When award-winning author Angela Slatter pops in, you know you’re in for some straight-talking about writing. And so it was during the recent Industry Insider event in my Write With Allison Tait (WWAT) community, when we discussed everything from her writing process, to her start in ‘chick lit’ and the secrets of writing short stories.
As with all good Q&A sessions, everyone walked away with a lot of food for thought – including me.
Over the years, between this blog, the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast, guest interview spots on other podcasts, guest blog posts and articles on other sites, assorted panels, events and festivals, and, now, my WWAT community, I’ve interviewed a LOT of authors.
Hundreds. Perhaps thousands even.
So when I hear something new about the process of writing, even if it’s the articulation of something I know in a new and accessible way, I take notes.
Now, I’m sharing the notes from my interview with Angela with you. Two little snippets of writing advice I think are incredibly helpful. And the fact that gates and recliners are included makes them even better.
ANGELA SLATTER ON GATES, RECLINERS AND WRITING
About Angela: Angela Slatter (also writing as A.G. Slatter) is the author of gothic fantasy novels All The Murmuring Bones and The Path of Thorns, as well as three supernatural crime novels, at least a dozen short story collections and several novellas.
She has won a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, a Ditmar, two Australian Shadows Awards and seven Aurealis Awards. All The Murmuring Bones was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards Book Of The Year in 2021. Angela has an MA and a PhD in creative writing, and is a highly respected teacher, editor and mentor in the writing space.
ABOUT THE GATES
In a discussion about structure, pacing and the ‘engine’ of the story:
“Your turning points and your mid-point reversal all need to be places where decisions are made that can’t be gone back on,” says Angela. “The characters must go forward. If they can easily say ‘actually, you know what Gandalf, I don’t really want to go on an adventure, Hobbiton is still just back down the road, I’m going to get on this cart and go home while you deal with the dragon”… If you can do that easily, there’s no engine in the story.
“Moving forward in the story, particularly in a short story, I often feel it’s like closing gates. Closing gates for your character that they can’t go back through.”
In short: your character needs to have a strong motivation to keep going and you have to close the gates behind them so they can’t go back.
ABOUT THE RECLINER
In a discussion about some of Angela’s most often-repeated advice for emerging writers:
“Let’s talk about setting, and specifically some advice from (author) Jack Danns, who talks about the camera,” says Angela.
“Whenever you start a scene, pretend it’s the camera in a film panning across the room or the town or the map or whatever. What are the important things your scene needs to show the reader to tell them about the setting? Put them in front of that camera.
“Is it a medieval castle? Is it a trailer somewhere in the US? What sort of furniture does it have? Is it an old La-Z-boy – or is it a new La-Z-boy? That choice will tell you things about the people in the story and their location.
“These are the things you need to give to your reader first off, so they know where they are.”
In short: big pictures are built on small details, and setting can show your reader a lot about your character.
WRITING SHORT STORIES
Where do you begin when writing a short story?
“Crisis, choice, and consequence – that’s where your story starts,” says Angela.
In short… well, it doesn’t get much shorter than that.
Of course, this is just a taste of the full and wide-ranging discussion. To watch the replay of the full one-hour Zoom with Angela, or any of our recent WWAT Industry Insider events (including bestselling author Kate Forsyth, bestselling author Natasha Lester, literary agent Annabel Barker, non-fiction publisher (and author) Sophie Hamley, children’s author and former book publicist Ashleigh Barton and many more), join Write With Allison Tait here.
Our next Industry Insider event (on Monday 15 May) will feature bestselling author and former director of Storyfest literary festival Meredith Jaffé.
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait and you can find out more about me here and more about my online writing courses here. Subscribe to my newsletter for updates, insights and more amazing writing advice.
It’s been a big year for the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast team!
Not only have we screamed past the ONE MILLION download mark (you’ll find my 15 favourite interviews here), with a LIVE event at VIVID Sydney (book now!) in the works, but we’re happy to announce that we’ve written a book!
