Scribblings from the National Writers’ Conference 2015

Last weekend I attended the National Writers’ Conference, the two day flagship event of the Emerging Writers’ Festival, held at Melbourne’s Town Hall.

The conference is held over Saturday and Sunday with a range of panels hosted by leaders in their field. With such a fabulous schedule it was a challenge choosing which panels to attend. I selected eight across both days, and geared them towards personal interest as well as those that would offer some benefit in skill development and sharing of experience.

Panel members included the likes of Kylie Ladd, Anna Poletti, William McInnes (who’s a bloody funny bloke), Sulari Gentill, Oslo Davis, James Phelan, Kirsty Murray, and many more wonderfully talented folk.Emerging Writers' Festival

I thought I’d share some little pearls I scribbled down by way of writing tips and advice, and snippets of wisdom I found pertinent to my own writing life:

Kylie Ladd offered “Read widely and forensically, it will help you identify why something does or doesn’t work.” “It’s normal to cringe when you read your own work; normal to doubt yourself.” (Phew). “Write for your art, but edit for cash. I hate to make it sound like that, but publishing is a business.”

Oslo Davis made me smile with his intimation, “One day people will see me for the fraud that I am.” It’s always refreshing to know most artists seem to harbor that element of self doubt. Oslo also encouraged others to “Not read reviews of your work. It will take 934 good reviews to wipe out the impact of the one bad one you read.”

“If you write well no one will notice an adverb or a speech tag, they will be so caught up in your story.” I loved this advice from Sulari Gentill. I know some editors go crazy if even one adverb is used, denouncing it as ‘bad writing’. I totally get why adverbs are considered in this light but sometimes, sometimes … a well chosen adverb works beautifully, in my opinion.

Sulari also said we should trust our readers and allow them in. With regards to character description, all Sulari supplies is hair colour, eye colour and height, and allows her reader to bring to the story their own interpretation, saying, “It will help them engage with your story. Allow your reader’s ideas to encroach on your own. Be brave enough to lose a little control.”

“If you don’t write your story then no one will. Find a way to believe you are the best and only person to tell your story,” encouraged English Lecturer and all round cool cat, Anna Poletti. She also advocates getting up from your desk and going for a walk or changing activity to bring what is at the back of your brain to the front. As someone who power walks through challenging plot points and problems, I wholeheartedly agree with this advice.

And lastly, the very funny writer and actor, William McInnes, offered this pearl of wisdom, “Never take yourself too seriously, but take what you do seriously. Life is too much fun to disappear up your own arse.” Yes.

All in all, it was a great weekend, with lots of take home value. Melbourne is a wonderfully supportive city for writers of any level, and really embraces diversity and inclusivity. The Emerging Writers’ Festival is a celebration of literature across all mediums, encouraging creativity, innovation and connectivity with a broader writing community. Hope to see you there next year!

Happy writing, happy reading and happy days 🙂

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About Rebecca Fraser

Rebecca Fraser is a full time copy and content writer and part time speculative fiction author based on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. Her dark short stories, poems, and flash fiction have appeared in various anthologies, magazines and journals since 2007. Rebecca holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing and a Certificate of Publishing (Copy Editing and Proofreading). To provide her muse with life’s essentials, she supplements by freelancing for the corporate world, however her true passion lies in storytelling.
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6 Responses to Scribblings from the National Writers’ Conference 2015

  1. Yay adverbs! Glad you enjoyed the session Rebecca – great summary!

    • Thanks, Sulari! I caught a few of your panels. I particularly enjoyed your story about lying in the evening heat while your father told you stories of the stars and their mythology … what a lovely path (albeit an interesting one) to storytelling 🙂

  2. habisha says:

    Good post, and thanks for sharing these bits of advice. It is true editors had adverbs and adjectives. But sometimes they are just needed. We are also told to write short … but why? Is it because people really don’t want a long book (JK Rowling’s books make me think otherwise) or because the editors don’t feel like wading through 1000 pages? I say we write the story we see and then edit it into perfection. And I love the one about not taking ourselves (or our words) too seriously.

    Really good stuff here. Thank you.

    • Thanks so much for your comments, Habisha. I agree, tell the story you want and edit it to perfection! Perhaps the costs of publishing / marketing kick in to the preference for shorter length novels, or the pacing required to maintain quality story at that level? Epic fantasy even seems to be chopped down these days … trilogies mean more $$ for publishers though. Thanks again for dropping by 🙂

      • habisha says:

        Good point on story quality and pacing. It is hard to keep up the pacing over a very long novel without it sagging from its own weight.

        I have written a fairly long historical novel. I’m in the midst of editing it at the moment. I’ve struggled with how much to take out and what to leave in, but figure if I don’t really care about the character’s actions/words at this point, the reader probably won’t either. So “does it matter?” is stuck up on the wall as the litmus test. Can I still tell the same story without a scene, sentence, conversation, description?

        Maybe this is why there is an emphasis on writing shorter; there is a lot in books that simply don’t need to be there (including that simply; bad adverb!).

        Deb

      • Good luck with the editing process, Deb. I’m in the throes of editing at the moment as well, although a shorter YA manuscript. My red pen, “Mr Slashy,” is working hard! 🙂

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