Sharon Rundle co-edited Fear Factor: Terror Incognito, Indo-Australian short stories, Picador India (2009) Picador Australia (2010). She co-edited, Peacock Memosaic, a new media collection of stories (2010). Sharon has published and broadcast stories, essays and articles in Australia and internationally including in: Encounters: Modern Australian Short Stories and Desert in Bloom - Indian Women's Fiction in English.
This week, Newsbite catches up with her about editing, common manuscript problems and the techniques of writing great fiction.
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now, I'm editing another volume of short stories from Australia and the Indian subcontinent 'Alien Shores' and working on the Spring issue of the UTS Writers' Alumni 'Writers Connect'.
What was the experience of editing the cross-cultural anthology Fear Factor Terror Incognito like?
This book involved months of work collaborating with a co-editor, as well as liaising with authors and publishers on two continents. Editing an anthology of stories with some very high profile authors, such as David Malouf, Tom Keneally, Salman Rushdie, Tabish Khair, Rosie Scott and Susanne Gervay was a huge responsibility but it was exciting and rewarding to see the result.
What are some common problems you see in the manuscripts you assess?
The most common problem is that manuscripts aren't ready in terms of being fully developed, structured, edited and formatted to publisher's specifications. The advice from Varuna, for example, is that 'normally, contact with a publisher is not recommended until the work is complete and thoroughly polished. Publishers are busy people, and if you submit a work before it is ready you are simply wasting an opportunity'.
What makes a well-rounded character in fiction?
The terms 'flat character' and 'round character' were coined by E M Forster in his book of criticism Aspects of the Novel. Flat characters are described as two-dimensional in that they are uncomplicated and don't change during the narrative. By contrast, well-rounded characters are complex and undergo development and/or an epiphany sometimes surprising the reader. The protagonist or central character in a novel is usually expected to develop and change as the narrative unfolds. By the end of the narrative the character should in some way be in a different place (physically, emotionally or metaphorically) from where they began.
How do you get narrative pacing right?
It may take trial and error and many drafts. Finding the rhythm is crucial, Virginia Woolf wrote that 'Style is a very simple matter, it is all rhythm. Once you get that you can't use the wrong words ... This is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than words.' Narrative withholding is a technique that is used to keep the reader turning the pages to find out what will happen. It is a particularly useful technique for writing mysteries, crime and romance; but works for most fiction genres, memoir and biography.
What five books would you take to a desert island?
I would take collections, such as the complete works of Shakespeare; Elizabeth Jolley's Fellow Passengers; Christina Stead's Ocean of Story; David Malouf's Every Move You Make; and The Picador Book of Modern Indian Literature.