July Meeting 2019

Welcome back

Photo by Mabel Amber http://www.pexels.com

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.

piggy bank
by Skitterphoto at ww.pexels.com

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.

WordPress

photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

Discussion

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.

Our Writing

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.

Sunset

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!

Sun Downer

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

Photo by Pixabay http://www.pexels.com

As always, everyone was supportive of each other’s work, which always inspires us to write more.

Thanks to Joy and Jenny for this

Next Month

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!

Contact us

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. 

 

 

 

Storyboard Ideas

February meeting raises Storyboard

After an hour of general discussion about our individual on-going projects the group asked me to share mine with them. This led to my sharing the use of the Storyboard.

What I do is take a single simple idea and built a framework around it. In scriptwriting, this is called a storyboard and is the basis for a variety of writing styles, particularly fact-based fiction, my preferred genre, where the story needs to follow a set path.

E.G. – developing a movie idea

In this case, my task was to take a song lyric, deconstruct it into its characters and then imaginatively shape a life around each one of them.

My chosen song, ‘The Piano Man’, by Billy Joel, is about people visiting a late night bar to drown their sorrows and contains the formidable line, ‘they are sharing a drink they call loneliness, but it’s better than drinking alone!’

the Cork-Board

Basically a storyboard is just a scratch pad or, to use Scrivener’s process, a cork-board where you pin up post-it notes and can shuffle them into some sort of order. So on each ‘post-it’ I head it with each character’s name and pin them all in one section.

cork-board

I am fortunate in my recent writing life to have researched a massive history book which involved me interviewing nearly 100 interesting people, some of whom were in the final years of life. In almost every case the questions were tailored around what little information I had about them.

questions of characters

Likewise, in this situation, we apply a little intelligence to the questions we ask each player. Of course, there are the obvious ones: how old are you, colour, sex, creed etc? But then we go deeper. Why are you lonely in a bar? What has life done to you to get you here?

real-estate novelist

In one line we are fed: ‘Paul is a real-estate novelist, who never had time for a wife.’ What on earth is a real-estate novelist? So Paul, tell me about your life as an estate agent, wasn’t much fun, eh? Sold a few houses, market crashed, and you wrote what? Maybe you saw how the sub-prime market worked and discovered the smokescreen and corruption that lay behind the banking system that eventually brought the global economy to its knees? That would put me in a late night bar, for sure!

practising politician

Then there’s the waitress, who is ‘practising politics’? We’ve all met her. Doing a night job to pay her way through college? Where better than in a downtown bar? Bound to be a few washed up senators lurking around here?

… and the rest

Each one gets given a history based around what little info we have on them and then, for me, in this exercise, the fun really starts, with the shifting of the pieces. Out of these eight or so sad people, who knows who? Which one has had their life touched by another? Where have all their paths crossed?

select a protagonist

As with all good stories, we need a protagonist, and I chose the old man who is asking the piano-man to play a tune he used to know ‘when he wore younger man’s clothes!’

This guy has been around, right? Bound to have bumped into some of the other players in his 3 score years and ten? So I stick him in the middle, and weave the others around him.

it’s a learning exercise …

As this is only an exercise, I want to keep it tight, maybe a script for a 15-minute movie, or a short story. So I make only three to four scenes involving each player, each on its own post-it. I am a great believer that scenes and characters are only borrowed and there is rarely anything original left to invent, in the same way that there are only so many notes in a music scale. So, in the majority our scenes we use everyday situations that readers can relate to.

pull it together

The timing works out that the old man could have been a veteran from the Vietnam war, so there is his first scene, in the jungle in 1969. But we don’t want a chronological history of each person; that’s no fun, far too conventional! So let’s mix them up. Paul sold houses – maybe he sold one to the old fella just before the market fell?

That waitress seems like a nice girl; perhaps she helped the old man across the road or woke him up when the train reached his stop? Venn diagram centre! So finally, when we walk into that bar at 9 o’clock on a Saturday, a quick look around and we have everyone pegged down.

neat line, neat idea

Eventually, after some enjoyable head-scratching, this exercise will end up with maybe 15-20 scenes, all in a neat line, so the author, and subsequent director, can colour them in as he or she perceives them. As with musical notes, it is the combinations and order in which they are played that make a tune.

