Editing Commercial Popular Fiction

Editing commercial popular fiction is a half-day workshop that will introduce editors to the art and science of working with the genres that make up commercial popular fiction.

Popular fiction, commercial fiction, genre fiction – whatever you choose to call it – is fiction within a framework. Hans Robert Jauss speaks of horizons of expectations; readers go into these kinds of fiction with a pre-existing understanding of what the framework of the story will look like. For commercial popular fiction readers, there is an enormous amount of pleasure in reading a book that fulfils their horizon of expectations, and this is a key element when discussing these fictions: reading for pleasure.

For editors, working with commercial popular fiction presents unique opportunities and challenges. Understanding the framework is crucial, and balancing the readability and pleasure principles against technical prowess a developed skill.

The workshop will provide an introduction to commercial popular fiction and the principles of editing within a framework, providing real-world examples and hands-on exercises.

The workshop will cover the following core areas of editing genre fiction:

  • Commercial popular fiction and genre – a brief overview of the five core genres and the generic conventions inherent within.
  • Editing commercial popular fiction –
    • Four key areas: developmental, structural, copy and proofreading.
    • Character development, pacing, plot, point of view.
  • Practical exercise – group exercise with discussion.
  • Resources and reading lists.

After completing this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Identify commercial popular fiction and the generic conventions within each genre.
  • Identify the audience and readers’ expectations of commercial popular fiction, and how that affects texts.
  • Approach a commercial popular fiction manuscript with an understanding of conventions and expectations.
  • Apply fiction editing skills to a commercial popular fiction manuscript.
  • Readily admit – in polite company – to being a commercial popular fiction admirer and reader.

This workshop will cover fiction editing as it applies to commercial popular fiction, so is suitable for editors who are new to editing fiction and fiction editors with an interest in genre fiction. There will be an extended editing exercise, and participants will be provided with a short piece of fiction to read prior to the workshop, as preparation for the workshop.


Kate Cuthbert is Program Manager at Writers Victoria. For seven years, she was Managing Editor of Escape Publishing, the genre romance imprint of Harlequin Australia. She originated the imprint six years ago, and since then books on her list have won the Romantic Book of the Year award twice, the Koru for Romantic Book of the Year three times, and have been shortlisted for the prestigious RITA award. Before joining Harlequin, Kate worked in corporate and academic editing, children’s and novelty editing, and non-fiction and lifestyle editing. She has written reviews and feature articles for Books & Publishing, the New York Journal of Books, the Brisbane Courier-Mail, and All About Romance, and regularly appears at conferences and festivals around Australia.

Kate is a regular workshop presenter: she has delivered full and half-day workshops on writing and editing topics for Writers Victoria, Writers NSW, Queensland Writers Centre, Writers SA, the Romance Writers of Australia, CONtact and IPEd.

Please note: this workshop is a modified version of a workshop previously presented in Victoria as part of IPEd’s professional development calendar.