WriteCon 2019: Notes from the field

by Alnaaze Nathoo

One year ago I made the decision to write full time. It’s been difficult; not always as creative and inspirational as I’d hoped. Writing is a solitary calling, alone in endeavour, accompanied only by words and ideas. Depending on where you live, finding a creative community can be hard. Not all cities are like New York or London where a vibrant world of readings, launches, writing circles or book signings pop up in every other café. As a writer, you seek people who understand your journey and can help improve your craft.

On Saturday November 30, The Woolf hosted its annual writing conference. WriteCon is a one day event – organised by writers for writers – where authors, editors and publishers share their experience and lead workshops. Expert tutors and Zürich writers connect to learn, pool knowledge and inspire creative journeys.

Lorna Fergusson (author, editor and publisher) got to the heart of the matter, covering types of editing and why each is so important. As Terry Pratchett said: “First draft: let it run. Turn all the knobs up to 11. Second draft: hell. Cut it down and cut it into shape. Third draft: comb its nose and blow its hair.” Once you know the story, you need to re-work and edit, polish and make it shine for the reader. Lorna gave me excellent tools to help in a painful and tedious process.

No matter what you do in life, endless possibilities for procrastination are just a click away. When you are home alone or sitting in a café with your headphones, your only accountability is to yourself and your innate need to tell a story.

Author Jason Donald’s session covered exactly this issue: the need to create ritual and routine. Sounds basic, doesn’t it? Whether it’s a minimum word count or number of page edits, waking up at four in the morning to write a few pages long hand, factoring in workouts and scotch, or a certain amount of time with the WiFi off, just typing whatever comes to mind. All such techniques can help us become better, more efficient writers.

Finally, a writer’s life is not just about writing, but about getting stories out into the world. Andrew Rushton, Publisher from Nord Süd books, presented different pathways to publishing. Interestingly, his approach was not “this is how to get published and here are the steps”, but a discussion of why we write, which pathway could suit you as a writer, and what you are looking for. Each of us left that presentation not necessarily with answers, but asking the right questions.

Writing conferences can be a mixed bag. Sometimes they are too big, and you can easily get lost in the mass of writers and publishers, moving around in cliques and groups, who seem to be competing more than supporting. Other times, they are so small and disorganised you end up with presenters who didn’t care enough to prepare their workshops, and just choose condescension and bad advice as the order of the day. In either one of those cases, you leave deflated and angry, having spent both time and money to learn nothing.

I am happy to say that WriteCon was small enough to feel personal and comfortable, but professional enough that the invited speakers were organised and skilled in their domains, sharing experience and advice, all through open and honest discussion. A fun day and I look forward to the next event.

Follow Alnaaze’s writerly adventures in Zürich on Twitter.
See more pictures of this year’s WriteCon on The Woolf’s Facebook page.

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Images courtesy: Alnaaze Nathoo, Louise Gooding

Author: Libby O'Loghlin

Novelist, social entrepreneur, nutrition and narrative coach. Creative Director of The Woolf Quarterly; Co-Founder of WriteCon and The Powerhouse Zurich. Nature is my jam.

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