That, to me, is what a storyboard is, a simple melody.

© Andy Frazier

February Meeting 2019

Here we are again. Some of us have the lurgy, others are recovering, one or two are in rude health and don’t even know what a lurgy is. Many may have been supping medicinal whisky (this being Scotland and all) … even if they didn’t have the lurgy.

Some of us couldn’t make it, others did. All in all we are growing and finding our feet.

Writer Andy Frazier joined us last night. He shares a few thoughts about the experience below. Thanks for this, Andy.

Back into the swing

Andy Frazier

Although I have written numerous books on a wide range of subjects over the last ten years, I must confess, apart from a monthly magazine column, it has been just over two years since I last sat down to write in a professional capacity. During that time my focus has been on our other business, something which involves much more stress.

Time poor

Reaching my wits end last week, I suddenly realised that I was becoming a slave to time, rather than its keeper, and months were passing by with a rushing sound usually reserved for cyclists.

Itch to scratch

So, on Wednesday morning when I sat at my desk, instead of the usual admin, I opened Scrivener, my writing ‘app’ of choice, and started scribbling. In amongst those files are a few pages of ideas, research, crazy facts and half written projects.

An hour’s distraction from the day to day problems around me was all I was seeking. Next thing I knew, it was getting dark outside.

Coincidentally

On Thursday morning, by pure coincidence, I saw a poster on social media for Writers’ Neuk, who were due to meet that evening. I have to admit to having never physically been to a writers group before, although I do belong to a few online. Had it been any other day, I am not sure I would I have noticed it but, on this day, I decided to attend.

Inky fingers

What I found was not only a friendly bunch of like-minded people, but each one with a passion for the written word and a desire to share and receive ideas from others.

Not knowing what to expect, I had taken with me my scribbles from the day before, which had been little more than an exercise I had set myself, to get the ‘juices’ flowing again.

After an hour of general discussions about our individual on-going projects the group asked me to share mine with them. © Andy Frazier

Come back soon and read Andy’s easy introduction to the Storyboard. Ed.

Want to blog with us? Get in touch via our contact form. Our community library and Writers’ Neuk need you.

Hello Again … Back to the Future

Some days it’s just tissues … Some days it’s the ‘flu …

Here we are, well into 2019 and you’d think nothing is happening, wouldn’t you.

It may not surprise you to learn my New Year started with the lurgy. Still, my head is clearing. Be still all those who ask has it ever been clear?.

As for you “man-flu” giggle-and-pointers. I remember a famous epitaph (Spike Milligan?) “I told you I wasn’t well.”

Whatever, we’re back. Forgetting the man-flu, Jenny has been poorly too and is recovering.

Looking ahead for 2019

We will start meetings again on February 7th. At that time we’ll begin to plan our diary looking ahead whilst aiming avoid other writing group commitments people have, as far as practical..

Thinking of our programme, as a wee reminder … our areas of interest are here. This will help us flesh out a programme for the year.

Our Writing Agenda

We previously discussed interest strands, these are still live. Do you want to develop skills in:

Blogging and Social Networking?

Do you want to:

  • Develop your blog writing technique?
  • Help maintain this site?
  • Write blogs for Colinsburgh Galloway Library? Right now, the library is developing a new site and there are likely to be exciting contribution opportunities.
  • Set up and run a Facebook Group and, possibly, a Twitter presence?

Writer’s Events?

Are you interested in:

  • Building our programme of events and (possibly) workshops?
  • Involving authors and other experts in visiting to improve our knowledge and skills? Meet and greet. Support event delivery.

This is where we make our get togethers serve us as writers in ways that will foster and develop our talents.

Growing your skills?

  • What areas do you want to explore?
  • How will we support each other in developing aspects of our writing skills and approach?
  • What are our priorities?

We look forward to seeing you soon.