Sunday, 29 March 2015

How a writing group can speed up the process of moving from hobby to publication


At the Newcastle Writers Festival last weekend, four of us from our small writers group presented a session called: 
Take your writing to the next level
As I mentioned in my previous  post I present here a summary of my section of that presentation which spoke of -
How a writing group can help speed up the process of improving and expanding your writing and then begin to take  your writing from hobby to publication

1.       Building confidence in your writing.
2.       Helpful critiques.
3.       Moving towards publication.
4.       How to form a good group.
5.       The joy of sharing successes.

Let’s start with:
1.       Building confidence in your writing.
One of the hardest things to do when you first start out is to share your work with others. A good compatible writers group can provide a safe place to take those first tentative steps and put your writing out there. It’s often a very scary thing to share your writing in the early days. But as you share your own work and hear others work  you begin to build confidence in your writing.  One of the most important elements that made our group successful was that we have always been respectful of each others writing right from the start.  

Helpful critiques – for when we can’t recognize the good bits in our own writing and advice on how to fix the bits not working or even pick up things that we’ve missed..
It’s a great relief when you get a good critique that not only gives you that recognition but also gives good suggestions on how to improve what’s not working.

One incredibly helpful discovery that came out of being part of a group was the recognition that we all write in different styles or use a different writing process. Some people think about what they are going to write and let it percolate then sit down and write it.  Others think on their keyboard or pen and paper.  Some write in short bursts. Others are slower with their writing and refine as they go.   Some like to have large blocks of time.

In a good group each member will have some valuable writing skill they do well.  Gradually as you get used to each other you come to recognise each others strengths. For example If you have someone in your group who is a whizz at grammar and punctuation, tie them to a chair or buy them chocolates and flowers.  The person who is good at the details is as valuable as the one who sees the big picture.  Someone may be good at critiquing plots. Ask yourself what are your particular strengths and own them.

Moving  towards publication
Nothing encourages us more than seeing a fellow member’s success. In our group Sally was the first to have an ABC Open 500 word story published on line. We were all so impressed and this encouraged the rest of us to begin to look at the possibility of publication.  So we all set out to get something published on the ABC site.  For most of us it was the first thing we had published and we began to really feel like writers. 

We encouraged each other to enter competitions or seek publication in anthologies, sharing lists of competitions and calls for submissions. However some of us were working on novels rather than short stories. Some were working on both.  We also shared articles and books that were helpful.

Some members were pursuing publication in various ways, and shared parts of that journey with the rest of us.  We have learned that the modern writer is responsible for much of his or her own promotion and the need for an online profile. 

How to  form a good group.
We are a closed group and from the beginning entry was by invitation.  If you can’t find a suitable group then think of starting your own group.
Attending some creative writing courses will introduce the emerging writer to the group process.  Having a good tutor is invaluable.  For those of us in our small group that Tutor was Karen Whitelaw who teaches through the Hunter WEA.

In these courses I was interacting with other writers which was enormously helpful  I liked the group process so much that when the courses were finished I wanted to keep that going.  Being a bit of an organising type I took up a suggestion to start a writers group. Gradually I asked a few other writers I’d met and clicked with by then, to join this small group and waited with baited breath for their reply. To my amazement those I asked agreed to join.
Finally we had a good number which for us is about 7 or 8. That’s manageable.  Not everyone can come each time.  It also meant we had a good variety of styles, strength, genres and  gender.

The joy of sharing successes with others who really understand.
Many of you may have had the experience of sharing a writing success with a family member or friend who doesn’t really understand how amazing that small success is.  That ‘ho-hum’ response can be a bit soul shattering.  But your writing group members DO understand it  and celebrate every success

When you get that first article or ABC Open submission published or get an honourable mention or  ‘OH JOY”  a prize for a short story You’re fellow writers will share that joy and it will encourage them to continue on too. This keeps us writing and aiming higher.

I hope you all find this of interest.  I welcome any comments or questions.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Newcastle Writers Festival: - The Next Level - How to Take Your Writing From Hobby to Publication

Like many people in Newcastle and the Hunter I began my writing journey through Karen Whitelaw’s creative writing courses through the Hunter WEA.  I’d like to second her promotion of the Newcastle Writer’s Festival and suggest you visit her blog, ‘The Writer’s Life’ to find out more about the Festival.

After I finished the creative writing courses, I was keen to continue the writing group process and took up a suggestion to start a writers group.  Three years later we have evolved into a great writers group that continues to help speed up the process of expanding and improving each members writing.

