The story so far … If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry!

The story so far

Have you written anything during the last month? I haven’t. My brain has been exclusively involved in seeking, assimilating and processing the information flooding in over the media. My story so far has stayed outwardly calm, though inwardly anxious. So far so good. But this has got to stop!

Our 300 word challenge to you

Please join us in this challenge. Write a piece of comedy. Our usual guide is around 300 words but that matters not, under the circumstances. Just have some fun.

Instead of our normal meeting on Monday 27th April, we can share our writing through our site over the next week or so. Are you up for it? Email your piece to me and we’ll post it. Don’t forget a non-de-plume as agreed at our last meeting.

Don’t mention the …

I constantly whinge that I don’t have time but now, it seems that I do. Anguishing through the wee small hours I decide to put pen to paper. Or rather, in the interests of not wishing to wake my partner, index finger to iPhone. But what to write about? The subject that is on everybody’s lips, must surely have become “It That Must Not Be Named.”

She’s aff her heid… how it happened

Earlier, I had sought advice from a writer pal. A big mistake last thing before sleep because she advised “comedy”. What? My normally reliable, sage friend must be a maniac. At this time of crisis and turmoil, comedy must surely be impossible. This, my fuddled brain had not been expecting.

…or is she?

And so to a sleepless night. Where, in all this, can I find humour? More challenging still, how do I find the will and the wit to write it?

After several hours of tossing and turning, I think of a hilarious video doing the circuit on social media. And so I have my prompt for the story so far. What’s more, I think it will do my mental health a power of good to try it. So, she’s right.

And now to sleep…

Thank you to my pal for a sleepless night but also for dragging me from my literary torpor.

Join us. We look forward to hearing from you!

Enjoy and take care!

Jenny

February 2020 Meeting Report

Posh new Mac
Jenny’s (aspirational) workspace – she loves her wee Mac and it’s not me!

Our monthly get together 24 February

Here we are on the last Monday of the month, 7pm in Colinsburgh Library, for our regular get together. It has taken a while but that date and time slot is now so easy to remember that it is embedded in my internal calendar. No longer do I need to ask, “What date is our next meeting?” More like, “We’re halfway through the month – time to think about getting that piece of writing ready.” Crunch time; I always work better to a deadline. Does that work for you?

We are growing

Well, hopefully not in kilograms but another new member. This evening we were delighted to welcome a lady who moved to the area last Autumn. As often happens, she and her family have been visiting the East Neuk for many years and upon retiring, she decided to relocate here permanently. Luckily she has found her way to our local group and happily she has brought her writing interest and skills with her. A warm welcome!

Catching up

After apologies from members who could not make it this evening, we had a catch up on news, helped along with hot cuppas and biscuits. We do like our home comforts and a relaxed ambience!

Tonight’s agenda

  1. Developing the website
  2. Preparing a theme bank
  3. Writing a blog
  4. Sharing our work

Our website

Our website has been up and running for over a year now and we are looking to develop it further. It is visited by people from near and far, which is the great thing about the internet. Our writing group does not have physical boundaries and we can reach out to like-minded people who can’t always attend but still want to share our interest in the written word.

Next steps

Mac outlined the points laid out in last month’s blog and a discussion ensued.

Main points:

  1. All shared writing should be published under a nom-de-plume. Rationale is that protecting ID assists genre change, practise and the invitation of feedback and critique (accepting some of it might not always be ego massaging). Also, people well established in a field can avoid exposure before they want it (if ever).
  2. Provide an image to link with the NDP.
  3. Agree a way so a visitor to our site will readily find a chosen writer’s work
  4. Writers can invite critiques.
  5. We agree *not* to reveal anyone else’s ID.

Yes but…

Agreement was reached in principle but an important point was raised.

This was, that it might be advisable for critiques to be given directly to the author concerned, privately, rather than publicly, online. Apart from fledgeling egos being irreparably damaged, once criticisms are made in print, they cannot be taken back. Point taken!

Preparing a theme bank

We started brainstorming themes that the group might consider for future meetings. Whilst we did compile an initial list, we would like to open this up to to other members, to add to, before confirming. The aim is to have a bank, so that themes can be confirmed well in advance, in readiness for future meetings.

Blog training

This is ongoing but we hope gradually to be able to have more members who feel confident to add blogs to the website and also to start having different interest categories.

Sharing our work

There was an “anything goes” theme for tonight.

Firstly we had “The Farewell” – a poignant piece telling the story behind a photo. It was set in Germany in the late 1930’s and showed a father kissing his young child goodbye before dropping him off at kindergarten. On this day he would not be picking him up in the afternoon, as he was on his way to the front.

New Member Reads

Next we encouraged our new member to read an extract from her novel, a very daunting prospect, on your first visit. We were delighted that she felt able to share her work. It is a central part of our group’s ethos to provide support and encouragement for anyone starting out. In fact she has a a full first draft and is looking for a fairly rigorous edit. We were happy to be part of that journey.

Next we heard a poem called “Heartfelt”. This is a work in progress, which often happens when you air a poem. At the end of the day, you can listen to suggestions and you whether or not to take them on board. Whose poem is it after all?

Reading Rhythm 

To finish off we heard a performance poem called “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” What a fabulous way to end our evening. It was fun, quirky and the kind of presentation that stays in your memory. I hope we can hear it again sometime soon and perhaps open it up to a wider audience.

Thanks for sharing, everyone!

Next meeting… will be remote thanks to COVID-19

 

September Meeting

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We were a small number but we covered a lot of ground!

Our Writing

Each of us had brought along a short piece of writing. One definitely has the beginnings of a crime novel, involving metal detectorists and the discovery of a hand. Another piece had a strong geographical element where the writer was viewing a low flying aircraft, marvelling at their approach through a scenic Scottish glen. Next, there was another murder. Or was it? Some might say an act of revenge. We definitely entertained each other.

 

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

A common topic that comes up is how we write and when we write. What are our writing habits? Some of us write in the morning, others prefer later in the day. Night owls are happiest through the wee small hours. Whilst some people can write anywhere, anytime, for instance on their phone, more often we prefer a settled space in a quiet room or space. Others can write outside, for instance on a beach or a park bench. Some of  us plan to write and may even have a set time. Others can be stimulated at random times by thoughts or experiences and come back to write ideas up, at a later date. Some individuals prefer to use a keyboard, whilst others like pen and paper. others still use a good old fashioned pencil. Do you prefer silence or background music? if so, what kind? Can you get back to writing after an interruption or do you lose the flow? Do any of these things really matter? We decided not. As long as we write, that’s the main thing.  

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.