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.
Here we are again. Jenny is only just back in business (with a new laptop to boot) and I hope she keeps well.
As for me, after a hectic weekend with grandkids (Mr Bounci-Castle) … I realised The Writers’ Neuk was on tonight … oh dear.
Please consider this a panic attack. I won’t make excuses, but have plenty of ’em just in case; most involve writing and looking after energetic grandchildren.
Business of the day
The writing topic for today is: ANYTHING – that means you can share anything in your store-cupboard.
Enjoy a few minutes buzz as we catch up
Plan to introduce our writers’ words:
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).
Provide an image to link with the NDP.
Agree a way so a visitor to our site will readily find a chosen writer’s work
Writers can invite critiques.
We agree *not* to reveal anyone else’s ID.
Create a monthly schedule for routine posts
Develop a blog post rota for people willing to provide them. THis could also include editing practise for those interested.
Did you ever? Another year gone and here we are leaping forward into 2020.
In the way of hectic times our best laid plans for blog posts, news and content fell by the wayside. We hasten to deny over-indulgence and wild-society is in any way responsible for omissions.
Get down to it
Our next meeting is on Monday 27th January from 7 pm (technically) in Colinsburgh Library reading room. More information here. We look forward to welcoming you and hearing your craic and, if you care, some writing.
Preparation – on a Burns theme
We know at least one person isn’t a Burns fan. Because of this we thought we’d invite up to 300 words on one of the following topics:
As usual there will be tea/coffee, biscuits and who knows?
Please remember that some of our members are ‘deef’ (have hearing impairment) and would be grateful to have copies of contributions to read. This helps them follow the reading. Please bring three copies to share.
If you have a printing problem, please drop a copy to either Jenny or Mac and they will print them before the meeting. Any issues, use the contact form.
Let’s create a blogging group to coordinate and encourage the production of relevant content on our website. We’ll happily run a training session to help out. The steps we envisage:
Agree who is going to do it
Agree on what we want to achieve: blether? content? poems? ideas?
Decide on what training is wanted
Agree our programme
Develop our site
It’s been a while since our festive bash. Looking forward to seeing you on Monday.
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
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 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.
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.
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…
Good to see everyone and a nice turnout. Always interesting to have people back after their travels and meet up with new members. Leads to great banter!
Where to begin?
We always start with a catch up and ask for suggestions of what members would like to discuss.
We agreed that, now we are up and running, we could do with a treasurer. Not too onerous a task but important nevertheless.
Please send applications to Writers’ Neuk, unless your name is George Osborne. To be honest, George, we feel that with nine jobs already in your portfolio, one more might tip the balance and we would not like to be responsible for that, what with the additional responsibility and travelling too.
Several members expressed a wish for help in using WordPress and how to write a blog.
It was suggested that we could get together for a workshop and take it from there.
We shared a lot about our writing habits, how we overcome them and what we fear most when we write.
In the main, we agreed that dialogue, in fictional and non-fictional pieces, could be difficult to include, as we often tend to emphasize description and character.
However, dialogue can be an effective way of bringing out character traits and moving a story along. We considered this as we brought our work, for this month, to the table and as a result agreed that we would try and bring along a piece of written dialogue, to share at our next meeting.
There had been two suggestions for themes after last month’s meeting. These were:
Write about an emotion – Kindness, or
A beautiful sunset with an interesting person.
An Act of Kindness
First up was a reading about how bullying can be turned around by an act of kindness. A thoughtful piece, weaving a moral outcome throughout. Group members suggested considering who the audience was and the addition of some dialogue, to bring the story to life.
One of our members has been travelling in Ireland and sent us an incredibly evocative piece he had written whilst there. It took him back to family summers, on the west coast, recalling all those special memories of childhood: the sun, the sea, the sand, the food and of course parents and siblings. In his absence, another member read it for us and really did it justice. The combination of the written word and the spoken word transported us to that place and time and no doubt made us reflect on past sunsets, in our own distant childhoods. As this was a first draft, it was suggested looking at the structure and polishing up.
