As a writer, learning the craft is a fundamental must. Yes, there are those lucky few who just magically create the perfect manuscript first time. But in reality, those manuscripts are crafted from hard work, dedication and determination.
Let’s face it, we’ve read the stories, heard the interviews with authors who were turned down time and again by publishers. Rejection after rejection. But still they continued. Never giving up. And in the end, they were rewarded for that grit and determination.
We’re lucky enough here in New Zealand to have a thriving and vibrant writing community. It’s a community which work together, encouraging each other, sharing experiences, and offering new writers’ the advice and guidance as they embark on their own journeys.
I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but here in Christchurch, we’re lucky enough to have a plethora of groups who have, certainly for me, become like an extended family. As a result, I find myself increasingly encouraging new writers’ to seek out those groups. Seek out like-minded people who are equally enthusiastic about the stories they write.
This weekend, the Canterbury chapter of the New Zealand Society of Authors organised a series of free workshops for the local writing community.
- Novels for Old and Young with Mandy Hager
- On Writing Columns and Matters Arising with Joe Bennet
- Narrative Poetry with John Newton
- Writing Articles and Essays with Jane Higgins
- Creating Characters with Jenny Haworth
- Writing the Environment with Teoti Jardin
- Tripping the Light Fantastic – writing fantasy for young people with James Norcliffe
- Publicity and Writing with Jenny Nagel
- Tips and Tools for Revising your Novel with Joanna Orwin; and
- Portraying Mental Illness in Fiction with Finn Bell.
Quite a selection. And certainly something for everyone.
I participated in the Tripping the Light Fantastic. A subject that took me right out of my comfort zone, given my general genre is romance.
I’m glad I did. As a mother, I’ve avoided writing stories for the kids, mainly because my writing is an escape. But what I learned in this workshop was that you can quite literally do anything if you write fantasy for kids.
Make the ordinary – extraordinary.
I learned that you can take the normal out of life and get a free pass. Create superheroes. Create magical powers. Create a magical universe. What more can you want as a writer, than to do just that.
For so many writers, our journey is an escape from the realities of life. An opportunity to escape into the worlds our characters live in. And I discovered with this workshop, that this can go a step further. We can create a fantastical world in which our kids can escape into.
The workshop, run by James Norcliffe, explored the journey he had taken, but also offered a remarkable insight into how something as simple as a walk through the local gardens provided the inspiration for his stories.
I particularly loved his suggestion that we take words kids use and turn them into nouns.
Fantastic – Fanasy
Wonderful – Wonder
Marvellous – Marvel
Awesome – Awe
We can have such incredible fun with these words.
I took from the workshop a newfound respect for writers of these fantasy worlds. I’ve played safe until now, creating a place my romances can exist, but never risked pushing out of that comfort zone. Settling for contemporary, where I love to read paranormal.
Perhaps one day I will embark on that paranormal journey . But right now, I have another layer of bricks in my writing wall. Another tier upon which I’m building a steady foundation of knowledge that will assist with my writing journey.
If you are writing, these kinds of opportunities are invaluable. Workshops, writing groups, even reading groups, all offer the kinds of community you need around you as you undertake your own writing journey.
Joanna Orwin put it very aptly when she said, ‘your manuscript is like a garden. You design it, and think it’s going to be perfect. But when you finish it, you stand back and look at it and think — actually, that won’t work, that needs changing. Tweaking. And so you adjust it. Make the alterations you need. Great big tall trees, shrubs. And finally, you pull out the weeds that aren’t needed.’
It’s true. Write your manuscript. Then, when you have that first draft. Revisit it. Weed out all of the unnecessary bits. Use every opportunity you can get your hands on to help develop and fine-tune your processes. You’ll be glad you did in the long term.
If you have local writing groups – join them. Go to the workshops. Talk with other writers’. You’ll be amazed at how it helps your journey along.
Writing organisations I belong to include:
New Zealand Society of Authors
Romance Writers’ of New Zealand
Romance Writers’ of Australia
Romance Writers’ of America
Christchurch Writers’ Guild
Canterbury Romance Writers’
Local write groups I attend include:
Word by Word, New Zealand Society of Authors Canterbury Chapter, South Library, Beckenham, Tuesday
East Side Writers’, Robert Harris, The Palms, Shirley, Thursday
North Canterbury Writers’ , Artisans, Rangiora, Fridays
Saturday Novelists, Reality Bytes, Saturdays.
What groups are near you?