If you’ve been with me for a while it will be no surprise to you when I say that I’m passionate about education. There are very (very) few people in this world with the sort of talent that means they have nothing to learn. And, with the school holidays just around the corner for many young people in Australia, you have the perfect chance to focus on your passion for writing.
City Kids/In Person Workshops
There are writing workshops, courses and camps in various cities around Australia, planned with the school holidays in mind. Unfortunately, I was unable to find anything relevant/current for South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia or Queensland. You may want to check out the next section. Please note that I do have a Writers Victoria membership, but I’m not affiliated with these groups in any other way, nor have I used these courses.
I grew up in the country and while there are many great things about being a country kid, having access to a range of opportunities (and the public transport to get you there) is not one of them. Here are a couple of courses/workshops that can be completed online, wherever you happen to be in the country (or world). Please note that I have worked with the author Dee White before, and found her to be an excellent mentor, but I am not affiliated with her or any other of these groups beyond that.
If you do decide to have a go at any of these courses I would love to hear your experience. The best way for any of us to get better as writers and authors is to keep writing and keep learning, and I hope that you give yourself the opportunity to do so.
We’ve talked before about, unless you’re writing for your own eyes only, you need to consider your readers when you write. You can find that post here. In order to do that you’re eventually going to need to ask for feedback on your writing. Feedback can come from many places and in many forms, but some is going to be better than others. Let’s take a look at some common places to get feedback, and their pros and cons.
Family is (mostly) awesome. They love you, they think you’re cool and they want you to be happy. Also, they might be happy to read your work for free (cha-ching). But is family the right place to get feedback on your work?
They don’t charge
They’re easy to approach
You trust and value their opinions
They may not be totally honest with you (because they love you and don’t want to hurt you
They don’t necessarily know how to assess a manuscript
They’re biased (again, because they love you)
They’re unfamiliar with the technical aspects of writing
They can be unreliable
Other writers should have your back, right? Yep. And they’re in the same boat as you, so they’ll know their stuff too.
They understand the technical aspects of writing and how to express them. They can point out problems with plot, structure, dialogue and character arcs etc.
They don’t charge
They’re honest because they know honesty is what you need to improve, and their feedback is constructive
They may ask you to read their work in turn and that in itself can be useful
You may need to join a critique or writers group to have access to other writers and you may not feel comfortable about this (it’s something I’m still struggling with)
They may not be at the same level of writing as you – a less experienced writer may not be able to give you the level of advice you need
They’re busy and may not be able to work to your time-frame
They may ask you to read their work in turn, and you might not feel like it
A Mentor or Manuscript Assessment Service
A mentor is an experienced, usually published, writer who knows what publishers and agents are looking for and can give you excellent feedback. A manuscript service is just that, a service offered by an organisation (such as a writer’s association) to assess your manuscript.
They are extremely professional
They are efficient
They are constructive
They have insight into the publishing industry
They understand the technicalities of writing
They charge and they can be expensive. Assessing a manuscript takes many, many hours of work and both mentors and services charge accordingly
They will be honest and, while they will be professional and constructive, that honesty can sometimes be painful and confronting
In my opinion, finding a mentor or using an assessment service gives you the best return on your time and money. But, they can be pricey.
For example, the assessment service offered by Writers Victoria (of which I am a member) starts at AU$540 for a long manuscript up to 10,000, with an additional cost of AU$40 for every 10,000 words over that you go. The standard for a YA novel is 50,000 words. Yikes!
The mentor I have worked with in the past charged AU$25/half hour and she often did upwards of ten hours of work on my manuscripts. For me, it was well worth the cost. But, while both options can result in a better manuscript, they don’t guarantee that your work will end up published.
Asking other writers to look at your work is the next best option, and this is where cultivating your writing tribe is useful. If you’re not in a position to pay for assessments (and, lets face it, we don’t always have extra cash floating around) then other writers can be a God-send.
Family, in my opinion, are the worst people to ask to assess your work, unless you’re looking for a confidence boost (or your family may be the brutally honest kind. In that case, just don’t go there. Why do that to yourself?). They may be avid readers, but a reader does not necessarily make a writer. And they’re less likely to be able to give you subjective feedback (whether negative or positive).
There’s a lot to be said for experience. For a start, you’re less inclined to cry in the change-rooms when buying new clothes, or in front of the mirror when you’ve had a haircut (I’m assuming I’m not the only one who used to do that). But there’s also a lot to be said for youth, not least being that you have a completely different world view when you’re young.
With this in mind I was really excited to see Fremantle Press and the Fogarty Foundation are sponsoring the Fogarty Literary Award for authors aged between 18 and 35 years old (I’m just chuffed that 35 is considered young). It is only open to authors whose normal place of residence is Western Australia. It’s a fantastic opportunity – the winner receives a $20,000 cash prize and a publishing contract – so if you are a young writer living in WA or you know someone who is, you should definitely check it out. The link is below. And good luck!
KidLitVic is happening this Saturday. It’s a conference specifically for writer’s of children’s and YA books, as well as illustrators. It began in 2016 and I’ve had the opportunity both previous conferences.
I love this conference. It’s a chance to learn new things, meet new people and have my work assessed by those in the industry. It also reminds me that, even though I’m not yet published, what I do is a legitimate career.
Until KidLitVic came up, I didn’t really know very much about writing conferences. Maybe that’s something I would have learnt about had I done a creative writing degree or the like, but I haven’t and so I didn’t attend my first conference until I was 32.
The thing is though, if you’re a young writer, you don’t have to wait. There are workshops and conferences out there specifically for young adults who write. All you need to do is hit Google to find them. For example, Writers Victoria offers workshops and information for young writers (disclaimer – I am a member of Writers Victoria).
If you do attend a conference, I suggest taking a pen, a notebook and an open mind. You never know who you’ll meet, or what you’ll learn. And don’t think that being young is a barrier, because it’s definitely not.
Have you attended a conference or workshop? What did you think?
Each month Pieces of String will have a flash fiction writing competition. Because this is a new feature for this site, for 2017 ALL ENTRIES will be made public on the site as long as they follow the guidelines. ALL ENTRIES will therefore be eligible to win the Reader’s Choice Award in December.