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Posts Tagged ‘Writer’s groups’

As it’s the last Thursday of the month I’ve been at writing group, where there was a lot of talk about how to do things – how to run a competition, how to present a script, how to publish a memoir.

We used to have a kid’s TV show here called How 2, which explained how to do all sorts of things that kids might want to know about – it was science, maths and design all rolled in together, fun and educational at the same time (well, I think so anyway!). We could have done with a few of their solutions today.

Unfortunately as writers there are very few answers that have a guaranteed outcome. Everything has pros and cons, and it is up to us to research them and decide for ourselves which options are the best.

Sometimes you can’t know, and you have to take a stab in the dark, rely on blind faith, trust your judgement – or any one of a hundred clichés you may have heard.  Sometimes you have to go all Nike and Just Do It.

So take one thing, stop asking how, and start saying when.  Give yourself permission to do things differently and see where it takes you.

It might just take you to a whole new set of possibilities!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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It’s the last Thursday of the month so tonight was writing group, and we tried out a new location. The place we usually meet is lovely, convenient and friendly, but a little too noisy as we don’t have a space where we can close the door.

Tonight we tried somewhere with a door. It was quieter, but I did eat more chips… 🙂 It was also a little further away, through some narrow country lanes.

It occurred to me today that everywhere I go, I travel through the English countryside. I travel to work via back routes past fields and farms; or I head to the nearest town by driving through woods. When I go to my trapeze class I get double bubble: countryside and coastline.

It wasn’t a conscious life plan to live in this place, but I am very happy we ended up here.

This evening I read out a poem about walking through the village one day. I have been told before that my best poetry is my nature poetry, and although I don’t know that I agree with that assessment entirely, I do think that the peace and beauty of nature come off the page.

It’s a poem I couldn’t have written ten years ago, when the evening walks were through housing estates, the sounds of twilight were the double-click of a car door locking and the jangle of keys in someone’s hand. I didn’t know what it was like to live in a place where you can hear sheep baaing in a field most evenings, or the clip clop of horses on the road most days.

Towns and cities have their own beauty and joy, and I can explore that too, now I have the tools in my writing arsenal. But I’m not sure I’d look at nature poetry in the same way if I hadn’t seen so much of nature just by looking out my windows.

The right location really does add value; I’m just not sure it’s one an estate agent would recognise.

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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This week has been a bit hit and miss, writing-wise.

The hit – writing group reconvened and it was a really positive one. I shared the start of the whodunnit and got great feedback on that, and I shared a very personal poem to excellent comments.  It was very personal about a very difficult experience, and I’m pleased I was finally able to show it to people because I am proud of it.

We also all set writing targets for the year; realistic but challenging, including how we can support each other.  The group is getting back into the swing of things after missing out a few sessions due to my wedding and then Christmas; our new venue and new approach is really livening things up and I hope we get a few more members to keep the engagement levels high.

The miss – well, not an entire miss, but I only added a few hundred words to the whodunnit, so although the feedback left me on a high, the progress didn’t. I am aiming to move on a lot further this week!

Still, I am progressing, and that’s always good…

In other news – this week, we’ve reached book 75 in the 100 novels list – Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.  I have not read this and am a bit embarrassed to say I never realised it was written in  English; I always thought it was translated.  I can’t say I have any great plan to read it and even the small excerpt from the beginning of the book quoted in the article is a little bleurgh for me, so if it ever goes on my reading list, it will be near then end!

And finally – we’re drawing up a new list of books for reading group this week and I am amazed how different all our tastes are – it’s excellent because it encourages all of us to read things we would choose to leave on the shelf under normal circumstances.  Sadly I will probably have to read something else depressing and hard-going as a result but hey, at least I get food and giggles with my friends as a result!

That’s it from me for today – short and to the point, because I have to get everything ready for work tomorrow.  I am very lucky to have a part-time job so I can carry on with writing and reading, but it does mean I have to be a little more organised than nature made me!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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This week I continued with the whodunnit, caught up on some of the coursework I should have done, and got back into the swing of writing group.

I’ve pressed on with the whodunnit despite still feeling a little conflicted about the detective.  I have gone for a police detective for realism but the more I think about it the more I think the likes of Marple or Holmes work precisely because they are not official – they are not constrained by the rules of the law and can do things that wouldn’t make good policy!  I also feel that it’s made the story become a bit sludgy as I try to get the jargon and legal process right.

In a last-ditch attempt to get a balance between professional detective and civilian sleuth, I have had a Miss Marple marathon running over the weekend in the background.  This week my writing time will be very limited as I have things on every evening after work – predominantly rehearsals, sadly! – but I will revisit the story and see which direction I want to go.  I am trying not to get too bogged down in the minutiae, bearing in mind my reason for trying this was purely to practise the written art of misdirection, and think if I continue down my current path I’ll lose focus again which I don’t want to do!

