Writing, Reading and Publishing

On the weekend were two writer’s get-togethers. Genre-Con and Emerging Writers’ Festival. Both were successful, well enjoyed and abounded in information. Here, I’ve collated a lot of friends tweets from those who were able to make it and shared what they learned!


General Writing Tips

Writers should think about what they can learn from every book they read. It’s how editors learn too. @KylieMMason

Write to allow the latent boiling rage against the stupidity of the world to be released. Not for cash. @EmergingWriters

Audience member: writing should be self-rewarding. If you think you’ll be the next JK Rowling you’ll ultimately be disappointed. @EmergingWriters

Writers need to find their own way, do what comes naturally, try different things. Don’t worry about what famous writers do. @KylieMMason

KM you can’t demand perfection of yourself in the early stages. “Suck it and see” – you lose nothing by trying words. @BothersomeWords

KM finds dialogue easiest to write. Initially write Innocent Mage as a script *then* turned it into a novel. @BothersomeWords

“Good plan, grind it out – it’s like painting a wall.” Joe Abercrombie on writing. @AlanBaxter

Karen: the joy of first draft is all the things that sneak up on you. Sometimes takes you to a scene/place you didn’t know was there. Every book develops in its own way; it’s never the same twice. @BothersomeWords

Karen: sometimes people don’t trust they can think of a thing when they need it & they get caught up in pre plotting. Daniel: when you’re writing you spend so much time with things in your head you need outside perspective to make sure things are clear. @BothersomeWords

Karen & Daniel differ on effectiveness of whiteboards v track changes comments to keep note of plot ideas & clues. Karen suspects plotters tend to not trust themselves to run with the story. Daniel likes to post-plot in the 2nd draft. @KylieMMason

ID: Read in your genre. You need to be familiar with writers in your genre. BF: read as if you’re going to be editing BF make sure you keep reading while you’re writing. It’s the only way to keep testing yourself. JC: it’s challenging to be edited. If you find a (received) edit tough, put it away and come back. JC: you must have beta readers. Send them a brief – what your work is and what your concerns are, what you need. Jodi explains the importance of finding the right writing group. Describes trauma of being a SF writer in a literary group. @BothersomeWords

BF: it’s a balance: write what you love, what you *have* to, not what you think will sell BUT consider what will be published. @BothersomeWords

“Be aware of the archetypes so you’re not just -blindly- doing what millions of others have already done” @NarelleBailey

It’s important to be aware of stereotypes & archetypes so they can be avoided or manipulated.@KylieMMason

ID: your opening sentences and pages have to grab people. SF: in ebooks that IS what people are judging from. JC beware of padding. Sometimes opening chapters are the worst and can be what let you down. @BothersomeWords




Do your medical research. Ask your doctor about effects of actions & weapons. Visit http://trutv.com/library/crime  for real life action ideas @KylieMMason

Involve your friends in fight choreography! Fun for everyone. (disclaimer: carefully!) Don’t forget that people have emotional breaking points even in battle. They cry, sob, scream, etc. Don’t rely on characters having ‘natural’ fighting skills. Most people don’t & have agro without know how. There is always a random factor in a fight, but don’t rely on it to always save your hero. No deus ex machina, please. @KylieMMason

“cliches are often cliches for a reason” so true though, more important to execute in new/interesting ways than avoid completely. @NarelleBailey





JA research gives you details people don’t think about and give an air of authenticity. Reveal culture/activities. @BothersomeWords

Characters should be people, not chess pieces being moved about for the plot. @NarelleBailey

PM Newton: sometimes you need a character to do something but they don’t feel like a person until 3rd draft. @BothersomeWords

What comes first- character or setting? JA: character first. In fantasy often feels like setting is first. @BothersomeWords

Karen talking about POV – we see/hear/feel from one character’s perspective-that helps the reader ‘place’ the action @BothersomeWords

Give chars negative traits, but reasons to pursue them. Show why they’re stubborn, single-minded, make it sympathetic. (tweeted by @AmieKaufman, said by @HeleneYoung)

Joe Abercrombie: Sometimes, changing character name helps identify character quirks, individuality. Names are important. Nothing like a really rubbish name to jerk you out of a story. @SmartBitches

Learning how stage directions work- how specific they need to be and how clear they are from the associated dialogue. Different options keep reader engaged and emotionally involved. Anticipating action for chrs or in suspense with chrs. @BothersomeWords

Shock your readers with new/different responses from your characters. Make them wonder which response was ‘real’.@BothersomeWords




JA being honest is important. Everything in a book needs to be truthful so every metaphor feels real. @Bothersome Words

LA says the language has to be appropriate & proportionate to the scene. Keep dramatic stuff for big events @KylieMMason

