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Posts Tagged ‘Writer’s groups’

Sorry – Christmas is seeping in everywhere already and the music just popped into my head!

This is a mid-week post rather than a random thoughts post, because it’s turned into quite a good writing day. Not for actual, physical writing – don’t expect too much of a Thursday 😉 – but for engaging with my work again.

It began at my monthly writing group. I don’t always find myself coming home full of writing vim and vigour, but this time it just seemed to click for me.

Firstly, I shared my new plan to the group, explaining that I felt I had lost my way with writing at least since I got ill in June. Maybe before, but definitely then.

I explained that I was going to approach it differently, and how that looked.

I talked about my novel, about the story, the theme and the underlying message, and why I felt I needed to look at it again with clearer eyes and see what weaknesses remain – I had an offer of help with this too.

And last but not least, I chatted with someone not in the group, who was interested in talking about writing once he knew why we were there. It was the kind of conversation that fills me with positivity, because we inspired him to talk about something completely new.  He told me he wrote a journal, about his favourite book, about his interest in literature.  It was a chance conversation but it left a really warm feeling.

So today was a good writing day, even without any writing – and I wanted to celebrate it with you all in the hope it will be just what you need one day, too.

Happy writing,
EJ
🙂

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This week has been a little less about writing, and a little more about realistic goals – but over the course of the evening a writing plan has started to emerge, and it’s given my literary spirits a boost.

I happened to pop onto my twitter account for the first time in about a week, to see a message there from a writing group friend of mine.

I won’t give you all the details but the upshot was that we are both languishing in writing limbo, and need a nudge in the right direction.

So the starting point of the plan is for us to agree some writing dates when we meet up at group this week coming. On those afternoons/evenings we meet up, we will write. Maybe talk about what we’re writing too, of course, but primarily sit and write.

It’ll be like having a gym friend who makes you exercise when you want to stay in and eat chocolate! Plus when I’m writing I can eat chocolate 😉

My phase two is to acknowledge that I have the tools I need to write, and to use them. That means my reading materials this week are going to be textbooks, guides, exercises etc – all to get me thinking about how to reboot my work.

Phase three is to set myself a target of 10,000 words to get me to the end of Fred’s story so I can finish it and put it aside for later editing.

Phase four is to review all the crime novel work I have done, archive the unsuccessful bits and pull together the best so I can build a new story with more confidence in it – a story I hope will be planned (not written; I need to get back to basics I think) by Christmas.

However, the most important element of my new plan is to relax about my output.  I need to stop putting pressure on myself and focus on why writing is a joy and I love doing it; to let myself have a bit of fun with it.

Expectations can have benefits, or they can undermine your confidence when you don’t meet them.  When everything in life is a little crowded it is too easy to feel I haven’t done what I should.  I make it worse by telling you what I’ll do, too!

But there is no agent phoning me, no editor demanding my time.  I am my own timekeeper so I can set my own rules.  And for now, my rules are to be a little more kind to myself and to enjoy the process of putting pen to paper.

Happy writing,
EJ
🙂

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Sometimes writing group turns into more of a reading group, where we talk about the relative pros and cons of certain styles of writing.

Today, it was the frustration of an unfulfilling ending, something I have mentioned a few times in my Challenge Tuesday posts (here and here, for example!).

As a reader, it’s one of my top peeves.  To invest time, energy and emotion into a book only for the ending to be missing, weird, make no sense or just generally not be what I want it to be, feels a little like a betrayal of trust.

However, as a writer I appreciate that a story has to reflect my viewpoint, and the ending has to be real for my characters.

But would someone else reading my book find that ending convincing?  Or would they want my characters to have entirely different futures from the ones I have offered them?  Would a reader want a different murderer in the whodunnit, a different outcome in the suspense, a different choice for my pregnant teenager?

As writers we decide on the story we choose to write: we have to hope any reader will accept the choices we have made along the way, and enjoy the journey to get to them.  As we edit, proofread and prepare our work for market we may consider these elements but we write the stories that come to us, and we can never make everyone happy.

Some of the best learning I get as a writer is to read work that I don’t enjoy.  That sounds odd, I know, but if I love a story I lose myself in it.  I don’t analyse what works because I am too busy being a reader to be a writer.  On the other hand, anything that doesn’t work, that takes me out of the story and challenges my reading zen, I can clearly identify.

I can check my own work for those elements and remove them.

So sometimes when I can’t get satisfaction as a reader, I can engage my writing brain and have a brilliant lesson from that point of view instead.  I can more objectively assess what elements are successful too, because the whole experience becomes more analytical. I can take that novel, and make it a textbook.

In other words, I can take lemons, and make lemonade. Every book-filled cloud really does have a silver lining!