So You Want To Be A Writer: How To Get Started (While You Still Have A Day Job) by Allison Tait and Valerie Khoo will be on sale from 8 June (be at our event to be the first to own it!)
Here’s the blurb
The ultimate guide to making your writing dreams come true!
Want to write a novel or earn an income as a freelance writer, but not sure how to go about it? Authors Allison Tait and Valerie Khoo – co-hosts of the popular So You Want To Be A Writer podcast – will give you the steps you need to make your dream a reality.
In this book, you’ll discover everything you need to be a successful writer, including how to connect with people who will help your career grow and productivity tips for fitting everything into your already busy life. You’ll also explore how to keep your creative juices flowing and where to find other writers just like you.
This book lays out a blueprint to help you get started and thrive in the world of words. With advice from over 120 writers, you’ll tap into proven wisdom and find the path that will lead YOU to success!
Here’s what five of Australia’s favourite authors have said about the book
‘Practical, grounded and inspiring. When a thousand voices tell you that you can’t, you need a voice to make you believe you can. This book is that voice.’
Candice Fox, #1 New York Times bestselling author
‘So many pro tips in here from working writers. This is like Tim Ferriss’s Tools of Titans but exclusively for writers. I loved it.’
Tristan Bancks, award-winning children’s author
‘Perfect for the person who wants to write but doesn’t have the confidence or the know-how to start.’
Pamela Hart, award-winning historical fiction author
‘Essential reading for any aspiring writer.’
Graeme Simsion, international bestselling author
‘Val and Al were a godsend to me before I was published, offering a guided tour to the world of publishing that was otherwise closed to me. Their advice is highly, highly recommended.’
Dervla McTiernan, international bestselling author
And here’s a picture of the co-authors on the day (nearly a year ago) we decided to write a book
We are thrilled to bring this book to our podcast audience, our writing community and to new and aspiring writers everywhere. It will be available through a range of online booksellers, here and overseas, so stay tuned for more details.
If you’d like to read more about So You Want To Be A Writer the book, or register your details to receive notice as soon as the book is on sale, you’ll find all the details here.
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait and you can find out more about me here and more about my online writing courses here.
I can’t believe it’s that time of the year again! I’m taking a break from the online world for a few weeks at the end of this week, so I thought I’d start sharing some of my ‘new year’ posts early, starting with this one.
I’m always fascinated to see which of my ‘writing’ posts resonate the most each year, and this year is no different. So here they are, in descending order from 10-1, the 10 most popular posts about writing on this site in 2018. (Click the title to see the full post)
The one superpower that all published writers have
Industry Insider: How do you know when a story is finished?
Ask the writer: How to build your author platform
Starting Out #3: Do you need to do a course to be a writer?
6 skills you need to make it as a copywriter
Writing for kids: How to create remarkable characters
Writing for kids: 10 top writing tips from bestselling author Jacqueline Harvey
My top 3 tips from nine years of author blogging
Industry Insider: How to tell when your writing is ‘good enough’
10 things I’ve learnt from writing my debut novel
Want more? You’ll find all of my posts about writing here.
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m the author of two epic adventure series for kids 9+, and you can find out more about me here. Click the images below to discover more about my books.
The life of a children’s author is a funny one. On one hand, we sit alone in our offices, talking to no-one, revelling in isolated splendour. And then term three of the school year rolls around, and suddenly we emerge, blinking, into the light, and into the wonderful chaos that is author talks and Book Week (which now seems to extend for about three months).
If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, I’ve been talking. And talking. And talking. To thousands of kids. After a week of Book Week school sessions in Sydney, which looked (in part) like this…
I rolled into a week that included a school literary festival, which looked like this…
With David Legge, Belinda Murrell and Louise Park.
Can you spot me?
And then straight into the amazing Word Play program at Brisbane Writers’ Festival, which looked like this…
Full house for ‘Find Your Writing Superpower’ presentation.
