Rainbow Writing Workshop [Event Spotlight and Panel Host Interview]


MARCH EARLY BIRD SALE! Enter RNA60 at checkout to get 1/3 off the full price! (Tickets for unwaged writers still £10.30)

A practical day of writing workshops, presented by the Rainbow Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA), and open to all published and unpublished, professional and aspiring writers of fiction —especially writers who identify as LGBTQ+ and/or who are writing stories about LGBTQ+ characters.

The day will consist of a number of sessions on craft, marketing and publishing, as well as networking and fanfiction. The Rainbow Chapter is committed to offering content useful to LGBTQ+ writers, members and non-members of the RNA alike. You needn’t be writing romantic fiction to attend this course.

Although we will break for lunchtime, lunch and drinks will NOT be included in the price of this course.


Provisional schedule (timings TBC):

Writing Character and Conflict with Liam Livings

What is the difference between internal and external conflict? How to write well-rounded rainbow characters because btw, being gay isn’t a personality in itself justsaying…How to make rainbow characters’ conflicts as complex, deep and real as those of other characters.

Facing the Fear and Writing Anyway with Julie Cohen

Every writer, at some stage in their writing career, faces The Fear. Julie, a Sunday Times bestseller of over twenty novels, talks writers’ block, societal pressure, writing one’s truth, getting your voice heard, and techniques for getting the words down.

Fanfiction and Community 101 with Robin Grey

Fanfiction offers a great apprenticeship for new writers, and a way for established writers to network and grow a reader base. Robin presents a guide and discussion about fanfiction platforms and tagging with a view to building your audience and sharing on social media and with community groups.

How to start, and how to finish – Plot and Self-Editing with Mel Gough

Have you always wanted to be a plotter but don’t have time to read a dozen books on the topic? And when you get to the end, do you feel overwhelmed by the thought of hammering the beast you just created into shape? This workshop will discuss practical tools that help you apply story structure to your plotting and will give you a check list for self-editing your finished novel.

Speaker profiles:

Julie Cohen, an award-winning and Sunday Times bestselling author of over twenty novels. @julie_cohen
Liam Livings, a Romantic Novel Awards shortlisted gay romance novelist. @LiamLivings
Robin Grey, a gay romance fan, writer, and fanfiction enthusiast. @AvengersLGBTQ
Mel Gough, shortlisted for the First Novel Prize as well as the inaugural Selfies Awards. She has self-published six novels and novellas. @melgough_writer




The event is presented by the Rainbow Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA). What can you tell us about this group?

The Romantic Novelists’ Association is a group of professional authors of relationship fiction. We also have members who are not yet published and who are seriously pursuing publication. We offer support, advice, networking and education opportunities and most importantly, a community of authors—and we celebrate the organisation’s 60th birthday this year!

The RNA Rainbow Chapter was set up to create a community of authors who write LGBTQ+ relationship fiction, so we can support each other, trade tips and hints and recommendations, and talk about issues that particularly relate to LGBTQ+ fiction and/or being an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. Our aims are to reach out to the wider writing and LGBTQ+ community, and to the publishing industry; our motto is LOVE STORIES ARE FOR EVERYONE.

I love that the event is so inclusive. While aimed primarily at authors that are or are writing LGBTQ characters, it’s open to all authors who want to learn a little more about the craft. How important do you think these types of events are for authors? Can they learn a lot from the different talks, and do they generally promote networking between professionals?

Creative writing is a craft, so I fully believe it can be learned and improved through practice. Practical workshops like these can be invaluable, especially ones that offer tips that you can immediately apply to your writing. It’s also valuable to meet and spend time with other writers. If you’re just starting out, it’s validation that you’re investing in your writing. New and experienced authors can trade knowledge and make contacts. Writing is a solitary pursuit—writing organisations and workshop days like these can make you feel you are less alone.

What would you say to someone who isn’t sure if the event will useful to them to convince them to come along?

Even though the event’s being offered by the RNA, you don’t have to be a romantic novelist to attend. The topics we’re talking about are applicable to writers of every genre and length of fiction. And we’re deliberately choosing workshops that will have something for writers at every level, from beginner to bestseller. You’re welcome to dip in and out. And even though this is an LGBTQ+ friendly workshop, we welcome all writers.

The event is raising money for the ‘Switchboard LGBTQ+ Helpline’. Tell us a little about this cause and why you wanted to support them.

Switchboard provides telephone support for LGBTQ+ people and anyone considering issues around their gender identity and/or sexuality. We wanted to raise money for a service that helps a wide range of people in our community. All of the workshop leaders and organisers are donating their time so the bulk of all ticket prices will go straight to the charity. If you need support and help, you can call them on 0300 003 0630.

Liam Livings will be hosting the ‘Writing Character and Conflict’ talk. In brief terms (the details is for the talk, of course), what would you say is the most important thing to remember with writing LGBTQ characters in particular?

