Tag Archive | writing group

Writing, Writing Group and My Name in Print

Obviously we’ll start with the most exciting – my name in print. Now, when I say my name in print, I mean it literally: ‘Helen Jackson’ not something I’ve written. Which would be awesome, but not yet (like how I say yet!? That’s optimism for you!).

A few months ago I got offered the opportunity to read a draft of a soon to be published novel. The author wanted comments on it. Of course I jumped at the chance because I’d loved her first novel and had a feeling I was going to love everything else written by her.

I was shockingly honest. Telling her what I did like and what I didn’t like. I’ve never done anything like that and the idea of doing it scared me immensely. How could I, a writer, and reader, but with no other credentials than that, give advice to A PUBLISHED AUTHOR? Well, somehow I did (thank god I liked it eh!) and she was very grateful.

How grateful? Well… if you turn to the acknowledgements page of Keris Stainton’s new novel ‘Jessie ♥ NYC’ at the 3rd paragraph down you’ll read ‘… Helen Jackson… for reading an early draft and giving fabulous feedback’ WOOP! How exciting is that. A properly published book, carrying MY NAME! That is the most exciting thing that’s happened to me this week… maybe this month (year?)! WOOP!

As I’m mentioning it, I really should recommend the book (and not just cause it’s got MY NAME in it). It’s a brilliant novel, I fell in love with Jessie and Finn is great, and the story is wicked, and you know, it’s set in my favourite city in the world! I’m now having an internal argument with myself about reading it. One half of me thinks I should stop reading what I’m on now to read this (the finished version) the other half is saying I can wait a couple of days. I don’t know which will win.

Moving on.

This morning, I saved all the parts of ‘Holiday’ I have to a memory stick to take to work. I was planning on going to my writing group tonight, but hadn’t decided what to read yet (I knew it had to be from Holiday) so thought I’d decide after work, before I left for the group (there’s not time to go home first). When I got to work, I realised I had left the memory stick at home. I know, I hear that – doh!

Luckily when I was having a writing spurt last year (or the year before? I can’t remember) I used to email bits and pieces to myself. So I found some. And among that ‘some’ was the perfect part for tonight.

The people at the group enjoyed my piece. I think they’re interested in the story, and seem quite excited about it. I really should go more often, as it makes me want to write more and more. I guess positive feedback does that to you doesn’t it. The negative feedback is great too (too much repetition here etc).

I’m starting to feel more… settled in the group now. After I went last time I wrote a huge long blog about what it was I didn’t like about it vs the little I did like (unfortunately it got ‘lost’ when I tried posting it, so it never saw the light of day) – the negatives totally outweighed the positives. BUT I liked the boost I got from people saying they liked my work, so wanted to go back.

I’m glad I did. I think my main issues with the group have been resolved. Or in part anyway:

I have been a little wary of commenting on other people’s work. I’ve not done this before (ok, so I’ve said in this post I’ve done it before – by via email is so different to face to face). Before now, I’ve not really been sure of what to say, or indeed, how to say it. Practice. I think that’s the only way I’m going to get better at this. Today I was less worried about it than last time. I expect next time I’ll be more confident. I’m getting there.

The genres other people’s writing are totally different to anything I read. This has kind of put me off, I feel like maybe I should belong to a group who have more chick lit/romance writers (any other than me would be a start). But, this could open my horizons to other genres. Already today I found myself really interested in a story that previously I’ve been a little bored by. This could be a positive thing.

The genres other people’s writing are totally different to anything I write. This worried me a lot. Surely I’d want romance writers to comment on my writing? Right? Well, no, not necessarily. I want help with the nuts and bolts of the writing, the grammar etc just as much as the content, so in that respect it doesn’t matter what other people write. Plus, I’m discovering there’s something really satisfying in hearing men who don’t read chick lit laughing at, and being interested in my words!

I know there’s other things that were putting me off the group before. But you know what? I think I’m starting to enjoy it. Enjoying it, and getting something from it – that has to be good!

