The Art of Self-Editing and Critique

It was my pleasure to deliver the Australian Writers’ Marketplace Author IQ seminar “The Art of Self Editing and Critiquing” Sunday at the Queensland Writers Centre.

The week leading up to it had been tumultuous. The kind of life altering quake that lays in wait for epic deadlines. But I got there, with a lot of help from Dave and Mr D pulling it together to be on his best behaviour while I tried to quantify and explain things I do every day intuitively. It was an odd process. A process that involved Power Point for the first time since Uni. Need I say more?

IT’LL BE RIGHT ON THE NIGHTartofselfediting

…unless it’s day. And Mother’s Day at that!

Left home with plenty of time to arrive early, only to find the entire Cultural Centre precinct sealed off like a bomb had gone off. Yes, it was the Mothers’ Day Classic and trying to get within hurling distance of the State Library was impossible. I rather embarrassingly arrived five minutes before the seminar was to start after finally finding a car park six blocks away. First thing I said, as I huffed and puffed into the room was: You obviously all didn’t try to find a park around here. Yeah hello and welcome, gratefully I’m not here all week and they’re not serving veal!

All those already there were smart folk who were dropped off!

After some minor technical hitches and agreement we’d wait for all the other poor people caught up in the chaos beyond the quiet walls of the library, I caught my breath, tried to regain the nerve I had when I left home and hoped my voice would hold for three hours.


I had worried that banging on about ELYORA as a way to illustrate some of the points I was trying to make, would end up tedious. But it seemed to be a way to keep the dry, boring stuff entertaining and the number of people who said after the seminar they’d like to buy ELYORA–it sounded awesome–was a little overwhelming. It was also at the same point I remembered it’s actually published as RIVER of BONES!

I got to tell everyone how I wrote a sex scene as a word filler during the Rabbit Hole and then ended up with it as an important plot point in the narrative and couldn’t delete it. And how my Dad is desperate to read the novella. I think I may have managed to do it in such a way that I didn’t blush.


While there were plenty of entertaining stories, I wanted everyone to take home solid, practical skills. I wanted to inspired people, to embrace the editorial process as one of benefit, belief and growth. Definitely not something to be scared of, though a healthy dose of ‘daunting’ was okay.

As I said above, trying to bring form and order to what swirls in my head during an edit was a challenge. What I produced for the booklet and the seminar overall felt stilted and compartmentalised and really rigid. But you need a road map when you’re going somewhere unfamiliar. You can’t wing it on paper (though if you are a muppet you can travel by map!)

I went through how to move from writer to editor, explained the processes, the different steps and then broke it all down with tools, tips and insights. The first three sections were dedicated to editor and the last to beta reading (what I really wanted to shared with them!)

The hush through the room when I went through the section on beta reading had a reverent edge to it… or it was just that we’d got in trouble for being too loud?


There were so many smiling faces at the end of yesterday. And the swell and excitement of emails addresses being swapped at the end of the seminar (when everyone was told to start their beta reading circles)—heartening.

I came home on top of the world, which was a good place to be when the world had been upside down for most of the week.

Thank you to everyone who contributed in such a wonderful way. You made not just my Mothers’ Day but my week. And thank you to Meg, Aimee and the rest of the staff at the QWC/AWM for having faith in me. Also to Adam who looked through my early notes and give me the nod, Dave who proof read for me; plus all the other people (Trent, Peter, Nicky, Rob et al) who said the right thing at the right time.

Photo: Rebekah Turner and I at the break.

2 thoughts on “The Art of Self-Editing and Critique

  1. Thanks Jodi, it was indeed a most valuable workshop. By the end of the day I felt inspired to approach my editing process in a new way. Thanks also for pushing us around the room! (it really does help build new relationships even though it’s uncomfortable). Yes, I’m planning to read Elyora too, even though it’s not a genre I’d usually find appealing.

    If you decide to run an editing workshop purely on non-fiction I’d love to take part.


  2. Might have to hit up the SA Writer’s centre to get you to come down and give that course :D. Not that I have any pull whatsoever with them 😀


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