In the meantime, I have started work on a new poem for performances, called ‘The Ties That Bind’.  I like it and I feel it has legs so will be working on that in the next few weeks as well.

Alongside the writing, I am getting back into my studies, on a fairly basic level – I am doing the bare minimum work and no interactive elements such as forums, because I don’t have time, but I wanted to get back to learning which I find so inspirational.  I still have ideas to explore about history and society that may become poems rather than novels or short stories just because I want to get them onto paper!

And finally, this week also saw the return of writing group.  We have a new venue which is a local pub, and I’m not sure it’ll be entirely successful but we’ll give it a while to try it out.  As we arrived it was snowing, and a great big log fire was a very welcome sight!  I am pushing us all to have writing targets this year, and we are going to run a children’s writing competition locally, so I hope everyone’s a little more invested now.  We even have newbies joining us, which is great fun!

I’ll leave it there as it’s nearly midnight and I have to get up for work!  Decisions on detectives will be made soon…

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Oh dear – another late posting and I’m not even in the last gasp of getting the wedding stuff done.  By November I’ll probably be about two weeks behind!

This week I hosted the writing group and decided to use the magic of the internet to find some writing exercise that I thought would spur everyone’s imagination. The theory was that by allowing people to choose their own exercise, they would engage with it and explore something that felt right for them.

It didn’t quite work like that though – in fact it filled everyone with a shared horror, akin to sitting an exam when they haven’t done any studying!  Still, we all got through it and it was very interesting to see how different people approach writing.  For example, one person can take virtually any exercise and create an adventure story whilst another explores what I call ‘the human experience’ by focussing on feelings and emotions.

This is what’s best about writing exercises, especially for newer, or less confident, writers.  You spot patterns in your work.  Areas of strength and of development; styles; shortcuts in your language that need refining.  You see how easy, or hard, it can be to put on paper what is in your mind.

Don’t just take my word for it though; have a go.   There are plenty of exercises on-line or in writing guides, but you can make your own if you like too.  Write a piece where the world is black and white, and your character has to explain colours in 500 words, or where your romantic lead is a serial killer, or where someone can hear the weather talking and has to decipher what it is saying.

Anything, and everything, is possible in books.  The limit isn’t just your imagination, it’s also your ability to describe what you imagine.  By exercising your mind you will make yourself as good a writer as you can be.

Hopefully, it won’t always feel like a pop quiz when you try!

Happy writing,

EJ

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Tonight was my writing group and I’m shattered so this one is just to say join a group if you can; create one if you have to.

It’s so refreshing to talk about, think about and safely share work. It’s a real pleasure to plan discussions and exercises, and it’s a great reminder to me of all the steps that any one of us takes before we feel able to put our work out to a wider audience.

It also comes with the added bonus of meeting new people with whom you can talk about writing without sounding like a dreamer!

Until next time,
Happy writing
EJ
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Well, following on from last Sunday’s post, I am officially an employee once more.  I can no longer say I have given up the 9-5 to write, as such, because here I am going back to something similar.  Perhaps fewer hours per week, but the principle remains the same – it is the end of my writing life in its current form, at least for a while.

Since I gave up work I’ve studied creative writing, written a complete novel, drafted another and am bashing out a third; I run a small but successful writing group; I have performed my poetry to the public. So those are successes and show that I have made something positive of my time off.  In non-writing terms, I have become heavily involved in a local charity which is something I would never have done if I was still in my old role – this is also something that brings me a great deal of satisfaction and a sense of being part of my community.

So what changed from the start of my journey?  Well, I didn’t enjoy writing short stories so my original idea of sending them off regularly got pushed aside to make way for novels; that ended my plan of earning regularly through writing which has led me to where I am now!  I haven’t found an agent willing to take on my slightly contentious story and have not yet reached the point where I want to pursue self-publishing.

In my more confident moments I think I can carry on as I am, much as I suggested last week.   My desire to write hasn’t ended, it’s just how I use my time (and the amount of time I have) that’s shifted.

It’s another new beginning which is exciting in its own right – and after this one there will be another in November when  I get married.  In fact, life is full of them.

The reality is I’ll probably do less writing than I hope, but more than I did before my break – and that will be enough for now.  When I get into the swing of work again I can assess everything and see what I can manage.

I can’t feel too bad even if  the writing life has changed – I wouldn’t give up these four years for anything, nor the joy I have found in them.  What matters most now is that I remember I’m a writer, and keep getting those words on paper.

Happy writing,

EJ

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Today is day one of my break and the first of two days I get to spend with my sister and her family so I’m not working and I pre-prepared this post before I left. I’m at the retreat the rest of the time so there’s plenty of working time set aside!