Very quickly now, cause I’m really tired (which is what happens when your other half decides he can’t sleep at 5am and starts getting up and coming in and out the bedroom! Shouldn’t complain – he brought me breakfast when it was time for me to get up! Result!)

Today, I’ve done some EDITING! Not any old editing. Editing of Holiday. That’s a 1st. I realised earlier I needed to at least tidy up what I was going to read at the group, then when I got into it, I edited the hell out of that passage. Well, maybe not the hell out of it, but made significant changes/adjustments. You know what? I didn’t hate it! Maybe one day I’ll start enjoying editing. We can but hope!

#ROW80 20th April Check-In

Woo – I’m checking in on time, and have something to write.

Since missing the check-in on Sunday, I’ve actually been really good at the old writing thing.

On Monday, I went to the writing group, but only three of us turned up. Usually they say four have to be there to have a decent session, but as we were there we thought why not. Turned out only two of us had stuff to read, so it was a very short meeting. After that I came home and did some writing.

At the meeting I was telling someone about the prompt from my story being Fiction Friday (I read the one about the teenager regretting), and how I really like writing from prompts, so when I got home that was in my head. I found a prompt I liked, and wrote a little from it. Not loads, but writing’s writing.

Yesterday, I arrived at the Jodi Picoult thing pretty early. Instead of getting my phone out and texting or going on Facebook, or getting my book out and reading a bit, I did some writing. As using prompts was still relatively fresh in my mind, I flicked through the new Jodi Picoult book I’d just been handed and took out three words I found by flicking through and created a little story.

Today though, I’ve not done anything writing wise. But that’s fine because I have weekly goals not daily ones. Weekly goals I’ve not yet met, but I’ll get there. Especially with two four day weekends coming up. Thank you Jesus, and thank you Wills & Kate.

Writing Group Member

I’ve finally done something I’ve been talking about doing for probably years and joined a writer’s group.

The Magnetic North meet in a pub in London every Monday (presuming enough people can attend that week). I decided after a sudden spur of enthusiasm (at work – maybe that’s why) that it was time. I googled groups in London and found one very close to my new flat. I emailed the co-ordinator and that’s it. I was added to the list, and tonight was my first attendance.

I was really scared going. I was going to have to read something I’d written out in front of people I didn’t know. Actually the fact I didn’t know them probably didn’t matter, it was the fact I was going to have to read some of my work. Out load. And get criticism. Ok, so it was just the reading out loud I was worried about. Oh, and commenting on other people’s work.

I’m not a good public speaker. In fact, I’m a terrible public speaker. To such an extent that if there are 5 people around listening to me, I go all red and nervous. Even if they’re people I know. But, despite this, I knew I had to join a group. My mum used to go to one (or many over the years) and found it really helpful. And you know what, just from one week, I think I will.

I read the end of the first chapter of Italian Infatuation – my Mills & Boon novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo 2009. The one that has sat on my computer since then, only resurrected last September for the polishing of the opening chapter for a competition.

Reading it out wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I was 5th out of 6, so by the time I got to read I’d already said a few comments about other people’s work, so it wasn’t that bad. I stuttered a little over what I’d written, but I think that means that sentence didn’t flow well, rather than I was messing it up.

So the feedback. I was slightly worried about that as the other 5 members tonight were men. Ah. But I’d been told that there used to be a M&B author among them, so they knew about the style etc (although her series is Historical and mine is Romance – or whatever it’s called now – fluffy and comfy or something!). They had some really good comments. Negative comments which I found really useful.

But also some good positive comments. For instance they pretty much all said that they could sense the attraction between Diane and Giovanni – even though they’d not been together in that scene. Awesome. I always worry that I’m not all that good at building the attraction between them (one of my biggest things I feel I need to edit in the story is the amount of time they spend together – there’s just not enough) but apparently I did.

I said earlier I was also worried about giving advice before I went. But I managed quite well and the other writers seemed happy with what I said.