Turning a Corner
Kindness was the prompt for the next piece and a theme of restorative justice in the community. It told the story of a young boy who had been reported to the Children’s Panel for mugging an old lady. He found himself at a Residential Care Home for the Elderly helping in the garden and seeking redemption. The group suggested that the Head Gardener’s reaction could be non-judgemental and that there could be some clarification, near the end, when the boy reflects on his situation.
The Lookout Point
Next we heard a beautifully succinct piece, written from the perspective of a character who is well known to its author, as she has been creating her over a period of time. The character is in a position of trust in the community, living and working in the neighbourhood but she is also rather nosey. From her vantage point, she is able to observe and form opinions about how they really lead their lives. Very thought provoking!
Lastly, we listened to a haunting piece about a meeting between a young walker out late in the mountains of Arran, who comes across an elderly woman watching the sunset. He feels he should offer her help, not realising that she is the Cailleach who is named for the place (Ceum na Caillich or the Witches’ Step). She has watched such sunsets for millennia and surprises the young man by stepping over the ravine to the Castles Ridge (Caisteal Abhail). A great balance of description, dialogue and intrigue.
Inspiration and Support
As always, everyone was supportive of each other’s work, which always inspires us to write more.
Thanks to Joy and Jenny for this
If you feel inspired, try and bring along a piece of dialogue, on any topic, of approximately 200 – 300 words. If you can’t manage that, no matter, just come along, we’d love to see you.
Remember, we meet on the last Monday of each month, which this month is August 26th at 7pm. See you there!
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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!
To finish off the evening Mac shared his recent experience at Moniack Mhor, a creative writing centre in the Highlands.
For our inaugural Writers’ Neuk meeting in Colinsburgh Library we invited Merryn Glover, author of A House Called Askival, to speak to us about her book and about being a writer.
A House Called Askival is based upon her own experiences growing up in South Asia and upon the period following the Second World War, when India was partitioned. Born in Kathmandu, to missionary parents, Merryn was brought up in Nepal, India and Pakistan, before training as a teacher at an Australian university.
A House Called Askival is Merryn’s first published novel but she also writes short stories and poetry, which have been published in magazines and newspapers. Over a number of years, the BBC has commissioned her plays which have been broadcast on Radio Scotland and Radio 4. Her poem, Driving Lesson, is in the Autumn issue of Northwards Now.
Merryn read an excerpt from the first chapter of her book, which was greatly enjoyed by all.
Explaining how much she enjoys writing, Merry shared some of the difficulties of being a writer, namely ways of getting published. She enjoys writing every day and is greatly encouraged to do so, by family and friends. Askival was published by the now defunct Freight Books and she is currently in discussion with another publisher, with a view to having her second novel published.
There then followed a general discussion and questions on the writing process and getting work published. Merryn advised us, as budding writers, to:
never stop writing
consider the audience who will read our work
write to communicate with your readers
A lively discussion followed as the focus moved towards getting writing out there.
publishing, and all that
Self-publishing can be a way forward for many writers. It has its drawbacks but it is one way of becoming known to readers and publishers.
We also discussed how publishers focus on a number of aspects of a writer’s work including:
social media activity
Activities like these are becoming ever more important since many newspapers publish fewer literary reviews.
marketing experience leads to improvement
Merryn suggests that attending book festivals was a way of getting her novel highlighted and cited her own attendance at the Ullapool Festival as being a positive step in becoming more well known.
She approached several publishers with Askival and now appreciates that the number of times it was refused led to improvement in it, as she kept going and adapting and changing, according to their advice.
research, rest, write, research again
We discussed how research for a novel can prevent an author actually getting down to writing a story. Merryn suggested taking a break from the research and coming back fresh, for the next stage. Her advice was that there needs to be enough of a framework to help readers understand time, place and events but mostly they want to engage with the story.
Merryn now lives in the Scottish Highlands, where she is a high school librarian, relishing the challenge of encouraging teenagers to keep reading.
We very much appreciated Merryn coming along to speak to us and offering advice an inspiration.