August Meeting Report

Let’s Get Started

We did a great thing! We supported each other! It all began with a question about editing and how some of us struggle with getting past this stage in our writing. We gave each other lots of advice, including:

  • get the gist down and go from there
  • just get it all down in one go                                                                   
  • get a feel for it – Is it working?
  • go back and edit/polish at the end
  • simplify things
  • read and self-edit as you go

We all had our own ideas but the one which resonated the most was:

“Don’t eat the elephant all at one time!” In other words, one step at a time but do what suits you best.

Dialogue

Dialogue was also on the agenda. One of our members is writing non-fiction, based on a self-help/advice theme and wanted to know if using dialogue to illustrate some points would be effective. We talked about posing some questions at the beginning of a chapter and then using dialogue and scenarios to try to answer them.

Our Writing

Continuing the theme of dialogue, we had each prepared a piece of writing to bring to the meeting. These included:

  • a self-help piece, as mentioned above
  • a conversation which brought peace and harmony to the writer
  • one which had a mystical theme
  • a comical version based on nosiness and gossip
  • a memory which include some assertive tones, used when faced with health and safety gone mad!

We tried reading the first piece as a play and found that the use of dialogue gave it a real authenticity. With another we found that, as it was all dialogue between only two people, there was no need to attribute the words to each speaker, as it was perfectly clear who was speaking. Some of us had previously not used dialogue much at all but focusing on this evening’s task, discovered it can really bring a piece of writing to life, whilst effectively moving the story along. It’s effective use showed how to tell the story through he use of dialogue, using less description. More strings to our collective bows!

How do You Write?

Another topic that came up was how we write and when we write. Do we need to have a set time or place? Do we need silence? Can we cope with interruptions? Again, our answers proved that everybody’s different and we should write when we can and how we can. As always, each member took away fresh ideas and perhaps confidence, from the discussion. Something which, as a group, we always try to achieve through our meetings.

Looking ahead

The conversation carried on for a wee while after our meeting. We started to think about how we might use a monthly Saturday morning space that is available, 10-12 noon, on the first Saturday of each month. Poetry, screen writing, play writing, proposals, developing skills… 

All this and we’re nearly one year old.

June Meeting 2019

Welcome to a new member

Great to have another new person interested in our group. She writes poetry and would like help to edit her work, with a view to publishing. Luckily we have the very person for the job and so have put them in touch with each other. Looking forward to finding out how that has gone, at the July meeting.

Agenda

We quickly agreed an agenda for the evening, conscious that, as a group, we try to fit the content, to the needs of those who attend.

Blog on editor’s visit 

Jenny read out a report on Gale Winskill’s visit in May. Gale is a professional editor and helped us understand more about her role in the writing process. (See Menu for the blog)

What our writers are working on

Each person gave a quick update on what they are currently doing and shared what they want to achieve through the group. They want a meaningful return from the meeting and especially want to go away feeling encouraged.

Contracts

We went on to discuss different ways of publishing and what safeguards you should think about when entering into contracts, especially with someone you have not met, perhaps online. Word of mouth can be the best method of finding someone with the experience you need and who you can trust. That is one of the advantages of coming to a group such as ours.   

Copyright

A question was raised about copyright and whilst, like editing, this can be a complex area, there are ways of getting help e.g. The Copyright Agency. The main legislation dealing with copyright in the UK is the “Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.”  

Copyright Symbol

Another useful piece of information we shared is to use the copyright symbol at the end of your work. If you Google this there are instructions and videos online to help, depending on which computer system you use.

e.g. © Jenny Hoggan

Our Writing

This is  the part of the evening which can be daunting at first but I now positively look forward to. This is when we share a piece of work that may be from the suggested homework topic but equally can be anything you have been working on, that you wish to share. There were some “firsts” tonight and some “old hands” but hopefully everyone went home with some supportive advice and loads of encouragement!

Writing Retreat

To finish off the evening Mac shared his recent experience at Moniack Mhor, a creative writing centre in the Highlands. 

 

 

 

May Meeting 2019 – Gale Winskill Editor

Welcome to our editing session

This evening we welcomed our invited guest, Gale Winskill, who taught us lots about editing.

Editing is simple … isn’t it?

photo of editor Gale WinskillGale Winskill is a professional editor, living in Fife, who came to give us an introduction to what an editor actually does. My line of work, as with so many others, suffers from a general lack of awareness of just how much is involved, behind the scenes. All the attention to detail that may not be immediately apparent but is needed to make the final product look smooth and seamless.

Everything has its front of house – the facade that is presented to the world – but ask a teacher, a doctor, a nurse, a builder, a chef, a shopkeeper and they will all tell you just how much training, skill and experience is involved in that final product. The same applies to editing.

Reasonably armed, or so I thought, I went along to the meeting. Whatever I thought, you can multiply that by about ten because there was so much to learn!

Gale’s background

On her website, Gale freely admits that her unconventional and indirect path into her chosen career came from a lifelong love of reading and the fact that she will happily read anything.