LIAM: In some ways rainbow characters are just like non rainbow characters. We live, love and laugh the same. We have jobs. Family. Do laundry. Watch TV.
However, because so much of society, even now, is geared up for opposite sex couples, being rainbow is still other. So being rainbow tints how we see the world. I’ll often notice or infer things between two male characters in a story that I don’t think straight people pick up (or they haven’t when I’ve asked them).
Being rainbow often means when you’re being really extra, you’re suppressing part of you to make it more palatable to others. Don’t hold hands in public. Check before kissing in public. Shall I wear that to that event? Should I say how much I fancy that guy when I’m with colleagues who are talking about how much they fancy opposite gender people (from a TV show you’re discussing).
Basically being rainbow isn’t a personality. It isn’t everything about a character. But it influences, greatly, how a character behaves and sees the word.

Can you make a recommendations for books that do character and conflict well?

LIAM: The Emotional Wound Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is a good nonfiction book for learning about how to create emotional conflict.

Julie Cohen will be hosting the ‘Facing the Fear and Writing Anyway’ talk. I think that a lot of people who don’t write, and even those just starting out, don’t realize how overwhelming it can be to keep up with at times. What would you say is the biggest challenge to productivity these days?

JULIE: These days, it’s the news. So much is going on so fast, and we have constant access to information. It’s very difficult to tune down anxiety and concentrate long enough on your writing to get flow going. Though my talk is mostly focused on how to deal with your own fear of failure, I think it’s important to work on strategies of shutting out the outside world, too—at least for a couple of hours a day, so you can be creative.

You are also a Sunday Times bestseller, which is a fantastic achievement! Can you tell us a little about the book involved and how much work was involved in achieving this?

JULIE: Thanks! My most recent bestselling novel was Together, which has also been optioned for TV. It’s an epic love story, about a couple who have spent their lives together and yet are hiding a devastating secret. I have to admit that writing a novel is always hard work, no matter how many copies you sell. I have a great agent and I was, and am, lucky to have the backing of my publisher—and Together was chosen by Richard and Judy for their book club, which helped a lot.

Robin Grey will be talking about fan fiction and interacting with the community. I know that fanfiction is sometimes divisive among authors – and indeed members of fandoms – but I’ve always thought it was a great way to not only learn but to embrace franchises you love. What would you say is the biggest misconception about fanfiction, and what is the reality opposing that?

ROBIN: One big misconception is that fanfic is a modern phenomenon! It’s not at all. Fanfiction, or fanfic, has been around for as long as people have been telling each other stories. Folk stories are tales handed down, and retold in different ways to suit ourselves. People like to tell stories, and when we really like a story sometimes we retell it and reshape it how we please.

Even some well known literature is fanfic of another work. For example, Mark Twain wrote King Arthur fanfic, Dante and John Milton wrote Bible fanfic, and Shakespeare wrote plenty of fanfic too (Romeo and Juliet, Othello).

The joy of fanfic, especially if it’s fanfic of a modern mainstream media property that tends to purposefully erase many communities from its stories, is that we the fans get to retell our favourite stories how we want to see them. Your fave movie franchise ignores the LGBT+ community entirely? Well not in fanfic, because everyone’s gay! Or your fave movie had a disappointing ending? Time to look up fix-it fics!

People sharing stories will always be important, whether it’s told around a campfire or shared online with a NSFW tag!

Can you tell us about any cool experiences you’ve had in writing fanfiction? Maybe a fun fan encounter or a strong friendship made through it?

ROBIN: Yes I’ve met many great folks and made friendships with people not even in my country thanks to fanfic and the internet.

Like I said previously I think folk stories are important because they bring people together, especially when it’s people often shut out and ignored by mainstream society and media.

People who wants to see themselves represented in stories often have nowhere else to go except fandom communities. I can literally count on one hand the amount of times I’ve seen anyone like myself in mainstream media content, but if I go into fanfic and search for tags there’s hundreds if not thousands of examples where someone like me is in the story. That’s important for all of us, having stories we can relate to and enjoy.

Mel Gough is talking about plotting and self-editing. I must admit, self-editing is something that I think I have a few bad habits with. What would you say is the worst thing you can do when self-editing an early draft of a manuscript?

MEL: There are a lot of “Thou shalt nots” that get bandied about when it comes to self-editing. I don’t like categorically being told what not to do, so I won’t do it to my fellow authors either. Some people do well with editing-as-you-write, and good for them!

The problem is that many people don’t do so well with that approach. By going over and over the first few chapters before the whole book is finished, it’s really easy to lose sight of the end goal – which is finishing that first draft. I’m a strong defender of the “First draft is a hot mess” school of thought. Get it out of your system, then worry about making it better. Because how do you know that something in Chapter 24 won’t totally change or make obsolete that paragraph in Chapter 2 that you’ve polished a dozen times now?

You were shortlisted for the First Novel Prize and the Selfies Award. Can you tell us about the titles involved and how it felt to shortlisted?

MEL: The book that was shortlisted for the First Novel Prize was also longlisted for the Bridport Award. It’s a historical romance that is likely coming out in 2021. I can’t say too much more right now as it’s not all cut and dry yet, but I’m prouder of that particular book baby than any of my previous ones.

The Selfies Award is really cool! Run by BookBrunch it was first awarded in 2019, when my self-published romantic suspense title He is Mine was shortlisted. I got to be up on stage for a panel at the London Book Fair for the award, and that was great!


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