We applied last year to present a session at this year’s Newcastle Writers Festival, and to our delight were accepted.  

So on Sunday at 3pm in the Mulubinba room of the Newcastle Town Hall we present our session:

The Next Level – How to Take your Writing from Hobby to Publication.

We are one of the four last sessions of the day. We would love to see you there.

I will post about how our session went after Sunday. 

 If people would like I will also post some of the information from my segment which is - DON’T GO IT ALONE – where I talk about how a writers group can help improve and expand your writing and help move toward publication. 

 I will be keen for any feedback you would like to give. 

See you all there on Sunday at 3pm

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Blog Hop Why do I Write and other Questions

I have been nominated by  Jessie at Jessie Ansons  to do my own Blog Hop where I am required to answer 6 questions about my writing process and the reasons that I write. Sounds simple I know until you sit down and think about it.  But here goes.

I’ve nominated two other amazing writers to do their own Blog Hop.  

1.        Why do I write.
This question forced me to really explore the why, which I quickly realised was a very good thing at this particular stage of my writing. I realised it is a fairly simple answer. However ‘simple’ doesn’t translate to easy.
I love to tell stories. All kinds of stories.  As a child I enjoyed writing stories for school.  When I was younger I used to sing and loved the emotional songs.  I wanted to express the story and the emotion of the song and through voice, draw the listener in to experience that emotion. Now I strive to do that through the words alone

2.      Why do I write what I do?
I like to be eclectic in my writing so I can express many different emotions and experiences. I like to make people laugh with  jokes and so like to write humorous stories.  I read a lot of SF and fantasy and would like to write more in that genre. Sometimes I write on a particular theme for a competition but it has to be the right theme for me. I want to entertain the reader so they have to keep turning the page.

3.        What am I working on now?
For most of the last year I have been writing a Fantasy/Horror story, that started out with a goal of 10,000 words and grew like topsy into 22,000.  I have put the latest draft aside for a month or so to get some distance before I attempt a final edit. I have written a few 500 word stories for ABC Open and have resurrected my blog from the back burner.  Meanwhile I am back to short story writing.  This has been a difficult task for me as the rest  of my small writing group have been writing incredibly successful short stories – winning or receiving honourable mentions and being published. Their stories have depth and layers and I wanted to have that in my work.  For a short while I struggled to find depth and layers.  Then I realised I had been trying to do that the way they did and that wasn’t my way.  I don’t automatically think in metaphors for example. Now I am finding my own style of depth and layering  in my telling of stories.

4.        How does your writing process work?
Like Jess I do sometimes think of stories when I go about my daily life. I also think about the writing when doing repetitive computer games.  But when I sit down to write I don’t always have a finished story in my head, just a general idea of a start or a plot or  theme. When I write I like to have a large block of time. I tend to ‘think on the keyboard’.  I’m visual so I need to see the words. I like to edit a bit as I go, but generally start with ‘telling’ the story so I get a feel for the emotional content and then go back on the second draft for more showing.  Lately I’ve begun to realise that having a large block of time tends to make me a bit lazy.  I’m deadline driven so sometimes I start when there’s almost not enough time to finish (sigh). Perhaps I should follow all the sage advice I’ve been given and make sure I spend 30 min a day writing, no matter what.  Or at the least at the beginning of the day spend 30 minutes writing before doing anything else.  I need more discipline.

5.       Do I differ from others in my genre
I don’t really have a specific genre. At this stage in my writing I’m not planning to write a novel  quite  yet.  I’m happy writing short stories and long short stories and honing the craft.  If an idea for a novel presents itself to me and appeals I will venture into a novel.  Being part of a wonderful small writing group I have the amazing opportunity to read  stories in the different genres in which the members write.  We can recognize each other’s Voice and this has helped me to  recognise and come to accept my own Voice.

.Meet the Blog Hoppers 
Now I must nominate 3 Bloggers to complete the same task I have carried out above. Jessie has snagged some of the members of our small writing group. So I have only 2 at present but what  great writers they are.  I look forward to reading their Blog Hops.  

  • Karen  from ‘A Writer’s Life’  is a writer extraordinaire.  She is an amazing  teacher who has nurtured all the writers in our small group as well as many other local writers. In addition to  her blog, which gives wonderful writing advice, she writes exquisite 100 word stories for Friday Fictioneers, as well as prize winning short stories.

  • Elena from ‘’ is a wonderful bi-lingual Spanish-English writer of prose and theater.  She has a unique take on Australian life. She has had great success with published stories and articles as well as having one of her plays performed.