She has travelled and worked abroad extensively, been an in-house and freelance editor. On top of that, she has a good working knowledge of several languages and is an Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP).

What’s more, she is very personable, putting you at your ease: an important point in building a working relationship between author and editor. She is a highly skilled communicator, getting her points over objectively and succinctly. This is my take on Gale’s presentation – a daunting task considering Gale’s expertise. Fingers crossed and apologies in advance!

So what does an editor do?

Gale’s view is that a book needs to be the best it can be. A bad review is no joke and by that time, it is too late – the damage has been done. This is even more important in the age of social media, when reviews and opinions spread so quickly. However, the author is too close to their own work to turn out the final product.

That’s where an editor’s role really comes in. They need an objective eye and to be time efficient. It is helpful if they are positive, rather than negative but equally so, the author must be prepared to accept suggestions, not as critisism.

Gale believes that an editor is the ultimate reveiwer, asking the question, “Why?” It is their job to identify problems that any future reader may spot and bring them to the attention of the writer, so that they can address them, prior to going into print.

Proofreading versus Copy-editing

This was the title of a handout that Gale brought from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. It had the following, thought provoking, quote by Gerard M-F Hill, which clearly shows the complexity of the task at hand.

“Copy-editing and proofreading are both editing, which is wrestling with words; but proofreading is like wrestling in a broom cupboard.”

Then of course, you have…

Structural editing

Structural editing deals with the big picture, looking at content, organization and pacing. Gale gave us numerous examples of this: logic of the story topic, pace/flow, gaps or holes, characters, genre, style of language, suitability of content, age appropriateness, to name but a few. There are many more but watch this space for a future workshop!

Copy-editing

This asks the question, ” Is the story sound?” “Does it make sense?”

It also includes many more issues such as punctuation, grammar, factual inaccuracy, consistency of house style, formatting and legal issues.

Proofreading

This is the final stage and includes layout, further checking for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors, minor changes in sense, consistency, references and index formatting.

Any clearer?

Well yes, absolutely enlightened and eager for more.

If like me, this has whetted your appetite, then go on to Gale’s website to find out more. Many questions from members came up throughout the evening and no doubt more will come up in the coming months.

I for one, look forward to catching up with Gale again at one of our future meetings. Thanks Gale!

For more information visit:

http://www.winskilleditorial.co.uk/ 

© Jenny Hoggan

April Meeting 2019

Welcome!

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Kilconquhar Loch – a quiet garden for contemplation and inspiration.

Good to see old friends and this time a new face! Always welcome to add new experiences and interests.

French Connection

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For this meeting, one of our existing members happened to be in France, so instead of missing the meeting all together we decided to link up using Skype. Would it work technically or meet our needs? It did! Not only could we interact throughout the general discussion, it even worked when we split up into groups. Whilst we do not plan to use it all the time, it is worthwhile knowing that this can be achieved.

Writing Software

Our new member had been interested in the discussion, in last month’s blog, about the different types of writing software available.

We continue to explore this topic but feel we would have to gather more information and perhaps look at functions, applications, pros and cons. We will return to this but meanwhile, if anyone has experience in this area and can offer advice, please get in touch. Happy to collate information and share.

Loglines

As a group, we had agreed to come prepared with our own example of a Logline.

What is a logline? – a very brief and enthusing synopsis of a script, screenplay or book, which includes a hook to stimulate interest. Usually one sentence but can be two.

You need:

  • Character
  • Want
  • Obstacle

It must be:

  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Creative

Here are some of our example loglines

  • Sam Duncan, must stay alive, find the people who want him dead and stop them killing his little sister…who they’ve mislaid.
  • It’s a hot summer in Braeness, where visitors and locals mingle during the annual festival. Gossip abounds, old scores are settled, and many lives changed, not necessarily for the better.
  • The past cannot be changed but can the truth? No matter how far down you bury a lie, somehow the truth will dig it back up again.
  • The shepherd travelled far and wide and learned his treasure was already within him.
  • Sir Edward Feathers QC, an aged and mysterious barrister, reflects on his eventful life in London and Hong Kong, giving a glimpse of the British Empire, through his mordantly funny wit.   

What did we learn? That it is much harder than it looks! The question came up, “What is the difference between a logline and a mission statement? Good question, which we will return to, once we have mastered the former! 

Character Development exercise

Over refreshments, we split into two groups and each group set the other a challenge to create a character in fifteen minutes. These were:

  • an angry, destructive teacher
  • a co-dependent, addictive woman

To help us, Mac prepared a help sheet with ten points and questions, to use as prompts. These included the character’s:

  • goals, motivation, purpose which will become important
  • fears, flaws, insecurities and how these might affect their success
  • story-helping history and what is happening to them now
  • personality traits or quirks that will prove to be significant
  • name and how this will shape their emerging role

This proved to be an interesting experience, not least because we were working with others; writing can be a solitary business and working alone, we tend to get our own way! A valuable checklist, which we will no doubt use again.

