Welcome back to the Millennial Writer Series, in which I interview writers every month who have published work. We discuss the writer’s work, their creative process, and what it is to be a Millennial in publishing. Want to know more? Check out all the interviews.
Helen Scheuerer is something of a wonder. In just a handful of years, Helen founded the online literary magazine Writer’s Edit in 2013 and transformed it into a prominent resource for writers in Australia and the world with over 48, 000 followers on Twitter. Not only have they published writing advice, but they’ve also formed Writer’s Edit Press that produces the annual Kindling Anthology. With degrees in creative writing and publishing, Helen will also publish her first novel later this year with Inkerman & Blunt. She was shortlisted for Express Media’s inaugural ‘Outstanding Achievement by a Young Person in the Literary Arts‘ award. Suffice to say, Helen’s seriously accomplished.
You founded Writer’s Edit, the online literary magazine, in 2013. Since then, Writer’s Edit has become a small press that produces the Kindling Anthology and articles with advice for writers. What was your journey in transforming the website into a small press? What are your plans for Writer’s Edit for the rest of 2016?
I had always dreamed of Writer’s Edit being a small press, the online magazine was my way of testing the waters for that. It was less than a year before I realised that our readership and writers would receive a print anthology well, and so we dove into the production of our first book really early on. It’s been going ever since, and we’re due to publish our third book at the end of this year – the final Kindling anthology.
As for our plans for 2016, we’ll be launching Kindling Volume III in November, but before then, Writer’s Edit will also be launching a series of courses for writers over the coming months. We’re in the early stages of alpha and beta launching, with the aim to publically launch in July this year!
You recently signed with Inkerman and Blunt, who will publish your first novel. Tell us about the novel you’re working on. What was your journey towards getting a longer work published?
The novel that’s due to be published by Inkerman & Blunt is a work of literary fiction that follows the story of an Australian photographer who goes to Africa. There, he documents the rehabilitation of child soldiers, and gets caught up in corruption and conflict with a group of rebels.
I had a really positive response from the publishing professionals I originally approached with my manuscript, and actually received two offers before accepting the contract with Inkerman & Blunt. For me, it was a matter of figuring out where my book sat in the market, and how well the publisher understood what I was trying to do, and where we could take it.
It’s been a long ride, and we’ve still got a fair bit of work before the book hits the shelves, but seeing my manuscript come together in the way it has, I know it’s going to be the best it possibly can be when it’s released.
What types of stories do you find yourself gravitated towards? How did you get started writing those stories?
My creative writing degree really influenced the the type of stories I gravitated towards, and so originally I was really drawn to narratives that had a real literary feel to them, and explored the depths of character. Throughout this degree, I really tried to find my own voice and style, while playing with these influences.
However, as I’ve become more immersed in the publishing industry, and I’ve read more and more widely, I’ve come to experiment with new genres and styles, and learn to have fun with writing. I think it’s important, particularly at the early stages of a writing career, not to restrict yourself to one ‘type’ or genre of writing.
Getting started is hard, but once I put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, it’s actually quite difficult to stop!
How do you see yourself and other Millennials making an impact in publishing?
It’s a really exciting time to be a writer, and I think that’s all about the options and opportunities that technology has given us in recent years. It’s far easier to connect with readers and like-minded writers whether you’re a published author or not, which makes the journey a hell of a lot less lonely. That’s had a massive impact on the writing and publishing world, whether it’s direct or not.
And then there’s self-publishing and social media, which are the massive game changers that millennial writers are using to make a direct impact on the publishing industry. Traditional publishing is an old model, that hasn’t quite caught onto how how fast-paced and connected readers and the rest of the world are just yet. So many of us are embracing these new opportunities to shape our writing careers and make publishing work for us.
You regularly post articles with tips for writers. How do you stay plugged in to industry trends?
At Writer’s Edit, we feel it’s important to know the trends and stay on top of the latest industry news, but we’re very much for timeless advice. You’ll find that our guides and resources are crafted to last, and stand the test of time, regardless of the trends coming and going. They’re incredibly practical and easy-to-follow. I’d say our articles are more informed by what our readers want and what our community is engaging with on our site rather than the latest fad, and I think that’s probably why we’ve been able to grow and grow these past three years.
What do you think makes the character of a Millennial Writer a powerful new force? Do you see significant differences between older and younger Millennials? What do you see as a unique concern of Millennial Writers?
It’s our willingness to accept and seek new opportunities that sets millennial writers apart. There’s no longer just one ‘correct’ way of doing things in the publishing industry, and taking the initiative and using the tools at our disposal is a trait that really makes us a force to be reckoned with.
That being said, every writer is different – regardless of their age and background, so I’d hate to generalise in terms of differences between age brackets. It gets to a certain point where age is just a number, and it becomes more about work ethic and discipline.
As for a unique concern for millennial writers? Perhaps that the vast array of options and opportunities available to us can be overwhelming, maybe even creatively stifling at times, and that’s something that the writers before us didn’t deal with as much…
What experiences do you see as formative to your fiction?
My creative writing degree really opened my eyes in terms of reading – we read through examples from classical literature to contemporary, and I would never have done that were it not for those years in the classroom. That degree really shaped my earlier work, and influenced the novel that will be published next year.
However, in more recent times, I’ve been falling back in love with genre fiction, loving the escapism of it – and I’ve realised how important it is to write what you love reading.
At the moment, I’d say discovering a new series, and the community that’s really passionate about it is what’s shaping my work now, and my ambitions for the future.
What is your creative process and how do you harness creativity to make more powerful stories? Do you have a certain writing aesthetic?
Once I have an idea for a novel, I’ve learnt to take my time planning (or at least, as much time as my excitement will allow). I try to plan the general plot (beginning, middle and end) before starting the writing process, and also get a rough character profile for each of the MCs. Once the writing begins, it’s all about routine for me. Writing every day is incredibly important for me to stay immersed in the world of my story, and to stay passionate about finishing it.
What advice do you have for other Millennial writers and creatives trying to get their work published?
Be willing to share your work with others, and be open to feedback – if you’re not happy to do these things, you’re in the wrong industry.
Another piece of advice I always find myself giving out is: be part of a writing community. Through Writer’s Edit, I’ve made some of my best friends, and have found incredible support when I need it most. Without writing friends, life would be very hard.