Happy writing

EJ

🙂

 

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I am really tired today; it’s been a hectic week at work, I’ve been working longer hours than I am used to doing plus been very busy in the evenings, and I no longer have any interesting thoughts in my head (assuming any of my normal thoughts are interesting…)

In fact, I was so tired that when I got home from work I tried to do some writing and it was objectively bad. Not just a bit dull, or slow, or unfinished, but actual draw a line through it bad.

And at writing group I couldn’t translate my thoughts onto paper, or verbalise them properly, or in any way make writing work for me – we ended up discussing politics for the second half of our session instead!

Aristotle apparently said

The energy of the mind is the essence of life

and as my mind is running on empty I’d better go and recharge, before any more of my writing time passes me by!

Happy writing

EJ

🙂

 

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Well, the editing didn’t get finished as hoped, but that’s fairly standard – it always takes longer than I expect and there’s been quite a few other life distractions that have cut into my working time.  I just have to keep on tracking down all those little niggles and smoothing them out for a little bit longer.

I need to get it done before 1 March though, because I don’t want it hanging about for too long: I’ll be really busy with my paid job after that for a little while, and I probably won’t get a lot of writing time.

I have one other piece of writing work to get done this week too – an exercise for writing group.  I kind of feel that I have to do it as it’s the ‘homework’ I set people, to try out a particular technique and see if it helps them.  Much as I find with the blog, I never really know what people will want from one month to the next, but I figure it’s good to share exercises and approaches that work for me because worst case scenario, they won’t work for someone else – there’s no risk factor.

Anyway, rather than talk about what I haven’t done, I’m going to share some positives…

  • I got my tickets to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • I got a costume sorted out for a charity 1920’s dinner party next weekend
  • I planned a trip to see family in the North of England
  • I arranged not one but two reunions with school friends  It’s a big anniversary year this year so I have quite a few events with different people to plan!

So not all bad; in fact some pretty cool ticks on the list this week – they’re just not quite where I was intending to tick.

But I take the good where I can.

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

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I’ve been at writing group tonight, and one of the things we agreed on at the end of last year was to return to a format where we could have a little reminder session/advice session in each meeting.  This means I get to set exercises, and homework.

I feel a little power crazed…

Today, we went back to writing basics and it was all about showing not telling.

That is one of the first things I learnt as a writer, and it is something I understood very easily as I have written poetry since I was about 10. Poetry is the ultimate in showing and is a good way to practice – things that may seem overly flouncy in the middle of a crime scene are perfectly acceptable in a poem so you can be much less subtle!

What always helps me is to think about the scene as though I am watching it on film, or looking at it in a photo. Then rather than describe the scene directly, I describe what I can see on camera – the way someone’s lips curl in a sneer they try to hide with their hand, the dust motes in the lamplight, the fingerprints smeared on a dirty glass.  It’s a strange distinction but one that works for me.

But it doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s a valuable lesson in the writing group too. Not all exercises will help all the members.  Not all exercises will be approached in the same way.  Not all writers will be able to produce a page of writing at will.  Not all lessons come easily.

However, whatever style of writing you want to do – poetry, prose, script, non-fiction, travel journal – it is worth trying different approaches.  Some may not work but finding a technique that helps you bring your words to life is a positive outcome for your entire writing life.  That’s worth a bit of effort, surely?

I’m going to keep going back to my ‘show, don’t tell’ exercises.  They remind me of the basic rule of writing and keep me focussed on the reader.  They, after all, are my audience.  They deserve my best work.

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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This week I’ve started working on the second Family Tree story. This has involved starting to plan a timeframe, individual circumstances and storylines, mapping out what has happened in the intervening period between the end of the last story and the beginning of the new.

It is far from a finished plan, but it feels as though it is slotting together quite naturally and I am looking forward to building up the storyline. I need to finish re-reading the original story to make sure I have all details correct but I have a good idea of where I’ll be going and that’s a real pleasure.

I have also arranged to go to a crime writer’s convention with a couple of other members of my writing group. This came about from a twitter post I saw from a recently published crime writer; I thought it was a great opportunity to develop what I have done with the whodunnit and get a feel for a wider writing experience.

My next step with that story is to pick up on the police procedural side and start to get that right. If you like, I have the bones of the story now, and it’s time to make sure those bones form a proper skeleton!

I also think going to a writing convention in and of itself is a great opportunity to hear how other writer approach difficulties, how they plan, what they have learnt in their journey towards publication… As a genre I am still getting to grips with, I am really excited to see what I can learn.

So this has been a good week. I am really buzzing about building contacts and enjoying my writing again; I have a little more time to write over the next few weeks, and I have a plan for what I want, and need, to do.

If only I felt this buoyant every week!

Happy writing,
EJ
🙂

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