RNA Conference – my talk

The RNA conference was amazing, as usual. And my brain is in post-conference mush, also as usual.I have a rewrite to do by the end of July but I need to catch up on my sleep and detox, first …

I was able to illustrate my talk about short stories with the aid of a visualiser. A magic instrument! It projects anything under it onto the big screen at the front of the room so, instead of writing on a whiteboard, I wrote on a pad under the visualiser. And the audience got to check out my American manicure in glorious colour and in enormous proportion.

My workshop wasn’t about ‘how to write a short story’ in the usual sense, where we talk about a short story being a single episode and the best way to serve that is to give a central character a conflict and make them solve it. In the middle of the page I wrote ‘Get idea’ and ‘write story’ but this workshop began waaay earlier than that: why are you writing this story? What is its purpose?

  • To add to your CV with a good competition result?
  • Money?
  • Promotion?
  • To get published?
  • To add to your profile (reach new readers/add to your credibility or versatility)
  • Practice/pleasure

Once you’ve decided that, you select any appropriate target:

  • Newsstand magazines
  • Small press magazines
  • Radio
  • The Internet
  • Competitions

Now is the time to do any necessary market study:

  • For magazines read their output, get an picture of the typical reader from the adverts and regular columns, study the fiction and ignore the Readers’ Own stories, send for any guidelines or find them online
  • For radio, listen to the output, seek any guidelines. Studying this market is like walking through shifting sands

So we’re now back at ‘get idea’ and ‘write story’. Except that your idea might well have changed, by now, to one with a specific purpose and for a particular target. You’re already well on the way to success.

So, you write your story, one that will fit the requirements of the target.

Then you polish/edit and rewrite. You might put it away for a week and read it aloud, then polish/edit and rewrite again.

When you send it out, with maybe a covering letter, or the fee if it’s for a competition, you send out the most polished clean manuscript it is in your power to create. And you record when and where you sent it, so that you don’t have a durr-brain moment and send it to the same target again.

Then you wait. And, for some markets, wait and wait and wait.

You might never get a result, particularly if you’ve entered the story for a comp, where only the winners are informed.

But what if you get a rejection? (The whole class knew this one.) You send it out again, to another target, rewriting if necessary. And you repeat that process as required.

If you get a letter suggesting changes – make them! Send it back! Ask for it to be read again! You are approaching the end of the tunnel.

And if you receive an acceptance – joy! Accept the offer. Wait until your story is published and then show off a lot. Then maybe you could send it to an overseas market and sell it again …

Julie Cohen, Janet Gover and Pam Brookes/Kate Hardy 'working' in the courtyard

The conference is a lot of fun and you can see some of my fellow romantic novelists here. One of the absolute pleasures of an RNA conference is the opportunity to do exactly what we were doing – kicking back, swapping information, soaking up the sun, networking … Sometimes the writer has to get out of the garret.

Queen Anne Building, Uni of Greenwich

This not-very-good photo is of ‘our’ part of the Greenwich University. Cool, or what?

  • Upcoming event:
  • I will be appearing at the Writers’ Cafe, Liverpool Street, London, on the evening of 16th August. See here for full details. It would be great if you could come.


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10 responses to “RNA Conference – my talk

  1. Your talk was brilliant, Sue — thanks again! I really appreciated all the practical advice and I read through your hands-outs again today.

    (And your manicure was really very nice.)


  2. It was a really interesting workshop, Sue. I must admit I sneaked in, having signed up to another, because I had an inkling I’d be able to use your advice. And I think it will really come in handy. So thank you!


  3. It was good to see you there, Julie. And I did pretty much the same with your workshop – sneaking in on an urge. When you said, ‘You’re going to do all the work,’ I thought about sneaking out again but I’m glad I didn’t. I got a lot from it, including a character called Chartreuxe Oxley who is 101 but only 23 in her head.


  4. Aaargh! Can’t believe I missed both talks, but there’s just never enough time for everything at the RNA conferences. Thanks for putting it on your blog too!


  5. Sue,
    Your workshop was great – very informative and well presented. Good news when I returned to Tennessee – a short story I’d published in My Weekly last year has been resold to the Australian That’s Life!Fast Fiction magazine. You were right when you said short stories can have many lives!


    • Thanks, Angela – and well done! Selling a story twice is a wonderful habit to get into.

      Glad that you arrived home safely in Tennessee and hope that your journey home was a good one. Nice to have met you again.


  6. I wasn’t able to make it to the conference, so thank you so much for posting this.


  7. I too found your talk very practical and useful. I shall be following up many of your suggestions. Thanks.


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