Worldshaker by Richard Harland – review

Went on a course by Richard Harland at the NSW Writer’s Centre on September 3 2011. Thought I better know something about his work, so I’ve started reading one of his successful recent novels Worldshaker. Alternate history steam punk styled work, based on a society that lives in a juggernaut – a giant mobile fortress rolling across the world (called Worldshaker of course). Aimed at young adults but interesting so far for adults as well.

Wish there had been more novels like this when I was a young adult!

Writing Imaginary Worlds workshop

Went to the Writing Imaginary Worlds workshop with Richard Harland on Saturday 3rd September 2011, hosted by the NSW Writer’s Centre.

It was my first writing course of any sort, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Ten people came together to listen to Richard speak on the realities of writing in the speculative fiction genre in Australia. I found it really interesting – not just in hearing from Richard, but also being in a room with 9 other early stage speculative fiction authors.

It took me quite a while to steel my nerve enough to go along to a writing course. I was as much worried about interacting with the other writers (all of whom I was convinced would have oodles more credibility than I did) as I was about whether I was prepared enough to get a lot out of the session.

I’m pleased to say that my fellow writers were as pleasant a bunch of people that I could have hoped to meet. While my writing output was towards the low end (some people had done a very impressive amount of work) I didn’t really feel out of place after my initial butterflies subsided. Indeed I learnt a lot just listening to some of the other stories and experiences of the others. I’ve even made two email pals out of the process (you know who you are K and P).

The content of the workshop itself was very much aligned with Richard’s writing tips website, but it was interspersed with practical exercises which were very thought provoking.

Richard very generously stayed back to spend time with each of the students. I went through the basic plot of Unaligned with him, which was very useful. First time I’d tried to explain the plot to anyone. I found his feedback very helpful and have made some changes as a result.

Marks Tips for Surviving a Workshop

  • DO turn up 10 minutes early. I was there right on the dot and all the eager beavers were already half way round the table doing introductions!
  • DON’T be too concerned with how much writing you’ve done going in – obviously having done some is helpful, but there was a lot of encouragement in the room no matter how new to writing people were.
  • DO chat to your fellow writers in the breaks. Some of my highlights for the day came from those informal conversations.
  • DO take any offered opportunities to chat to the lecturer. By this I don’t mean try to sell them your book or anything, but it gives you a chance to ask some of those questions.
  • DO try and take the time to exchange contact details with anyone who is interested. I’ve had some great email conversations with two of my fellow writers in the weeks after the course and I wish I’d grabbed the details from even more people attending.
  • DO encourage people to add tips for surviving workshops or any other general thoughts on workshops in general in the comments sections below any posts you’ve written about the workshop…