Expert Advice

Looking for some writing inspiration this lockdown?

During the week of the 9 – 13 August, the Melbourne City of Literature office and Writers Victoria teamed up to deliver a free daily Expert in Residence presentation. We were joined by Kate Cuthbert, Sherryl Clarke, Aoife Clifford, Carly Findlay, Kate Larsen and Declan Fry, who shared valuable information and advice on topics ranging from the art and craft of writing criticism, what happens as an author after your book is published, and reviewing and editing your own work. I was lucky enough to attend the sessions each day, and wrote a follow-up piece which you can read over on the Writers Victoria website or the transcript below.


While my theatre career hangs out to dry like washing on a line in a gusty Melbourne wind, I look to my lockdown to-do list.

First: get the jab. Mass vaccination hubs are opening up for my age group, so I book in for Friday. A week away. What to do until then?

Luckily, the Melbourne City of Literature office in collaboration with Writers Victoria announce their Experts in Residence series; industry expert talks every day for five days. I zoom onto Zoom. Knowledge is power after all, and feeding my brain is essential work in lockdown.

Here are a few bites of their expert advice.

Choose your own adventure. Trade and self-publishing are very different paths to publication. Do your research, especially if you’re exploring the overseas market. And Kate Cuthbert’s hot tip? If it’s too easy, be suspicious.

Map it out. You’ve finished your first draft. Congratulations! Now the real work begins. Before diving into draft two, Sherryl Clark suggests mapping out a three-act structure (if you haven’t already) to ensure your manuscript hits major plot points. Then read your first draft with fresh eyes.

Booksellers are badass. Booksellers don’t sit around reading books all day. Crazy, right? Aoife Clifford knows firsthand that getting friendly with your local booksellers is a great way to make your book into a bestseller.

You do you. Putting yourself out there is a tough gig. If you’re unsure where to start, Carly Findlay advises the rule of three: be on three social platforms and post three times a week. Overwhelmed? Just do what works for you and don’t you dare compare yourself to others.

Clarity not Comic Sans. Asking for money to fund a project is an art in itself. If you follow the guidelines and keep your application easy to understand, Kate Larsen says you’ll instantly be in the judging panel’s good books.

Every writer’s a critic. Writers critique their own writing all the time through editing, but writing criticism requires the courage to invite conversation through your work. Declan Fry urges that you read and critique far and wide, not just what you’re into.

Friday afternoon rolls around and I roll up my sleeve, grateful for the experts in literature getting me through the week and the experts in science who created this vaccine.

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