This weekend I got a rare opportunity to attend an ASA workshop run by one of my favourite fantasy authors – Garth Nix. For anyone who doesn’t know, Garth is the author of the world famous Old Kingdom fantasy series (consisting of Sabriel, Lireal, Abhorsen and most recently, Clariel) and many other books (A Confusion of Princes is another favourite of mine). He has also worked as a literary agent, editor, publicist and bookseller and is just generally a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the book industry, and particularly the fantasy and science fiction genres. Needless to say, I was a little star struck!
Still, I successfully managed not to act like a dazed fan girl, and absorb a little of the wisdom he had to share. He provided a lot of insights into the art, craft and business of writing fantasy. The tips he gave on the business side of things were invaluable, however I think the best part of the workshop for me was hearing him talk about the art and craft elements of writing – and of course, imagining how he might have written the books I love reading.
One of the things that resonated with me most was that he described books in terms emotions, saying that the best books transfer emotion. I guess sometimes we can get so caught up in thinking about the plot and characters and mechanics of a book that we can forget about one of the most important and appealing things it provides, which is an emotional experience. It made me realise that a lot of what I am trying to do when I am writing is create a series of emotional experiences – be it moments of romance or tragedy or fascination or wonder. That’s what I’m after when I’m reading a book too. When I look back at books I’ve read and loved, what I’m remembering is not just the content but the feeling of them, the way they drew me along and made me care for the characters and the world. It’s not something that’s particularly tangible or matter-of-fact, which is perhaps why I don’t often hear it discussed by authors, so it was great to hear Garth emphasise it.
Of course, there were plenty of other things he covered in the workshop. This article over at Write or Wrong and this article at Welcome to My Library highlight a few more key points, so I recommend checking them out.
All in all it was a great experience, and a chance to get a little glimpse into the creative processes of an author I’ve got a lot of respect and admiration for.