Conflux Writers Day April 2014

Conflux BannerJust a brief post to let everyone know I’ll be doing two presentations at the Conflux Writers Day on Saturday April 5, which is a prelude to the Aurealis Awards that night.

The inaugural Conflux Writers Day will take place at University House, Australian National University, Canberra.

The theme is ‘The Writers Journey’, which will be covered by four sub-themes – Writing Skills, Writing Processes, Submission and Publication and Building a Career.

My first presentation, Presenting Your Blog Posts for Maximum Impact will focus on:

  • text layout
  • readability
  • images and other features
  • how to keep people on your site for longer
  • accessibility issues and what to avoid.

My second presentation, The Elements of Novels, will feature information about:

  • balancing the beginning, middle and end
  • purpose of theme
  • how to distil a novel into a single, sharp, meaningful sentence
  • the three essential characters every novel needs (and how they work together).

In all, there will be a total of twenty sessions, plus an additional four plenary sessions by:

  • Joanne Anderton
  • Kaaron Warren
  • Ian McHugh
  • Keri Arthur

It will be well worth your time if you’re able to come.

Further information:

You might like to check out my Novel Structure Diagram which forms part of The Elements of Novels presentation.

How to write short stories editors find irresistible

I remember the first big epic fantasy saga I ever read. It was the Riftwar Saga: Magician, Silverthorn and A Darkness at Sethanon by Raymond E Feist. I read it over and over (and not just because I was broke at the time and couldn’t afford to buy new books).

After that, I sought out as many epic fantasies as I could, often staying up half the night while trying to get in just one more chapter.

Eventually I came to a point where they were all beginning to seem a little too similar, and I found myself getting bored with them.

From that point it was a rare epic fantasy that could draw me in, although a few still did, but the majority became ‘just another fantasy’.

I guess I developed ‘movie critic’ syndrome.

I knew the field so well that I became more interested in the stories at the edge of the field – the alternatives, the differences, the fresh ideas.

When I found something new that really worked for me, I’d pass the book to my friends who also read fantasy, but was often surprised when they didn’t like it.

It took me years to work out why. The reason is the key to writing a short story an editor will love: short story editors are (usually) very widely read.

They love the form and read everything they can. They really know their stuff.

By the time they’ve graduated to editing short stories, they’ve probably been reading them for years and are likely to be accomplished short story writers themselves.

Sending them something tired will dramatically increase your chances of rejection.

So how do you make them want your short story?

Give them something fresh. Something new. Something vibrant.

Use your brilliant idea to grab an editor by the collar and shake them awake. Twist a tired concept into something completely fresh and pique their curiosity right from the start.

There’s little room for ‘Hollywood’ in short stories – doing the same thing over and over won’t cut it.

Short stories are about exploring ideas through your characters and treading new ground. You need to entice the jaded editor who’s seen it all by giving them something they haven’t seen.

Do that and you’ll find your strike-rate increase dramatically.

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