Last Saturday I had the amazing opportunity to attend my first ever sessions at the annual Sydney Writers' Festival! I booked sessions ...

Last Saturday I had the amazing opportunity to attend my first ever sessions at the annual Sydney Writers' Festival! I booked sessions during the All Day YA celebration, and between meeting my dear writing friend Imogen Elvis in real life, for the first time, and madly jotting down advice, I had a wonderful time!

So today I thought I'd share some tips and thoughts about the three sessions I attended, as well as my overall thoughts!

From the Sidelines
Authors: Sarah Ayoub, Tamar Chnorhokian, Patrick Ness, Rameen Hayat (Moderator)

My first session was a panel which discussed diversity in fiction. The authors were as diverse in their viewpoints as their backgrounds. What I took away with me was:

1) Check your motivation for diversity. Are you making a character diverse to please the trend, or is it realistic the character would be diverse in the real world?

2) To write diverse characters, write them as you would any other character: as a person who is not one-dimensional, and who simply happens to be from that 'diverse' background.

3) Look at who you would expect to play certain roles in a story, then switch things around and write who is really there.

Sorry for the bad quality photos, but we weren't allowed to take photos of the authors, and the lighting wasn't ideal! xD
Writing for YA Books and Films
Authors: Jesse Andrews, Patrick Ness, Will Kostakis (Moderator)

There was a huge crowd for this session, probably due to the high profile authors. In some ways it was more fun than anything, with a quirky chemistry between the authors, and their contrasting personalities. Apart from my constant laughter, my main takeaways were:

1) Screenwriting teaches all writers that if you can say it one sentence, say it in one, not two. Don't waste the audience's time; you must have a purpose and meaning behind every word.

2) Experiment in all story-telling mediums, pull out the best lessons from each experiment, then take it back to your writing, and you'll grow!

3) Patrick Ness's advice to aspiring writers: "Write the book you want to read, not what is expected".

Architects of New Worlds
Authors: Jay Kristoff, Claire G. Coleman, Jesse Andrews, Cally Black, Adele Walsh (Moderator)

This session was more craft-focused, particularly on world-building and speculative fiction, and my pen was zipping across the page! I may have only fangirled a tiny bit seeing Jay Kristoff; the rest of me was trying to comprehend authors are people, and how tall he is! (He's a giant!) Craft-wise, here are my favourite tips from the session:

1) World-building draws a reader in with shiny lights and decorations, but it is the characters who will make a reader stay or leave. Characters are what readers continue to read series for.

2) When creating fictional technology, draw on the familiar. It can be wildly different and out-there on face level, but the basic concept and core of how it functions must be able to be understood by the reader. 

3) Before each writing session, allow yourself some time to focus. At the end of each writing session, leave yourself a small note of where you were thinking of going with your scene, or an idea to expand on, so you can pick it up more easily in the next session.

4) Find a time and place to write that is just yours, and write. Writing everyday is like going to the gym -- you'll hate it at first, and then get into the habit of it.

5) To write dynamic fight scenes, try to reflect action movies' fight scenes, pacing-wise; the reader should be able to read the scene as quickly as watching one of the movie fights. Keep sentences short, snappy, with hard consants and sounds. Also use sharp verbs, and only show what the POV sees.

My quill pen I brought to the festival!
Overall Thoughts

It was very special to be able to be in a place surrounded by hundreds of fellow readers and writers of YA. There was a swarm around the book stand, and seeing the passion for the written word right before me, really warmed my heart, cheesy as it sounds. Meeting an online writing friend was also a very special experience, and chatting face-to-face was so much fun!

All in all, I will definitely be going back next year, and feel blessed that I was able to attend this year!

Have you been to a writing festival or conference before? Did you enjoy it? If not, do you hope to go to one soon? What are some writing lessons you've learned recently?
Have a wonderful day, and best wishes with your writing! <3

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  1. This sounds like an awesome experience! So many good tips too.

    1. It was awesome! :) Thanks for commenting, Skye!

  2. I've never been to a writing festival before, but it sounds awesome. And I've seen Patrick Ness speak as well at the National Book Festival. He's really entertaining.

    1. He is very entertaining! I enjoy his sense of humour immensely. :D Thanks for commenting, Rachel!

  3. That sounds like it was an awesome experience, Melissa!! I haven't even read anything by Patrick Ness or Jay Kristoff, but I still think it's the COOLEST THING EVER that you got to see and hear them in person! :D

    And those notes you shared are so wise and helpful. O_O

    1. IT WAS SO COOL. I've only read Jay Kristoff's books, but I was secretly fangirling over all of the authors. xD

      I'm glad you thought so! Thanks for commenting! <3

  4. Wow, this event sounded like a lot of fun, Melissa!

    1. It was so much fun! :) Thank you for commenting!

  5. This sounds like an awesome experience! So cool you got to go to a panel with Patrick Ness! :D

    1. It was a fantastic experience! Yes it was, and he was so witty! :D