Mood v purple prose. How to move past purple? Jason: ‘Somebody with a red pen points out error of your ways’ @KylieMMason

Evocative language is the key. @KylieMMason

Jason user language & sentence structure to create mood; tense scenes get shorter sentences, etc. @KylieMMason

You’re crafting an emotional experience for the reader. Are you using the best words, fresh ways to show gestures etc. @BothersomeWords

Pinpoint and highlight certain moments to make scenes seem real without overloading with detail. @BothersomeWords

Karen explains importance of specific words. Eg: fled; lumbered etc. instant imagery, emotion, characterization Use a single image to convey information. Eg: instead of a page about sweat, hammers, sparks, smiting, etc: smithy. @BothersomeWords

“Said” is an invisible word and is mostly all you need with some exceptions. You can liven up dialogue with occasional descriptors. Hamlet would be boring if no one added flavour. @BothersomeWords

Writing is theatre of the mind. We are visual creatures. But when you’re writing everything visual has to be transcribed in words. You cannot literally translate an action sequence as it would happen on film. Dull to read. You can translate the *emotion* and *experience* so reader can imagine. @BothersomeWords

Flavour, feel & rhythm is important in dialogue. Brush you characters with the vocabulary of the time. @KylieMMason

What is a big scene? Bronwyn: the opening one. Get it wrong & the book fails. Daniel: the scene everyone wants to talk about, not necessarily the one the writer thinks it is. Bronwyn: you have to keep pace moving whatever your genre; keep reader interested. Eg: in crime need a body fairly early on @KylieMMason

How things are done in real isn’t always hey exciting – in fiction is more important that it FEELS true: character, motivation etc @NarelleBailey

Daniel: in an ideal world every scene is crucial; you never set out thinking the scene you’re writing won’t matter. @BothersomeWords




Editing and Getting Edited

Fresh eyes are important… don’t work in solitude, find someone who will read your work and give feedback @EmergingWriters @Andrepeach

Audience member says when she is stuck writing she gets her computer to read it back to her – she does physical stuff and listens @EmergingWriters

How many drafts does it take? SF: diff for each writer and can be different if its first or second in a series.  KM: the first draft gives you something to craft and mould. It’s the equivalent of a blueprint for a new house. @BothersomeWords

JC: editing is not me telling you what has to be changed. It’s your work and editing is a conversation. If editors want to make changes they need to explain why. If authors want to say no they need to explain why too.  @BothersomeWords




Print on demand is a fantastic option for emerging or independent-minded writers… great way to get your work out there @EmergingWriters

Helene: think of changing publishers like changing jobs. It doesn’t have to be a big bad scary thing. @BothersomeWords

Australian publishers often find it hard to sell Australian based novels overseas says @AliceTG (tweeted by @EmergingWriters)

Germany is the workhorse of publishing. Korea huge for non-fix. Japan struggling. Brazil growth region. @ReadNikkiLogan

If you’re looking for an agent, make sure you have a complete book for them to represent. @KylieMMason

I like crowdfunding because I hate gate-keepers, and all their empty promises: Matt Clayfield. @WritingNSW

Gatekeepers do serve a purpose-the reams of unedited beginner writing for sale online now shows that. Needs to be a midground @NarelleBailey to @WritingNSW

“I loved the story you had on (subject) last issue. Wd you be interested in a story about (related issue)?” A good pitch. (Tweeted by @WritingNSW, @Franmolloy)

Send your pitch to ONE place. Don’t ruin your chances for life with an editor by risking two places taking up your story It’s OK to add a deadline – if I don’t hear from you by (date) I’ll assume yr not interested. Date passes, offer it to next place. @WritingNSW

Even addicted gamblers would think publishing was too risky to try. Publishers know every book won’t pan out @SophieHamley, @AmieKaufman

“If you go with a publisher who tells you that they know everything, they’re lying.” Said by @JoelNaoum, tweeted by @AWMonline

Keeping your integrity& vision is important. A lot of publishers are a pain in the bum to deal with frankly: Melanie Lee @WritingNSW


Genre – Romance

Subtext in romance is a fun way to play against what’s on the surface, because readers are in on it. @KylieMMason

AC if you try hard enough it sounds true – none of us lived in the regency anyway so *cant* be *true* @BothersomeWords

Bronwyn Parry writes romsus & uses mood to build up fear, thrill & love. @KylieMMason

How much detail? In a romance, avoid large slabs of world re-creations & historical details. @KylieMMason

Bronwyn says love scenes are the hardest to write, they became easier after she realised she was writing love rather than sex scenes. @KylieMMason



