrones books.
Check out their websites and you’ll see each author has their own unique style. No matter what stage you’re at you can create an author’s website that’s like the hub of your online wheel. Whatever your preferred social media platform/s, a website is a great way to tie it all together and create a gateway for readers looking to connect.
Share Your Experience
If your website includes a blog, this can be a great way to share your experiences. Has there been a story you couldn’t get finished, a character you still don’t understand, or a scene you just couldn’t get right? You can talk about the problems you have faced with your writing, and maybe help someone else who is having the same issue. There is a rich and passionate community of writers online, and most of them are potential readers as well.
George R. R. Martin has shared what he’s reading and watching, in addition to running his official blog from his site. Stephen King tells his readers about his upcoming work and J.K. Rowling answers the question of writing rules with the answer that she doesn’t have any. Each website is different and reflects the author – just as yours should.
Control Your Narrative
Whether you’re a published author or wanting to be a published author, inevitably you are going to develop a unique author brand. A website is a great way to take control of the narrative and express yourself authentically, right from the start. A brand that develops on its own might not be the one you’re hoping for, so take charge.
You can look to Stephen King, George R.R. Martin and J.K. Rowling for inspiration but if you want to make it happen now then check out Kylie Fennell’s ‘Build Your Author Website in a Day’ workshop at the Writers Centre on the 8th June. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a technological wizard. By the end of the day you will have a fully functioning author website and a newly established brand. So, grab your tickets, and don’t forget to bring along your laptop, headshot, and your branding inspirations.
‘Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.’
— Stephen King
The business of writing can seem tedious when compared to the joy of plotting out your next manuscript, researching some fantastic historical figure, or trying out a new poetry technique. Still, your prose can be brilliant, your creativity endless, and your grammar faultless – but writing is work and even if it isn’t your full-time job you have to work at it.
As with any job there are a range of practical skills that writers must learn to excel at:
- Email and letter communication
- Identifying, and engaging, your audience.
Administrators require effective communication and an excellent knowledge of how to write clear and coherent documents.
Bloggers have to write interesting posts and snappy newsletters that hold their audience’s attention.
Teachers and tutors must write constructive lesson plans and have the grammar and proofreading ability needed to assess their students.
Social media addicts need to ensure that posts, captions, and comments are well-written, likeable, and error free.
And for those who are self-employed, writing can be make or break. When your livelihood depends on communicating with clients and customers you need to avoid writing blunders, usually without a second set of eyes to check your work.
Those little issues can become big ones when you send them out to prospective clients, agents, or publishers. They’re issues that are best avoided and the surest way of doing that is by honing your craft. Whether you want to capture your reader in a 100-word email or a 100,000-word novel, it always comes back to craft.If you’re looking for a quick refresher or want tips for turning your passion into a career, come to ‘The Business of Writing’ with Tiana Templeman on June 15th. This class will teach all the skills you need for excellent communication and professional writing.
GenreCon planning is well underway and we’re looking forward to a bigger and better event this year. We have a great group of volunteers working hard to create the best GenreCon yet, so keep watching Pen & Pixel for more details as we get closer to the date.
While we have your attention, be sure to add the dates to your calendar, 22nd – 24th November, and keep it free. Like all of our events and workshops, GenreCon tickets will be sold through our Eventbrite site.
So, what’s going to be different about GenreCon this year?
Well you spoke and we listened. As part of GenreCon’s evolution, we decided it was time to give you what so many wanted, and have our very own genre writing competition. We’re starting out with speculative fiction this year, and we’ll expand into other genres in the future.
What more motivation do you need to get writing? If you want some help getting started then Kylie Chan’s Crafting Speculative Worlds workshop this weekend might be for you. Kylie is a successful fantasy and science fiction author and a fantastic tutor in world building and all things speculative fiction. Her course is on this Saturday (18 May) at the Queensland Writers Centre. It will give you all the tools you need to create your own speculative fiction world and story. So call up now or jump onto Eventbrite and book your place at the Saturday workshop!
Get writing now… because GenreCon is coming.
Can’t get to that QWC event you’d really love to attend? No worries – live streaming is on its way!
The Queensland Writers Centre is always on the lookout for ways to improve our member services. While we’re based at the State Library of Queensland, our relationships with libraries and writing groups throughout the state allows members from all over Queensland to access a wide variety of QWC workshops and events. In addition to this, we sponsor and assist many of the regional writers’ festivals in bringing authors and more to their events.
But let’s face it – sometimes it would be great to attend from the comfort of your own home. Wherever you are, live streaming is a chance to liberate yourself from the everyday. Live streaming means you can get everything done and still take in the course you really wanted to do. Got a recipe you’ve been meaning to try out? Live stream while you bake. Filing to do? Time will fly when you do it in front of a live stream.
Our very first live streamed event was a great success, with members joining Samantha Wheeler’s Writing Middle Grade Fiction workshop from Bundaberg, Townsville and Cairns, as well as much closer to home. With a facilitator on site, live stream attendees were able to post their questions online for Samantha to answer, or chat amongst themselves for that workshop community feel.
Joining a live stream is really simple. You can sign up on Eventbrite, just like any of our live workshops and courses. Once your payment is processed you’ll receive a live stream link from Crowdcast, as well as an electronic reminder shortly before the live stream happens – so you don’t have to worry about missing anything.
