(Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
I have just spent 5 intensive days with bestselling author, Fiona McIntosh, at the inaugural Popular Fiction Master Class in Adelaide. Wow! I am pumped with enthusiasm and armed with the tools to make this business a success.
The sunflower theme was started by the late Bryce Courtney during his master classes and, when he handed the baton to Fiona, she took the challenge seriously. His photo and sunflowers watched over this group of 20 very special writers.
Now, I know you're dying to know what we got up to, so here are the best parts. For me, just being in a room with Fiona McIntosh and hearing her stories about the writing journey and publishing business was awe inspiring. She's a generous, vivacious character with a gift-of-the-gab and her philosophy of writing is so simple you'll wonder why the hell you haven't already succeeded.
Her principles are ones you will probably be familiar with, but they are pared back and presented in such a way as to make them as clear as the creek trickling fresh autumn rain. You need to develop interesting characters that your readers can identify with. Know their motivations and put lots of obstacles in their way. Fiona explained the shape of a popular fiction story, its key elements, great openings and how to achieve pacing that will create a story readers can't put down. Of course, we all know we should 'show don't tell', but it was very powerful to hear examples and see how this could enliven our words. Point of view, he importance of dialogue, evoking emotion, memorable settings and how to seemly drip in exposition were all covered.
One of the most important lessons I learnt this week was that letting too many people assess and comment on your work can lead to confusion and self-doubt. Trust yourself!
We were blessed by a fascinating talk by the talented author/illustrator of 'Monster Blood Tattoo', David Cornish, who explained his world building process. Two aquisition editors spoke to us about the publishing industry: Ali Watts from Penguin Books Australia and Lisa Berryman from Harper Collins. We were provided an amazing opportunity to pitch our completed manuscripts. What a fabulous in road to get our careers started!
What an amazing experience. Now, to quote Fiona, I'm going to "strap on some persistence and self belief as armour" and write that best seller.