Genre – Spec Fic

JA likes to use the “fantasy world” defence if anyone ever tries to pull him up on inaccurate historic details. @BothersomeWords

JA there’s no comparison to real world experience but you can extrapolate when writing fantasy. @BothersomeWords

JA points out lack of money/commerce in epic fantasy. Frodo doesn’t pay for anything. Sauron doesn’t buy stuff. @BothersomeWords

JA he wanted readers to know what to expect but also wanted to explore social changes and pressures. @BothersomeWords

JA wanted to write something recognizably fantasy, following the rules to a point – so he could break them. @BothersomeWords

Jason Nahrung writes dark fantasy, Gothic, and mood is everything. He starts with an emotional scene & teases out from there. @KylieMMason

A lot of modern fantasy doesn’t include long speeches – but sometimes people need to say a lot! Can get round this by breaking up with argument or *action*. Get characters to move around, use the space, objects etc @BothersomeWords



Other Genre

Thrillers/horror should give a ‘clean shirt’ moment. Romances, a melancholy moment. Give readers respite from the main mood. @KylieMMason

PM Newton writing about police in 1992 – accuracy would require more swearing than would be readable. @BothersomeWords

Mood at opening of a thriller must be ‘normal’ so chrs can be thrown into a horrific situation. Build a mood to destroy when writing thrillers. @KylieMMason

Did not know that the term ‘Hard Boiled’ derived from romantic tradition which emphasized emotions of apprehension, horror, terror and awe. @Pnpbookseller

Lively debate on dialogue in historical novels. How much modern language is too much? How much historically accurate language? @KylieMMason

Never assume no one will know if you get something wrong, like musical references. Composers often fell out of fashion. So: do your research. Make sure your references are accurate. Even Wikipedia will help with this. The moment a reader hits an inaccuracy or something unlikely, they’re pulled out of the story & you risk losing them. Your characters are of their time. If they behave outside of society’s norms, there will be consequences. Your research is like an iceberg. Know as much as you can but don’t show us everything. We’ll be bored. Resources for historical writers: Write to libraries in places your story is set. Ask for primary resources or local histories. Resources: Pay TV is good, but not the history channel, which is obsessed with aliens & Nazis. But lifestyle, culture channels good. Beware of movies for historical accuracy. Sometimes writers do have to tone down historical facts because modern readers might not believe them. Good dictionaries & atlases will help. Beware the internet. Only use sites you trust as inaccuracies get repeated & thus become fact. To avoid never ending research, get a handle on your period then focus your research on what specifically relates to your story. @KylieMMason



Selling and Marketing

Blogging can be a great avenue. Don’t think that publishers don’t look at your blog. It can showcase your talent and engagement. @EmergingWriters @Miscmum

Audience member: some writers spend so much time online marketing, how do they find time to write? @EmergingWriters

Helene enjoys social media but likewise has to disengage in order to write. @BothersomeWords

DO talks about publisher requiring website, blog, FB, twitter etc. He obeyed but has had to let things slide to write sequel. @BothersomeWords

JA you need to keep things under control. Other elements come with getting published that will take you away from writing. @BothersomeWords

JA: pick your level of involvement in social media and stick to it. Has run a blog for 5 years and writes weekly. @BothersomeWords

JA you need to be prepared for silence; not everyone will read your book. Not everyone will like your book. @Bothersome Words

In Australia, authors have a 3-mth window to promote new book. After that pubs/bksellers have moved on to newer books. @BookThino @HeleneYoung

By comparison Helene finds it harder to juggle full time work and writing needs. You have 3 months to sell your books if Australia is your market, you need that time to market/sell those books. Means she hasn’t had a holiday in ages. @BothersomeWords

JA describes the soul destroying process of rejections but no feedback. Didn’t know about various writing orgs & support. @BothersomeWords

Thinking about accessibility re author websites is important, says @SmartBitches – re readers with visual impairments in particular. I would add: accessibility is increasingly important for ebooks. @Sjhfletcher

Conversation, not broadcast, and be a person. The two big rules of social media. So says Sarah Wendell @AlanBaxter @SmartBitches

“Social media: As long as you’re there and you’re thinking about it, you’re doing it right.” – Sarah Wendell” @Alanbaxter

Blogging is a hungry beast .. but the benefit of it is community engagement says @altait (from@EmergingWriters)

“If none of you have a blog: start one. It’s easy & worth the hour investment to learn to use these tools” Exploring Digital Space @WritingNSW

Further to that “find people who write like you do”-interact w other bloggers & “indicate you’re part of the family” JenniferWilson @WritingNSW

If your purpose is to get published you have to treat your web presence like a CV. Make it work for YOUR purpose. @Seizureonline, @WritingNSW