Writer’s Group – Lessons Learned   Leave a comment

Well, my first foray into the world of Writers Groups is now over, with Dumfries Writers adjourning their fortnightly meetings until the autumn. That’s understandable; people have so many other things to do during the summer months and holidays and other fun things get in the way of writing.

It’s a shame though, as I’ve really enjoyed these first sessions and am looking forward to September when the whole thing kicks off again.

Anyhow, I thought now would be a good time to take stock and see what tips I’ve picked up over the last few months. These are in no particular order:

  • Carry a notebook at all times – and jot down ideas when they come to you. This, I’ve found, is easier said than done. Sometimes ideas come at the most inappropriate times. Whipping out the old note book at work, for example, is really not appropriate. Still, the idea is valid.
  • It’s important to give yourself time and space to write. A regular time slot each day in a quiet spot is preferable. The length of time doesn’t have to be terribly long – just long enough. Another approach is to set yourself a certain amount of words a day. Even writing 500 a day is a good starting point.
  • A koan is a form of Chinese poetry. Rather than explain it’s form here I’ll point you to this nice website: http://deoxy.org/koans. Koans are cool!
  • It’s suggested that if someone is serious about writing they should have a web page and a blog. Hence this blog. Oh, and my website, too! (Which is here: http://alanclarkwriting.wordpress.com/).
  • Market research is essential for selling your work. The presentation we had on this from Rosemary Gemmell  was very instructive. (I’ve a link to her blog on this page.) It is a tough shift, though. You need to figure out what sort of writing you do and which publications match your genre. Each publication has its own way of accepting submissions, and you need to follow those guidelines to have a hope of having work accepted.
  • Write your work, read it, revise it. Over and over and over.
  • It’s important to maintain the perspective of a character in a story. You shouldn’t jump willy-nilly from one character’s perspective to the next. That just gets confusing. Especially in a short story the narrative should be written from only one perspective. In longer pieces, the perspective can change to that of another character, but that viewpoint must not take over the tale. If is starts to do that, then perhaps this other character has the stronger tale to tell, and the start of the story should be re-written from the new perspective.
  • Vary sentence lengths. Long and short. Short and long.
  • There is a plot structure known as the Classic Plot Arc. This is link to a blog that describes it: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/how-to-structure-a-story-the-eight-point-arc/. This is a handy tool for devising a story line.
  • You must decide when to start a story. Your start point does not need to be at the beginning of your tale, but could be half way through it. You may choose to reveal the back story in the telling, or you may not. Or you may elect only to reveal enough of the back story so the reader can make sense of what is going on. To assist, you may wish to create a timeline and map out what each of your characters is doing when.
  • Most of all – it’s good to criticise, if it is done constructively and in good faith, and it is good to receive constructive criticism, too. It points out our shortcomings and makes us strive to improve. Without the critique we would carry on blindly repeating the same mistakes over and over.
That’s not bad for a few months worth of meetings. As I said, I’m looking forward to September, and the next batch…
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