Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Sorry I'm late in posting this blog but time just seemed to run away with me this week.

Various apologies were given .

Thirteen members attended this week's session which was devoted to Nick's workshop on "How To Write A Novel" based on his Western novel "The $300 Man".

Nick explained that novels were like babies in that from tiny beings they grew and grew always being nurtured by the author.

(1) Plotlines - The plotline was usually the start of the novel in that the idea was conceived, not necessarily completed and nothing so hard and fast that it couldn't be changed or developed. Ideas should be jotted down immediately for future use but do not overplan everything - let the story develop naturally.

(2)Characters - There is no definitive way to create a character. Character names can be changed as the story develops but remember to change all references to it. One way to create authenticity to the character is to do a timeline which will provide background. Layering will provide more information to flesh out the individual. Minor characters should not be skimped upon if they are an integral part of the story. Determine the point of view of the character- is it omniscient or third person ( singular or plural)?

(3) Research - Always research your facts before, during and after your work. This will allow you to prove or disprove your ideas. Every thing can and should be checked- history, geography, use of names etc. as this will provide credence to your story.

(4) Vocabulary - Restrict the use of vernacular and accents as these may limit the reader's enjoyment. Avoid the use of "it" or "the" at the beginning of sentences or paragraphs Limit the use of certain words by finding alternatives.

(5) Scene Setting- Always move the story forward by describing the scene so that the reader can visualise whay is taking place. Make sure the reader is aware of scene changes by paragraph breaks etc.

These were the main points discussed by Nick and the mambers and whilst this workshop was based on novel writing it was agreed that the same should be applied to all types be they short stories, features or poetry.

 Nick was thanked for the work he had done and the answers to the various questions posed to him.


Sunday, 18 September 2011

Focus on Feedback at Writer’s 14 September Meeting

The mid-September meeting opened with a look at a recent Writing Magazine article, Under the Microscope, where a published author - in this case James McCreet* - scrutinises the first words of a new novel by an aspiring writer. The exercise generated lots of discussion and heated feedback with everyone having an opinion. The consensus, at the end of the session, was that good feedback on pieces read out at the group is important and can help us evaluate our own writing and use of words - making sure every word on the page carries weight.
Christina queried whether people do actually say what they think when listening to readings – she thought not.
Jane demurred but said without being able to see hard copy difficult to deliver a meaningful critique - feedback at best rather than criticism. Something for future discussion maybe?
At the end of the day, it is of course up to the writer to take critiques in the spirit in which they are given and to decide for themselves whether to accept or reject them.
*James McCreet is a British writer, the author of a series of Victorian detective thrillers set in 1840s London. His works are known for their fast-paced, historically accurate and complex plotlines featuring the same core characters. 
Link for more information and his Top 10 Writing Tips. : http://www.jamesmccreet.co.uk
Subject for the week was What Do I Do Now – Geoff kicked off with a poem ‘On Assembling my Grand-daughter’s Hi-chair from Argos’. No criticism at all in fact piece garnered unanimous applause with a 10 out of 10 rating!
Hard Act to follow but Cathy gave us a take on the healing properties of Nature when dealing with grief; Rosemary reviewed ‘An Unequal Music’ by Vikram Seth – a book that had a very personal effect on her with its affirmation of the importance of music.
Avril wrote about an aquatic panto in which she was thrown into the limelight when the White Rabbit – never mind his ‘I’m late, I’m late’ - went missing!
Newcomer Betty – previously welcomed – read a ghost story, set in Cyprus, about the raising of a ship-wrecked liner. We were reminded Editors and Publishers advise avoidance of dreams, lottery wins etc. in submissions for publication.
So that’s it from TWC for another week; Think worth recording as a footnote – Private Eye, the witty and satirical magazine, is 50 next month and the Guardian ran a great story last Monday – ending with a para from staffer Andy Macqueen*.
‘The end of The Eye will come when all politicians clean up their acts, when the workings of Whitehall, the media, the justice system and everything in between become entirely transparent, when the British lose their sense of humour and rediscover the deference due to their elders and betters and a herd of Gloucestershire Old Spots fill our airspace!’  
A great use of words to end this week’s blog.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

WRITING THE NOVEL workshop 21 September

Whether you write a romance or a western, a sci-fi or a horror novel, this workshop insight will offer you guidance on how to go about it. There isn’t a right way to write a novel – but there are plenty of wrong ways – and the latter contribute to the thousands of rejections that occur every day.

The idea is to read The $300 Man in a week. I’ve chosen this, as it’s a short novel. The only difference between this and longer novels is in the detail of description and the number of sub plots – longer novels tend to have more of both.


Broadly, the workshop will cover:

Origin of the novel
Plotline – notes of 5pp provided
Character creation – listing of 9pp provided
Character POV
Setting the scene – and using sketches – 2 sketches provided
Beginnings of chapters and scenes
Words to avoid
Beginnings and endings
Symbolism, if any
Chapter headings
Query letter

Nik Morton

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

7th Septmeber 2011

Good to be back.  I know this is quick and apols for any mistakes.  I have visitors from tomorrow so needed to do this today.

John Edwards chaired the group’s meeting today and started us off with a reminder of the theme for this week,  ‘Games’.

He also asked for agreement or suggestions about doing a critique from the ‘Writers’ Magazine for next week that he had emailed to us all. It was agreed during the meeting that the magazine piece should be looked at first and if anyone wanted to bring their own piece of writing and offer it for a group critique then that could happen too.  There should be at least a copy to share if not one for each attendee, to make notes from.  Members were asked to email any writing they wanted to be put forward for a critique to the group.