Live streams are simple and inclusive, enabling you to participate as much or as little as you prefer. You can try one this weekend, as Tiana Templeton goes live with Blogging for Writers. It’s a great opportunity to learn about keeping the attention of your audience and making sure you’re sending the right message.
“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.” (A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh)
There are so many romance novels nowadays. Go into any bookstore and you will find tons of romance literature on the shelves. Despite that, women still curl up with a thick blanket, tissue in hand, ready to cry and celebrate with the heroine of the novel.
What is it about these romantic novels that are so irresistible to women all around the world?
Most readers of romance feel engaged with the story. Even if these plots are cliché, it is the raw, honest and real portrayal of the heroine that pulls your readers in. They imagine themselves as the heroine, meeting and falling in love with the man that they shouldn’t be with; or being in a relationship with a fairy-tale-prince (which let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to be with one?).
Romance novels take the readers out of their mundane life and into a world where everything has a love filter on it. In the stories, the heroines are always saved by the love interest. They seldom have bad hair days and seem to rarely work. It is just unrealistic to us who work 9AM to 5PM every day. When we reach home, who has the time and energy to be romantic? That’s where the stories come in. They bring us to a world where there is always time for romance.
We all love a happy ending. Often, in our own quest to find true love, we meet obstacles here and there. This can discourage someone from believing that they can find their destined person. In romance stories, we can believe that there is someone for everyone. By trusting in the happy endings, we can bring a little bit of that hope to reality, knowing that someday, the right person will eventually show up.
Feel inspired to write your own romance story? Learn to pen a gripping ‘will-they-won’t-they’ storyline with How to Write Romance with Ally Blake, happening on the 12th of May.
Fight scenes, both in film and print, are one of the cornerstones of great action. When done well, they pack a major punch and up the ante in any story. When they’re not, readers will be left skimming the page and viewers switching off. It may seem easy enough to do these scenes justice; punching, kicking, gun slinging — we’ve seen it all before. But writing a good fight scene is tricky, especially if your real-world combat or weaponry experience is lacking.
The good news is, even if you’ve never thrown a punch in your life, you can still write powerful and authentic fight scenes. Here are some starting points to think about while crafting your fictional violence.
Remember not to over-describe, especially if you’re not an expert. You can research until your eyes blur and your brain is filled with combat terms, but research isn’t first hand experience. If you’re not ready to start a brawl in a bar or go out hunting creatures of the night, you’re bound to make mistakes. And adding too much detail into your scene descriptions will make these mistakes obvious to your reader.
Secondly, don’t limit your descriptions to your characters’ actions. They have feelings too. Let your reader know what the character is experiencing, their physical sensations and emotional responses. Are they full of adrenaline and ready to take down an army, or are they terrified and looking for a chance to run? Did they roll their ankle, sending pain up their leg every time they move? Has their vision narrowed, leaving only them and their opponent? Have their fingers started to cramp and seize around the hilt of their blade?
But again, be careful not to overdo it. Your character’s physical and emotional state are important, but people in fight mode don’t spend much time ruminating. Keep it short and simple.
Keep track of all your limbs! Nothing will pull the reader out of the story quicker than if your character suddenly sprouts an extra arm to swing their double-handed sword while still holding a shield. Act it out. It’s better to look silly for a moment, rather than have your silliness immortalised on the page.
Remember fighting is hard, and it doesn’t always last long. The body can only take so much.
If your fight scene lasts for an entire chapter, and your character comes out of it feeling no pain, it isn’t going to read as authentic.
Does the weapon suit the story? The genre, world, and time period you’re writing in will have its own set of rules and conventions. You won’t see a pistol in high fantasy, a laser in historical fiction, or a mace in modern crime – unless your intention is to break away from these conventions. If you do, be sure you have a purpose for it and that it’s easily understood by your audience.
Does the weapon suit the character? Are they emotionally equipped to stab someone, or would they prefer something less up close and person? Can they physically handle a sword? And if so, what kind of sword? Maybe your character wants a less common weapon, like a bo staff or spear. Whatever weapon you choose, research is your friend. Find out why your character would use it, what its strengths and weaknesses are, and how it would impact the fight scene you’re writing.
Unless your character has incredible concentration and lung capacity, they won’t be able to hold a conversation during battle. Witty banter is entertaining, but not always feasible, so keep the quips to a minimum during the action. Think about your world building too and the rules that apply to your characters. Remember Buffy the vampire slayer? Audiences happily suspended disbelief about a petite teen girl flipping grown men over her shoulder, or knocking them out with one punch, because they knew she had all the power of the evil undead.
Recently, genre fiction has seen an upswing in ‘strong’ female characters like Buffy. These warrior women are often found sparring, verbally and physically, with opponents twice their size and wielding any number of strange and deadly weapons. But what do you do if your character isn’t mystically endowed with super strength? It’s important to understand the physicality behind the scene to ensure that each movement is achievable for your character.
If you’re looking to add strong female characters to your writing, whether they’re a vampire slayer, a mother of dragons, or something in between, come along to Aiki Flinthart’s Writing Fight Scenes for Women Masterclass on 11th May. This hands-on, physical workshop will teach you tips and tricks to help you master the art of writing female fight scenes in any genre.