Fiction Friday definitely helped with today – having to showcase my work to an audience, then read and comment on other people’s stories. It’s almost like a writing group – but hiding behind a computer and a fake name (I’m sorry to say, but Newtowritinggirl isn’t my actual name!).

I do sometimes wish that the people who read my Fiction Friday pieces would give more negative comments as well as positive. I know when I’m commenting I tent to pick out the things I like and leave the negative bits out, because, well quite frankly, not many people give negative criticism. When I say negative, I don’t mean ‘I don’t like it’ (although I wouldn’t mind hearing that a bit – not everyone has the same taste – although saying that I prob would go and cry if someone said that – ha) I mean more, ‘X didn’t really work’ or ‘Y sounded a little unrealistic. But, I guess it is only the first draft of anything, and if the stories get taken anywhere, they’re going to get edited massively.

The other great thing about the group, is that it’s really given me the want to write again. As I was leaving someone asked if I’d be bringing the next chapter next time. I said it’s not ready for public viewing – but having this group might kick my ass a little to get it ready!

All in all, I had a really good night. I heard a poem, part of a game review, the beginning of one short story, and the end of another, and a clip from a novel; I got some great crit of my novel; and hopefully gave some too. I’m looking forward to next Monday already. Now there’s something I never thought I’d say.

How I Could Get More Done

I’ve just had a revelation. If I spent more time actually doing something, rather than trying to work out what to do, I’d get so much more done. If I cancelled my twitter account I’d get a hell of a lot more done. I joined in November, and used it a little then, but from February on I’ve been addicted. Over 500 tweets can’t be all that good in such a short amount of time. Ah well.

I’ve also had a little revelation about my 1/4 written novel, ‘Holiday’. I think I’ve been struggling to pick it back up because I don’t know where it’s going. I know the first 1/3 and I know the basic things that happen in the rest and the end, but not all the nitty-gritty of the seven days of their holiday. My revelation is that I don’t need to know – I can just write and see where it takes me. Simple. I only semi planned the 20,000 words I’ve written so far, so should just write and see where the next 60,000 go. It’s what I do with ALL my short stories and they work out. Plus, tons and tons of authors write that way.

I kind of planned ‘Italian Infatuation’ – I had a diary of what would happen on each day, but not that much detail. I don’t know why I’m stressing about not knowing for this one.

I say that, but then I’ve got a couple of other projects I should maybe prioritise: my writing course and editing ‘Italian Infatuation’.

I’ve started the next assignment for my writing course, so should work on that. There’s 20 assignments or something, and I’m only on I think my 4th, maybe 5th, can’t remember. I think that should be my priority. In fact, I’ve got the word document of the started assignment open on my computer. When I’ve done this I’ll do it. Definitely.

But then, I also want to edit II now. After Keris telling me her NaNo novel got her a book deal, and Lisa Jewell telling me she loves editing, I feel quite revved up to get on with it. The problem is that I’ve not got word at home on my (dying) laptop, but I do at work. So if I’m working between the computers it reformats everything each time I email it over to the other one. It’s so annoying, it nearly drove me crazy during NaNo, but as I was only writing it then it wasn’t too bad. Hopefully I’ll be getting a new laptop in the next week or so, so will be able to start it then. After I’ve done this assignment for the writing course.

I’ve been really bad at writing the last few days, ok, maybe the last week. On Friday I did both Rowan Coleman’s Short Story Competition on Facebook AND Fiction Friday, but since then I don’t think I’ve done any. Saturday, Sunday and Monday I had my Mum in London and honestly didn’t give it a thought. I think I did some on Tuesday, but then was too busy yesterday to do any. When I say too busy, you know, Twittering, blogging, all those really important things. I meant to do some after I went to the gym and had dinner, but forgot. I’ve not yet got in the habit of writing at home. I need to, afterall, writing in the evenings would beat watching boring TV!

At the weekend my mum was pestering me to find a writing group to join. This is something I really want to do, and I keep looking at them, but I’ve not made that step towards doing anything. I will. Soon.

Ok, that’s enough, I’m going to go and spend an hour on my writing course before lunch! No, really, I am.