This week I had a productive, and enjoyable writing group; the segment of the Woods novel I shared was well received which has given me a real boost, and the exercise we did to loosen up our writing was very successful.

I talked through the issue I had with the woods novel but the group were already commenting on the sinister elements in the atmosphere and the odd environment I’d created, so I was really happy.

Also the charity event I was involved with took place, which was exhausting but satisfying – we even got photographed for the paper! I may have to hunt down all the copies and burn them (cameras hate me!) but it was a good feeling to get the day underway.

So this week has been a positive one for both writing and general life and although I still didn’t catch up with everything I was due to do I at least feel that my time has been well spent.

On that note, a song to see you through to Tuesday!

Oh, and finally – we’re onto book 31 in the 100 novels list – Dracula by Bram Stoker.  I think I posted my opinion of it some while ago – it took me a long time (for me) to read, and is full of weather reports.  It’s not a book I’ll re-read, probably; I first read it as a teenager when I think I did enjoy it but I suppose that just proves our taste changes over time!

Until next week,

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate Easter; Happy April 20th to those of you who don’t 🙂

We had the annual Easter Egg Hunt (confined to the house this year due to the untimely rain) and I thought you might like to see the eggs that my nieces and nephews found dotted about!

Hip to be Ovoid

It’s been another week of barely any writing but I’m giving myself this one off without guilt – I’ve been very run down and under the weather and I needed the rest. I’ll do what I can over the next few days but even with the last couple of weeks being slow I feel I’m in an ok position to start planning the next novel.

I have however thrown a little light on the Woods novel – I’ve decided to share it, or at least parts of it, with my writing group to see whether they can give me any advice or guidance about how to develop it. The first part has gone out to the group, asking for comments to be shared at our meeting next week.  I hope they are kinder to me than I generally am to myself!

So the next few days will be a catch-up with the agents, packing all the resources I need for my retreat, and making sure I have a couple of decent folders to put all my scribbles and references into!

In other news – Book 30 on the list is The Red Band of Courage by Stephen Crane; a book I’ve never heard of and which doesn’t sound my cup of tea at all – I generally try to avoid war novels – so it’s unlikely to go on my list.  What I found interesting this week, though, is the thoughts around the next seventy are still being finalised.  I like the idea that it’s an organic thing, growing and changing over time: that’s how I find my own reaction to books, sometimes loving one I hated as a child, or seeing through the melodrama that blinded me in my youth.  Looking back at books with the eyes of an older person does make you read them differently.  Which is good really – we all want to grow and change!

And finally – As of next Sunday, I am away for a week.  I will try to blog and post where I can, but please bear with me if I miss a day or two.  I am over-excited about getting back to the retreat again – I hope it’s just as lovely even if the weather isn’t.  I’m packing my hiking boots and a waterproof!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

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This week has involved a lot of little bits that I hadn’t really planned for in advance.

Weeks like these are great writing weeks, because they’re so varied – but they’re also the weeks when it’s impossible to make a big stride forward in my work.

As I said on Thursday, I got an unexpected treat and went to France but there was a lot more going on than that…

I spent time with family; I held writing group and had the pleasure of welcoming a new writer to our little party; I did some work for the charity I support locally; I visited a medieval village and its castle gardens; I went out for dinner and to a club; I enjoyed Mothering Sunday with my parents and my partner’s parents over a vintage-style cream tea.

Those are just the headlines but you can see how a week like that means my mind is fluttering around like a butterfly and not focussed and pragmatic as I now need it to be.

But what’s life all about if you can’t experience all these moments?

One of my favourite songs is You Get What You Give by The New Radicals (for many years it was my getting-ready-to-go-out song) so I’m posting it here as a reminder that whatever happens to get in the way of my writing time I should make the very best of it I can.

Seize the moment – once it’s gone, it’s gone.

In other news – Book 27 on the list is The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.  I read this book years ago, and the idea of a withered, malevolent, ugly painting in the attic still seems really creepy to me, so it did its work I guess!  I know it’s a story with a very clear moral at its core which isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I do think it’s worth reading if you haven’t done so.

Also – I got ‘tagged’ in a Facebook game this week.  I often ignore these but it was about 15 writers who have inspired or educated me.  This beats what character from a tv show are you type quizzes (not that I’m entirely immune to these either!) and it’s good to know people are willing to discuss writers through the social media bubble.  As an aside, I am now setting up my EJ Judge Facebook page after a couple of false starts so if you’re on there and want to have a look or ask me anything, please do 🙂

And finally – as it’s timely to talk about mothers today… I found this article about mothers in children’s literature.  I haven’t come across all these books but have to say that Mrs Weasley is exactly the kind of mother a boy like Harry might have dreamed of in his little cupboard under the stairs!

Until next time,

Happy writing!

EJ

🙂

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