A Writing Workshop

At the weekend I attended a great little workshop for writers here in Christchurch, arranged by the New Zealand Society of Authors and Copyright Licensing. It was the first time I’ve been to anything like this and it was a fun and informative.

The workshop ran over the Saturday and Sunday, which meant that I was unable to attend the Sunday seminars. But that didn’t prevent me from participating in three on Saturday though.

Gary Henderson presented ‘How to Craft a Play – how to write using the vocabulary of theatre’ which really did take me to new territory. Even though I am from a screenplay background, writing for live theatrical performance is something I’ve never done. Gary truly widens my horizons in both how a play is written, and even better in how to design and write stories. His ideas are applicable in a variety of forms, including writing for the screen and story-writing. So that was a great time spent. And heaps of fun too!

Next I squeezed in an hour with Jenny Haworth who presented ‘The Business of Writing – Planning Your Work for Publication’. Jenny is both a non-fiction author and a publisher – she has her own publishing company. So what she spoke about was generally from a publisher’s perspective. Indeed, she did not cover anything of substance from a self-publishing angle, which did disapoint me. Indeed, her swinging use of the term ‘vanity publishing’ perhaps indicates some psychological antipathy toward those amongst us who do self-publish. I don’t really care. Her views are her views, but maybe the fact that she actually expects writers to pay toward the cost of publishing through her business suggests that vampire publishers are real after-all.

I don’t know if she means any malice in her feelings about self-published authors, or if she genuinely thinks that to be a real writer one must have a contract and get paid. Regardless of those things, her brief presentation of the business of publishing was interesting, though I would have loved her to go into greater depth regarding RRP and the share of royalties (between all involved in the publishing and selling of a book).

Lastly, a presentation by Jillian Sullivan, ‘The Hero’s Journey – the importance of archetypes in fiction writing’ elucidated the world of myth and heros and heroines. Simply put, I was blown-away by both her brilliant story telling and her immense knowledge of fantastic characters. That she even had an alternative technique for coming-up with ideas and getting words written on the page was incredible.

Simply put, you try (no, you do!) to write continuously for a set period of time. You do this with no breaks, not even for a second. You just write – whatever comes into your mind. Wow. I mean wow! This was amazing and in two exercises of five minutes and seven minutes, respectively, produced material I would never have even thought about, never mind write down into a story. The trick seems to be that you are so focussed on writing that what pours out is meaningful and therapeutic. Well, for me it was. It was like discovering something akin to writing therapy.

Getting home later on Saturday night, I sat back at my desk and just knew that the day had been productive. If anyone ever asks you “Are workshops any good?” You can answer, “Yes, I’m told they are”.


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