Well. What a whirlwind weekend I had in Canberra with the Conflux Writers Day and the 2014 Aurealis Awards. This is the second time I’ve attended the Aurealis and I hope that I can continue to keep attending to support nominees and to have a really great time at the after party! It was nice for Nicole Murphy and Co. to organize a professional Writers Day before the Aurealis too, because it added that extra incentive for people to attend the big speculative fiction night!
Others have already covered the Aurealis so I want to briefly cover the Conflux Writers Day.
The day kicked off with Joanne Anderton teaching us about ways to create working worlds. I loved her road test for a coherent story and world: World’s need to be based on ‘what if?’ ideas but you need to test the idea with a ‘so what?’ follow up. In other words, keep worlds as simple as the story needs to be, don’t let the world get in the way of the story. Anything that isn’t relevant to the story will need to be deleted on an edit.
The second Plenary Session was on using minutes when you don’t have the hours and was delivered by the awesome Kaaron Warren. I found this talk to be one of the many highlights of the day simply because Kaaron said some things that were confronting to me as a writer that are also obvious if we are to come at writing as a professional business! Kaaron let us all know in no uncertain terms that writers need to write for continuity and to stay professional. A special time and a special place isn’t necessary! Writing is in our head (ideas) and our hands (from paper to pen) and there’s no point in waiting for time and inspiration. It will never come! This was timely advice for me as I start a new full time job and wonder how on earth I’ll get all of the projects I’m working on done by the end of the year!
After the Plenary lectures, were a host of speed date style 20 minute talks on various aspects of writing processes, writing skills, submitting and publishing and building your career as an author. I enjoyed the very quick run down on six mistakes first time writers make (not reading enough, not learning craft of writing, not knowing where to start, not knowing story structure, forgetting the show don’t tell rule and inconsistent POV). Next up was an equally helpful session on Character Motivation. I was very excited after this one as the session addressed numerous problems I have been happening with my first novel. Motivation is shaped by deep desires and fundamental fears and the reader must always know both.
A quick break and then we sped through the essential elements of the novel with Chris Andrews and then learnt all about word frequency analysis as a self editing tool. After this talk, I was convinced more than ever that Scrivener may well be a good investment! I attended two talks on research- one by Rob Porteous and one by Cat Sparks, with both covering different aspects of the uses of research which were incredibly helpful for me as I work on my second ms. I particularly liked Rob’s tricks for generating speculative language and names and Cat’s tip regarding spot research.
We ended the day on two more Plenary lectures. The first, from Ian McHugh, addressed submitting short stories and dealing with rejection again and again and again. I haven’t tried submitting short stories anywhere yet but Ian inspired me and I know I need to start! Rejection is all part of the author game! I found the pithy advice of ‘have doubts, ignore doubts, keep enough irons in the fire (10 stories at a time), show off (accept praise when story accepted) and be afraid but do it anyway!’ to be short but helpful.
The last lecture ended the day on a positive note with an author success story. I loved hearing from Keri Arthur about the trials and tribulations of making it to the New York Times Best Seller list and sat in awe when she told us she wrote five pages every day! No wonder she is so prolific!
You can see photos from the Conflux Writers Day and the Aurealis Awards Here. Photos all copyright Cat Sparks.