Our Writing

To finish off the evening we shared our individual writing on the theme “jealousy”, in 200 words maximum, which we had agreed upon at the end of last month’s meeting. This was really enjoyable and what struck us was the variety of angles and styles that everyone took. Happily, the general consensus was that everyone had hit the brief successfully. Some of our examples are available here. See what you think!

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LOGLINE

On the basis of our follow-up discussion we decided to do a further example for the next meeting but this time on a standardised storyline. The advantage of this is that everyone knows the story and we can compare outcomes.

A logline tells the essence of a story. We chose Cinderella.

March Meeting 2019

Feels like we’re getting the hang of this! At our first meeting everything seemed strange and new. A bit stressful if I’m honest.

Getting organised, opening the building, getting the heating right, where to sit, what to speak about, meeting new people, making them welcome. It was early days for a new group.

Winter weather, Christmas holidays and the dark days of January all took their toll. Burn’s Night gave those with a poetic leaning, a glimmer of inspiration. Our first meeting of 2019 brought new faces, different experiences and new ideas for discussion and exploration.

Meeting

March was our second of 2019. I feel we are beginning to tune into peoples’ needs and move ideas forward.

I’m relatively new to all of this and I was fascinated to discover that there are all kinds of things out there to help budding writers:

  • software
  • apps
  • helpful blogs
  • websites

Sure, there are many aspiring new writers, scarily many, but help is there and accessible.

I thought I was doing well ordering my shopping online but words like Scrivener and AutoCrit have now entered my vocabulary, alongside Creative Writing Ink and WordPress. All have been stored away for further investigation.

The other thing that became immediately apparent is that people are happy to share, to listen and be supportive. I for one had used storyboards to teach young children but it had not crossed my mind that I could use them to develop my own writing.

For instance, at the February meeting Andy Frazier showed us an example of how he uses a story board for script writing. Check out Andy’s blog, which gives a basic introduction.

In the beginning

At the beginning of our early group meetings we quickly gave a brief history of what we were interested in and, perhaps, current projects. This helped us get to know each other and our aspirations.

Finding old masterpieces

One group member brought along a folder containing her old writing notes. I’m not even sure if she’d had time to look through them. But it’s surprising how looking back can refresh your ideas.

By the end of the evening she had shared a piece of work that mattered to her. We were glad she found the confidence to do that because it was a wee hidden gem, which we found, mattered to us too. It was a powerful piece, well considered, thought provoking and relevant.

Another member, who had not shared her work at this group before, shared a poem she had penned a while back. She is interested in imagery and it became strongly apparent that she has the ability to convey her ideas through this medium. Thank you both!

Getting published

Not the Life Imagined by [Pettigrew, Anne]One of our returning members explained that a friend of hers, from another writing group, has recently had her first novel published. Whilst this is not necessarily the immediate aim for everyone, in the first instance, it did make our ears prick up.

I for one was subsequently well impressed to find it, with ease, on the Internet. What’s more, with very favourable reviews! Anne Pettigrew, Not the life Imagined.

Using a song

The same member had been interested in taking Andy Frazier’s idea from our last meeting, of using song lyrics for the basis of a short story. Her chosen song was Every Breath You Take by The Police.

Now, like me, you may think of the lyrics as coming from the mouth of a broken-hearted lover. Many couples choose it to play at their wedding. Sting had just separated from his first wife to start a relationship with the person who would subsequently become his second wife, when he wrote it.

However, what if you put a different slant on the words? As our member pointed out, they can have a totally different meaning; the words of a stalker, controlling and menacing. Try listening to them again. She used this to great effect in her resulting short story.

If you come along …

Why not drop in and find out what our group is like. You don’t have to do or bring anything, but you can if you like. You can read a short extract from some on-going writing … anything really … and, of course, you can always try our preparation suggestions, below.

At our March meeting we heard:

  • two brief short stories
  • a poem
  • a chunk of non-fiction
  • an extract of Scottish Historic fantasy-fiction
  • a personal reflection

People responded in helpful and interested ways.

As one of the short story writers, when preparing, I was stumped for a new idea and, for the first time, Googled “creative writing prompts“.

I can recommend it because there are lots, and I found something that ‘clicked’ with me straight away. Job done!

Mac tells me he wrote a blog on writers-block a while back.

Next meeting

From the first, we have been keen to steer the group in the direction members need and want. To that end we had a discussion and agreed on two things for next time.

  • Choose any book and create a logline for it

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A logline is a sentence which summarises a TV programme, film or book that states the central conflict of the story. It often provides both a  synopsis of the plot and an emotional “hook” to stimulate interest. And …

  • write up to 200 words on the theme “jealousy” – whatever it means to you – fiction, non-fiction, a poem, a song … you choose.

Why not come along and share your ideas? Hope to see you soon!

© Jenny Hoggan