Pearls of

EWFHeaderSo, I mentioned last month that I had a wee bit of good news to share. My news is that The Emerging Writers’ Festival Reader will contain a piece from me in it. Yipee! It’s called A Letter to My Younger Self (from the time machine) and contains some little ol’ pearls of writerly wisdom from a writer to her younger self.

The Reader combines highlights from the 2009 festival and is a resource for emerging writers, with ‘how-to’ advice and information, along with advice and experiences from established and emerging writers, publishers, editors, and other literary movers and shakers. It’s being launched in late October with a broad Australian distribution. It’ll also be sold at the 2010 festival.

Now, I’ve been a tad selfish and posted about receiving earth-shattering writerly wisdom, but then failed to actually share said wisdom. Oops. And now I’ve so confidently blurted out about my getting of wisdom I’m wondering if I can express it clearly. I mean what if it was one of those personal light-bulb moments that shift you on your own axis but leave other people unmoved and looking at you like you’ve just admitted you eat anchovies and ice-cream together?

Still, I said I’d explain, so damn it, I’m gunna. The gist of it is this:

  • Avoid having a character state what’s going on emotionally for them. You get a lot more dimension when the opposite happens. Yes, it’s the show don’t tell advice, but the way it was delivered to me, using specific examples of where I got it wrong in my story, finally made me see how to avoid this properly, or at least how to spot it better.
  • Find where the potential for change is for your characters. Know where those moments are, why they’re there, and what to do with them. And if possible, start the (short) story with one of them.
  • “Sometimes the more limited your characters’ self-insight is, the more plausible they are.”
  • Always ask yourselfΒ  ‘why am I showing this to the reader?’ If you can’t answer it, delete it!
  • When looking at plot, characters, and narrative keep asking yourself – how can I make it worse? I did this all through the re-draft of my story and it allowed me to take out all the sentimentality that was weighing it down and create more tension, more drama, and more potential for change.
  • “Your narrative will stay lively and unexpected if you let the reader SEE the character reacting to things they don’t expect and making decisions”. I love showing the reader inside a character’s head, which is what I’d done with this character, but rather than let things happen to the character I was doing too much relating what she was feeling and why, which gets annoying for the reader. This is a big one for me. I’m an articulate person, especially when I don’t agree, or am in conflict with someone. But does that sort of person make for a good character in fiction? Perhaps not! This was one of the pearls that seeped into my bones!

Hope it helps you too!

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16 Comments

Filed under Criticism, Emerging Writers' Festival, Festivals, Fiction, Inspirational, Overland, Political Writing, Reading, Short Stories, Submission, Writing

16 responses to “Pearls of

  1. Excellent advice. ‘Sentimentality’ is an interesting word.

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  2. Hey, that’s great news about the Reader!! Congratulations, Simonne, I will track this down when it’s released so I can enjoy seeing your name up in lights. Or in print. You know what I mean.

    Yeah, that’s very good advice. Good advice is sometimes the hardest to follow, or at least, that’s what I’m finding, but it’s great having some sturdy tablets of wisdom to lean on during the long trek up the mountain.

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  3. Actually, that was a great explanation of the wisdom you received, and not lost on me at all, in fact πŸ˜‰

    Also, nice to see, gonna try to get back to this blogging thing πŸ™‚

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  4. Great ideas here Simonne. But I also love how open-hearted you are with these things. A bit of an inspiration for me and my blog actually. And I’ve got to say, an articulate person, like yourself, does indeed make for an interesting character. Check out Jane Smiley’s, ’13 Ways of Looking at the Novel.’ One of my fave books on the craft. She points out that there’s always a kind of ebb and flow between action and reflection. We want events that make us feel, but we need articulate people making sense of it all as well. Which is what you’re already doing, so thanks again for that.

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  5. Kim

    thanks for taking the time to share this.

    go you!

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  6. Congrats Simonne – our two pieces in the reader will make beautiful poetry together x

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  7. Congratulations! That makes three of us. I’m going to be in The Reader too! And it’s my very first publication.

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  8. Dawn

    Congrats all of you ‘Readers’ and Koraly I want to know if you are related to Katie in Western Australia.

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