Novel writing, here I come...

I'm back from Fiona McIntosh's Commercial Fiction Masterclass.

You'd think as a writer, I'd have plenty of words to describe the intensive 5 days. There are many words but none of them seem adequate to encapsulate the experience.

Leaving my family to spend the longest time I've ever been alone in 14 years was quite a commitment. Let's not pretend it was all sad. There may have been some fist-pumping as I approached the airport. Reading a book, on my own? Hallelujah! 

My husband managed the four kids, all their activities, school paperwork and assorted dramas, just fine. He may have even enjoyed moments.

I got to be in a room with 15 other aspiring novelists. Some further down the track than others, but all of us nervous, excited, insecure about our abilities, hopeful of one day having a book on a shelf (other than our own bookshelf), and ultimately all of us had an overwhelming desire to write. 

It took all of five minutes in Fiona's company to feel at ease. She was self-assured, driven and enthusiastic but she was equally kind, compassionate and supportive of where we all sat. For she, 17 years ago, sat in the same place, being instructed by the brilliant Bryce Courtney.

We learnt technical writing skills - plot, character, emotion, pace - things we probably all knew in some form already but Fiona's delivery and explanations were full of humour and practical application. It wasn't simply her knowledge and experience over 34 books that made this class different, it was her genuine care, as though we were all orphans she was trying to find a home for! Or perhaps the manuscripts are the homeless ones... looking for a family to call their own.

I left after 5 days, almost sad to leave, but fired up. I know how to fix my novel now. The hard works begins but I have an arsenal of ammunition to attack Draft 1.

I was humbled by Fiona's generosity and her genuine care for each and every one of us. She was like our personal cheerleader when we had to pitch our stories to a commissioning editor. I felt like I should have packed a spare pair of pants that day ... 

If there's only one course you do, I'd say this is the one. It doesn't come cheap (and I was super fortunate to have been awarded the scholarship by Fiona & Dymocks which I will forever be grateful for), but it is worth every cent. To get the best out of the experience, you need to know that commercial fiction is what you want to write, and have a manuscript, or at least the beginning of one, to work on.

Can't wait to sink my teeth into my novel!



Fiona McIntosh and me at the Commercial Fiction Masterclass, Adelaide 2017

Fiona McIntosh and me at the Commercial Fiction Masterclass, Adelaide 2017




‘Tis the season of reflection

Image courtesy of Dynamic Business

Image courtesy of Dynamic Business

As the year comes to a close, it’s an opportune time to reflect back on the year; to magnify the wins and take the losses on the chin.


I started off with the intention to broaden my client base. 2015 was my year to expand; to spread my wings and explore other fields of writing.

I attracted some new corporate clients through LinkedIn, which then translated into word of mouth referral for more clients. I had a steady income stream which complemented my freelance feature writing. I was making headway, finally!

I braved cold-calling editors, and had one editor kindly pick up multiple stories. I was largely ignored by the other editors I approached.

There was a job offer from the UK that although exciting, couldn’t offer competitive rates so alas I turned it down.


I was “discovered” and approached by a large publishing house and followed an unexpected road to the world of fiction writing. I was going to be a novelist! Until I wasn’t. The dream was big, the obstacles were bigger. For this year, anyway.

Temporarily discouraged by rejection, I bunkered down and licked my wounded ego.


There were many lessons from 2015.

Being brave was the first. Jumping in the deep end of an icy cold pool, headfirst was never going to be inviting but it was definitely invigorating. Approaching industry colleagues and confidently presenting my case was well-received by those who chose to respond. And I had to just accept the ones who didn’t were the ones losing out.

Dreaming big had its perils. Letting myself think the big kahuna – my novel being published – could actually happen, put a buoyant skip in my step. When it didn’t go to plan, I dragged my feet.

You can’t dream big, be brave and be noticed unless you are willing to offer something unique. I confirmed to myself that I could be anything as long as it wasn’t beige.

And to be original meant I had to play my own game and be confident that my voice was strong enough to stand out. Throughout that process, I realised I was overthinking everything and it was time to get out of my own way.

I learnt there is value in setting the bar high, for myself and for my clients. Achieving excellence doesn’t come for free, yet within an industry that is notoriously undervalued, where I am often approached to write for nothing, I took a stand and said no. “Freelance” doesn’t mean I write for free.

Most of all, I learnt to be thankful for the opportunities, even if they didn’t follow the route I was expecting, leading me to the land of Oz (where my dream home stands atop a plateau with a view to die for, surrounded by lots of flat land for my children to kick a ball).

So, 2016.. 

It will be the first year all my children are at school. I will have five days to write, if I so choose. So shall I plan, set goals and work like a dog until I achieve them? Or will I sleep off the accumulated exhaustion of the first 12 years of parenting in preparation for the next 12 that will no doubt serve up their own challenges? Maybe I shall meander through the dandelions until I hear my next opportunity quietly whistling in the wind (all the while feeding my family on 2-minute noodles).

All I know is that I WILL finish the damn novel. Then I’ll go about the skin-toughening task of making someone believe in it as much as I do.

Merry Christmas to all. May you reflect on your own year, retrospective wins and losses, and recharge over the new year.

Thanks for reading!

Kylie Orr

P.S. I also found my dream advent calendar through Hachette Aus Books @HachetteAus. Maybe my book will be in their 2016 list to unwrap?

Hachette Aus Books Advent Calendar - drool!

Hachette Aus Books Advent Calendar - drool!

(First published on