SWL, Feb 2020: Sessions


A Premise that Hooks

Are you having trouble moulding your ideas into a strong premise? Do you have a premise but it needs some tweaks to make it more compelling? Either way, you’ll find inspiration in this workshop. We’ll focus on creating premises that burst with promise, and that will hook readers, editors and agents. We’ll look at examples from both books and movies and break them down into elements that will be easy to apply in your own work.

The Story in the Research

All books involve at least some degree of research. But where do you start and where do you stop? In order to clearly and cleverly convey a story, you need to have the details firmly in your grasp in order to transport your reader to another time and/or place. It builds trust between you and your reader—they can relax knowing you’ve got it covered. Let’s dive into the myriad ways of researching and using that information. There’s lots of show and share in this workshop.

Conflict: The Key to your Novel

Narrative conflict comes in many forms, from the clash between a hero and villain, to the internal conflicts of a romance hero and heroine; from a main character’s struggle with personal demons, to the battle of a protagonist against the forces of nature. Whatever its form, it is the conflict that drives the story. In this workshop we’ll analyse examples of strong conflict from books and movies, break them down into their building blocks, and then apply that to your own work.

Description: Bringing Your Words to Life

Whether your character is walking down a street, building a bomb or sitting in pitch blackness, your descriptions can convey much more than just a checklist of details. No PowerPoint here—this highly interactive workshop gets you and your senses right into the thick of description. (P.S. It involves chocolate!)

Crackling Sexual Tension

Writing a romantic subplot or main plot? You’ll need an understanding of how to create sexual tension between your characters. This workshop will examine ways to get that sexual tension on the pages on your novel by examining examples from books and movies and then look at how to apply the concepts to your own work.

Don’t Let the House Fall Down! Structuring a Robust Novel

Just like the structure of a house, a novel needs solid footings and strong architecture if it is to stand tall and strong. In this workshop, Jo takes you deeper into the three-act structure of a book, delving into the internal beats between the major turning points. Get your pen ready to map it out.

Engaging Characters

How do you make readers engage with your character? To bond with them? To cheer for them? To want to follow them on their journey of hundreds of pages? In this workshop we’ll analyse the key elements that will help build reader engagement with your characters. We’ll look at examples from books and movies to understand how the elements of reader engagement work then dive into some exercises for your own characters.

The Calm in the Storm: A New Approach to Finding the Time to Write

Whether she’s on tour, on radio, being interviewed for a newspaper, or talking in libraries, the question Jo is asked more than any other is How do you find the time to write? Most writers are not working full-time on their craft. Most writers are doing the juggle with work, kids, family and All The Things. Jo signed with an agent six weeks after her son was born and was quickly signed to two, then three books, while living two-and-a-half hours away from the 100-year-old house she and her husband were renovating. It was A Lot. Over the years, she’s learned a thing or two about time management and would love to help you step into a new way of making peace with time.

Small Group Sessions

Self Editing

For many years, Jo supported her dream of writing by working as an editor. She’s still passionate about editing and editors and wants to share some of that passion with you, explaining the differences between the different types of editing (structural, copy, and proofread) and when and how to best use them, as well as giving you a comprehensive checklist to take home to get you started working on your own writing. Bring five pages of your writing (printed, double spaced) with you to get started on.


Want some feedback on your work? A big part of your writing journey is mastering the art of giving and receiving feedback. This is your chance to submit up to 3,000 words of your writing for small group (three people max) feedback. You can email your words to Jo and she will email you back the stories we are critiquing and a guideline of etiquette for the feedback session to ensure this is a safe and positive experience for everyone.

First Ten Pages

Bring along the first ten pages of your story (printed, double-spaced) for feedback. The opening pages of a novel are critical, and it’s sometimes said that the beginning is what sells your story. If those pages don’t grip a reader (or an editor /agent) then the chapters that follow won’t matter. The small group structure of this session creates additional learning opportunities through hearing the feedback given to the other participants.

One-on-One Sessions

Jo: Ask Me Anything!

This is one-on-one with Jo. Ask me about your work, your ideas, the business of writing, the publishing industry, your plot problem, fiction, non-fiction, food, animals or anything in between.

Rachel: Ask Me Anything!

This is one-on-one with Rachel. Ask me about your work, your ideas, the business of writing, the publishing industry, your plot problem, PhDs, greyhounds, or anything in between.

Book your place in the Sunshine Writing Lab here.