Archive for the ‘Dumfries Writers’ Category

Writing Critique Partners   1 comment

I came across the idea of finding a critique partner while listening to a podcast from Helping Writers Become Authors (

This seemed like a brilliant idea – a different way to get a perspective on my writing, and to help others with theirs – and a good supplement to my monthly writers’ group meetings.

The podcast suggested that getting a critique partner whom you could trust was a hard, time consuming task. After all, you need to find someone you are comfortable with, so you can share ideas and criticisms without taking each comment as a personal insult.

I thought I’d pursue the matter further and so a quick search on the web took me to this great resource: which contains a list of online writing forums and critique communities, most of whom are free to join.

Having gone through the list, I delved into the ( workshops because the community there was started for science fiction and fantasy writers, and a lot of my work fits into those genres.

It was a simple process to register on the site. It involved picking a workshop (there are workshops covering different writing genres) and completing a short form to supply my contact details and a short bio. Once completed, I was rewarded with a username and password, and a commitment to critique a piece of work at least once a week. I’ve done this a couple of times already, and it’s a fun process. You have to remember to follow the critique response guides as you don’t want to be rude or discouraging to fellow writers, and there are a few style rules to follow, but you can’t really go wrong.

Next step for me is to submit a piece for critique, and then hold my breath and wait for the responses. As long as I keep submitting critiques back, then my piece should be reviewed a few weeks after submission.


A Writing Game   1 comment

I’m not sure where this came from originally (though I know we played with it in our Writers Group) but it’s a fun creative writing exercise…

You need two characters.

Put the name of the first character down on a piece of paper.

Then spend five minutes listing what that person would be carrying. For example, what they are holding, what’s in their pockets, or what’s in their bag.

Then, on another piece of paper, write down the name of the second character, and repeat the process for another five minutes.

The next thing is to image a scene where these two characters meet for the first time. You should use the things they are carrying to guide you – include them in the passage if you can.

If possible try and set out the scene as a conflict between the two people.

Finally, sit back and admire your handiwork 🙂



Posted June 6, 2011 by Alan Clark in Dumfries Writers, Exercise, Writer, Writing

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: 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:
  • 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: 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…

Story Time Lines and Plots   Leave a comment

There was an interesting talk at our recent Writer’s Group meeting on time lines for stories, and plots, and when to ‘start’ a story. The example given was that of Harry Potter where the opening sequence begins with the baby Harry being left on the Dursley’s doorstep. There is an awful lot of ‘story’ that happens prior to this event, but the author chose to reveal that information in snippets throughout the remainder of the saga rather than front loading the tale with all that information. Otherwise, we may not have met Harry Potter until book six!

Where to start a story can be a dilemma, of course. Starting a tale at one point in the story as opposed to another can completely alter the tone and even the outcome of the tale. Personally, I’ve ripped up complete chunks of stories in the past and moved the entry point much further along to where it gets ‘interesting’.

How you go about making this decision is entirely a matter of personal choice…

Posted April 22, 2011 by Alan Clark in Dumfries Writers, Harry Potter, Writer, Writing