What Women Want: Writing Commercial Women’s Fiction

What Women Want: Writing Commercial Women’s Fiction

Who: Dianne Blacklock, with guest speakers Anna Valdinger and Joel Naoum
6 x Tuesday evenings: 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 May; 6 June, 6:30pm-9:30pm
Full Price: $600; Member: $420; Conc Member: $360
Level: Intermediate

What is Women’s Fiction anyway? Is it fiction written solely by women, or fiction written solely for women? Or is it so called because it’s fiction written about women? Funny, there isn’t a corresponding label for men’s fiction. Yet women could hardly be considered a sideline to the main game – they are not only the biggest readers and buyers of books, they also write more books than men. There wouldn’t be a publishing industry without women, and therefore books that speak to women are not only important but integral to the literary landscape.

This six-week course will explore the vast genre of women’s fiction, what draws readers to it and what makes it commercial. Participants will be taken through the fundamentals of creating relatable characters and telling a compelling story with heart and humour. Suitable for intermediate writers, opportunity will be provided to workshop current works in progress, and receive feedback and editorial direction. Guest speakers will include industry specialists from traditional, digital, and self-publishing sectors. Participants will come away with the confidence to complete their projects and the tools to pursue publication.

Learning outcomes
On completion of the course, participants will:

  1. gain a deeper understanding of structure and character in commercial genre fiction, in order to critically assess their current works in progress, and build the confidence and motivation to complete them.
  2. Have the practical tools to edit and polish their writing to a consistent professional standard
  3. Know how to prepare a competitive submission to publishers and/or agents.

Course Outline
Week One: What is ‘women’s fiction’ anyway?

Introductions and establishing goals for the course

  • To plan or not to plan, that is the question!
  • Developing a process you can call your own
  • Character vs. plot in genre fiction – or how to avoid having your characters wandering around in search of a plot.

Week Two: Talent, luck and discipline
Focus on narrative: Voice and Perspective • Dynamic openings • Dialogue that speaks to your readers • Sex and the mushy bits • The saggy middle • And they lived happily ever after

Week Three: How to keep the pages turning
Focus on Style: Introducing my three favourite editing mantras:

  1. Less is more.
  2. Show, don’t tell.
  3. Don’t let the writing get in the way of a good story.

Learn how to kill your darlings – using Chekhov’s gun if you have to – with practical exercises to identify the bits readers want to skip over, so you can build pace and make your book un-put-downable.

Week Four: Why spell check is not enough
Guest speaker – Anna Valdinger
, Fiction Publisher at Harper Collins
This week we get into the nuts and bolts – the mechanics of writing. You need to know the rules to be able to break them, and to distinguish the superficial rules from the important ones. We’ll look at common errors and pitfalls, writing for clarity above all else, and also consider the place of research. 

Week Five: The next step
Guest speaker – Joel Naoum,
director of Critical Mass Consulting

  • Preparing your work for submission, including writing a synopsis
  • Developing an author ‘platform’ – and why this is particularly important for writers of women’s fiction
  • Submission of sample chapter to class.

Week Six: Workshop

  • Feedback and discussion
  • Review of lessons learned
  • What to do next
  • Reading list and other resources.

Participant Requirements
Pen and paper

About the tutor
Dianne Blacklock
is the author of nine novels of commercial women’s fiction, published both in Australia and overseas. She recently contributed to the 2015 anthology Mothers and Others, and has written for the Daily and Sunday Life on women’s issues. She is also a busy freelance editor, with a focus on debut authors of women’s fiction and romance titles.

About the guest speakers
Anna Valdinger
started her publishing career as editor for a literary agency in London. She moved to Australia in 2008 and worked at Pan Macmillan before joining HarperCollins to take responsibility for developing the local commercial fiction list. As Fiction Publisher she looks after a wide list of Australian authors including Tara Moss, Rachael Treasure, Colleen McCullough, Nikki Gemmell and Belinda Alexandra, as well as international authors such as Wilbur Smith, Patricia Cornwell, Maggie Alderson, Dean Koontz and Paullina Simons.

Joel Naoum has a decade of experience in books and writing. For the past five years he ran Momentum – a global, first-of-its-kind digital imprint for Macmillan. Responsible for publishing over 100 titles a year, Joel oversaw the publishing process from contract negotiation through editorial, production and marketing all the way to sales and analysis. He has worked with authors like Matthew Reilly, John Birmingham, Kylie Scott and Mark ‘Chopper’ Read, across all genres and in both fiction and non-fiction. He is currently director of Critical Mass Consulting, providing publishing strategy, production services and digital marketing for authors, publishers and content producers.


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