With Allison Rushby and Megan Daley: The Your Kids’ Next Read Team at BWF
My first webinar presentation as part of the Online Literature Festival at BWF
The weirdness of seeing your face on a wall…
The excitement of The Mapmaker Chronicles being in the Festival Top 10 (for a minute)…
In the process of all this, I lost my voice, caught up with author friends, met new author friends, and remembered the reason
why we all do this in the first place – because kids are enthusiastic and creative and incredibly entertaining and it is an absolute honour to write a book that a 10 year old will tell you is ‘the best book ever’.
I also answered questions. Lots and lots of questions. And I am here to tell you that if I had to give an aspiring children’s author any advice about author talks and presenting to kids it would be this:
Be prepared for anything.
When you get to the Q&A section of your author talk or presentation, and you are looking out at a sea of waving hands, all desperate to find out… something… brace yourself.
Questions you are likely to be asked include, but are not limited to:
How much do you get paid? (Be ready with a short, succinct answer to this)
Where do you get your ideas?
How long does it take you to write a book?
Did you draw the picture on the cover of your book?
What’s your favourite book?
Who was your favourite author as a child?
When did you know you were going to be an author?
When did you write your first book? (I’ve always wished I could answer ‘when I was six’ like some of my author friends, but this is not me…)
But then there are the other questions…
Over the course of three weeks, I was asked everything from ‘what colour is your toothbrush?’ to ‘does your dog ever get tired of walking?’ and ‘do you have any time to spend with your own children?’. Pulling out a favourite question wasn’t easy, but in the end, I think this one wins:
To show just how ready you need to be, I asked some of Australia’s favourite children’s authors to give me their favourite question from their Book Week presentations this year…
‘Do you sleep with your books under your pillow in case of burglars?’ – R.E. Devine, Jack McCool series
‘Can I have your jacket? / How was your weekend? / Can you dab? / Do you play Fortnite?’ – Mick Elliot, The Turners series
‘Does your mother ever steal your story ideas?’ – Allison Rushby, The Mulberry Tree
‘How do you have blonde hair?’ – Jacqueline Harvey, Kensy and Max series
‘When you were at school did you use a pen or a quill?’ – Catherine Pelosi, Quark’s Academy
‘Can you take your beanie off?’ – Matt Stanton, Funny Kid series
‘What do you want more than anything else? – Zanni Louise, Errol
And now I’m heading back into my quiet study for a few weeks, before my next appearance at Burdekin Readers’ and Writers’ Festival in October.
It’s time to get some writing done.
Are you new here? Welcome! You can find out all about me here, and all about my books here. If you’re interested in talking to me about presenting at your school or event, go here. And if you’re keen to write your own book, you’ll find a heap of posts about writing here, as well as information about my courses, and you can listen to my podcast here.
So here we are, the last of my top 10 blog post posts for 2017. Probably just as well as we’re into the second week of January 2018…
This time, the focus is on authors and author life, and so we have a mix of posts about publishing, social media, blogging, book launches, author platforms and all the various bits and pieces encompassed in an author’s career OUTSIDE of the writing (you can find my top 10 posts about writing here).
10. The one superpower that all published writers have
9. Industry Insider: How to get published
8. An important question for every writer
7. How to host a book launch
6. Ask the writer: How to build your author platform
5. 10 of my favourite book dedications
4. What to blog about: 5 top tips for new and aspiring authors
3. 10 things to do while you’re waiting on your writing
2. 6 more Aussie Instagram accounts I love
1. Five Australian author Instagram accounts I love
If you’re writing children’s or YA fiction, I’d also suggest having a look at my top 10 posts for readers here. This top 10 mostly comprises book lists, created from recommendations from the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community.
These are the books, across many different age categories, that parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers, authors and other interested parties are recommending to each other over and over again. It’s really worth having a look at what those books are!
And, if you’re new here, you can find out all about me here or check out The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher, my two epic adventure series for middle-grade readers.