Ian has completed the subscription to the ‘Writing’ Magazine and this month’s should be with us soon for the groups to peruse.

TJ gave us an account of his ‘Quiet Man’ exhibition in Ireland.  The event drew a huge crowd and his exhibition was held in the local pub used in the filming of “The Quiet Man”  Lots of interesting events, including a John Wayne look alike, which TJ didn’t win, but he said that he was glad he took prints of his artwork with him, as they proved to be very popular.

Margaret. I told you all about my three ‘Open Mic’ sessions, which interesting me because it was continuity in that it was good to hear such diverse and entertaining music stories and poetry of other people. The venues were also amazing, usually listeners and performers crammed in small rooms, but this did not detract from the quality of the pieces performed.

It was agreed that those who had written on the theme should read first. 

Jane recounted her experience of playing games when she and her husband Archie had recently relocated to France.  Her experience was very revealing to say the least.  We were shocked, or pretended to be.  We eventually got a feel for the situation and  understood Jane’s eagerness to leave.  The whole group agreed that it was time for Jane to publish her ‘French’ experience.  Many offers were made to Jane and we all seem determined that it should happen at last.  I do hope so Jane.

Ann reminded us of our school days when we had to play games.  There was no escape then.  There were two schools of thought, you either liked games or you didn’t.  Ann described vividly those goose-pimple moments and the pressure we endured.

Avril stayed with the theme of Games, First with a very short story about children in the Park. The mother seen as a sister rather than mother. Her second piece was a rhymed poem about games with the boys despite mum’s warning.  A humorous piece.  The group recommended slipping some words to make the poem scan easier and perhaps looking at half rhyme. 

Kathy read us a piece as part of her group of stories with the same characters running throughout.  The game being a school football match, where an own goal ruined the chances of one school team. This piece raised some questions about the number of characters mentioned in one short story and also about more action using concise accounts rather than gathering momentum through character interaction outside the scene of the real activity.  Does that make sense Kathy.  I hope so.

Douglas delivered an anecdote about an encounter in an hotel.  He called it the odd couple about a short sighted greedy Mediterranean looking man with a very large bosomed partner who ate like an anorexic. They were an enigmatic couple who drew attention to themselves unconsciously it seemed.  Douglas caught the mystery in the story and gave us a haunting visual image of the man in the piece.  It raised lots of questions. That was its appeal. We were left wondering why they should be selling coins in the foyer, but that’s all part of the mystery. 

Jenny read two short character study pieces. One about a homeless person and another about Karaoke Kev.  The group agreed that Jenny’s writing is so concise, you are left with  a complete written piece, but the writing is so thought provoking, you want to read more.

Rosemary’s  written piece was in preparation for a competition.  The first 150 words of a novel.  The story began with a domestic scene, where the use of utensils and the tone of the piece were key factors. Suggestions were; change mushroom to carrot, more phallic and the dramatic effect that cutting a vegetable could have.  Rosemary went away with some good ideas for change.

I read my ‘commended’ poem.  Me and the Deity. (I promise to not get too carried away, but I was excited at the time!)  The end was the surprise as it often is.  The other poem was supposed to be humorous, again for competition.  Based on the old dance number ‘Agadoo’ It was suggested that it would be more surprising if the title was changed. A good idea.

Some discussion took place about the format of the meeting. Jane thanked John for giving everyone individually the opportunity to contribute their thoughts about each piece.  John did say that he was very keen that feed back should be received as it was always helpful. 


Friday, 2 September 2011

blog for 31/8/11

Ian opened by welcoming back Norma who told us that she had come to say adieu to those attending as she was leaving Spain for an indefinite period due to her husband's ill health. We wish her well and hope to see her if she returns.

Before getting down to this weeks hot pen, Brenda  read a poem written on  her rain sodden visit to Dublin which was very atmospheric and painted a vivid picture in the mind.

The buzz word for this week's hot pen was GONE. It never ceases to amaze how one little word can lead to so many interpretations.

 Michael  took us to an auction house where a Dresden dish went under the hammer- literally.

Brenda set her story in the prohibition era on the "going" of the boss man and the ensuing  sibling rivalry on his successor.

John M then read about the sentiments of a husband followin his wife's leaving him for pastures new.

Norma told how her dreams of peaceful early retirement had gone by the diagnosis of her husbands motor neurone disease.

Jenny lighteneed the mood with a conversation piece between two girls in a bar and the 'moving on' of thee Lothario smoothie\who had gone and targeted another victim.

Mary didn't disappoint by producing two more amusing limericks on the theme. She seems to  have been taken over by them as she toldd the group she's been composing them over the weekend.

Avril also had poetry about not looking back on past life which was gone but to look forward hopefully to the future. A lesson I could do to take on board Avriil/

Anne G wrote a conversaton piece betweek a husband and wife over a ruined Sunday dinner.

Jane wrote about a lady whose husband had left, the annoying thing being that he had pre-empted her own planned departure from an unhappy marriage.

Lisa wrote a very atmospheric  piece  about a day at the sseaside with Nanny- You've gone and done it now.

John read a moving poem about the last time a repatriated soldier will parade through Wootten Bassett as the government have decided to return casualties of war to Brize Norten.

Ian wrote on the hackneyed supermarket slogan 'Whe its gone its gone'. Makes you wonder who thinks these things up.

As all hot pens had been completed by half time, the second half dissolved into chaos. We each had to write three personal statements, two false and one true. Then again, was it two true and one false. The others had to then guess which was true/false. See what I mean- confusion reigned, but good fun though.

 See you Wednesday next.     Anne Grierson