On Writing

Writers, editors, agents, publishers and more share their thoughts, experiences and stories.

Story is an ancient art form. They stood by the campfire, the early storytellers, and gave shape to their experiences, and in doing this, they gave voice to the collective. The storyteller acquired their art through practice. Their tales took shape as they worked at them. They found the best ways to tell their stories by standing in front of an audience, and seeing what worked, through trial and error.

Speculative fiction is a popular genre, yet figuring out where to submit your work can be overwhelming, particularly if you’re an early or emerging author. Definitions of ‘speculative fiction’ vary, so I’ll clarify what I mean when I use the term here: writing that falls into the genres of fantasy, science fiction or horror. These encompass many subgenres, from alternate history to futuristic dystopia to supernatural mystery. Speculative genres are about possibility, whether rooted in the real world or completely removed from it.

Does gender still matter?

A portrait of Liz Conor

Writing historical non-fiction is daunting, but also thrilling, says Dr Liz Conor. Ahead of her workshop, part of our Having a Voice: Writing Women series, Liz gave WV an insight into her writing process, uncovering untold stories, and the pleasures of the archive

Balancing research with personal experience is often tricky for non-fiction writers. Ahead of her Writing Women's History workshop, part of our Having a Voice series, WV intern Nicola Wetzel caught up with Iola Mathews to find out how she researches and writes about women's stories.

It’s not every day you get to step onto the surface of an alien planet. I got to do that in February, not as an astronaut but as the 2016/17 Australian Antarctic Division’s Arts Fellow. My plane touched down on the ice runway at Wilkins aerodrome and there I took my first bold step into the environment on earth that’s closest to Mars. All in the name of research.

In fights about realist literature versus speculative fiction – fights that happen mysteriously often online and on the stages of writers’ festivals – spec-fic fans like to say that the point of the genre, what makes it so great, is that it helps us imagine the future.

Speculative fiction is literature without limits – a catch-all term broadly encompassing stories that feature fantastical, supernatural, or futuristic elements. And it’s popular. Very popular. Among some of the most popular books in the history of publishing have, in fact, fallen under the speculative-fiction term; from ‘Harry Potter’ to ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘The Lord of the Rings’, works of CS Lewis and Ursula K Le Guin, to name a few.

Our job as storytellers is to deliver delight. That delight can come in many forms such as horror, intrigue, romance, suspense, and of course, that wonderful sense of sinking into another world that feels totally real. But how do you build a believable world? Is it a case of getting all your world-element ducks in a row before you start writing, or is it more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants affair?

One of my favourite movies as a child was a time-travel romance called ‘Somewhere in Time’. It stars the late Christopher Reeve (think Clark Kent without the glasses) and is embarrassingly corny now that I look back, but the reason my sister and I kept renting that worn old video cassette wasn’t the romance, it was the origin of the pocket watch.