On Writing

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

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.

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?

A portrait of Kate Mildenhall

Ahead of her workshop on writing historical fiction, WV intern Nicola Wetzel spoke to Kate Mildenhall about her debut novel Skylarking, and the stories hiding all around us, waiting to be uncovered.

A portrait of Michael Shanks

Writer, director, actor and visual effects guru Michael Shanks wears many hats. Ahead of his Writing for YouTube workshop, WV intern Nicola Wetzel caught up with him to talk about the pleasures and perils of doing it all yourself.


Photo of Toni Jordan

For Toni Jordan, writing is all about timing and empathy. WV intern Nicola Wetzel caught up with Toni ahead of her workshop on dialogue and character to talk about how to keep readers engaged, and why she’ll always be a hopeless romantic.

Photo of Maxine Beneba Clarke

According to Maxine Beneba Clarke, short fiction is about searching for a vision of perfection. WV intern Nicola Wetzel caught up with her ahead of her Short Story Bootcamp to talk structure, voice, hope and writing to create change.

Portrait of Dave O'Neil

You have to play to your audience, says Dave O’Neil. Ahead of his upcoming comedy writing workshop. WV intern Nicola Wetzel caught up with Dave to find out all about his approach to writing comedy.