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Writing groups

A phrase that sums up my writing efforts for this week is ‘after the lord mayor’s show.’ Last week – lots of words; this week no words. In fact, I took the week off and had a grand old-time visiting various places in the county.

I often find that this is the best sort of activity to liberate the old grey matter and consider things related to, but not directly involved with, the writing project at hand. And this week has not been an exception.

The topic I have been thinking around is writing groups. A cursory foray into Google suggests that I do not have such a thing in my area. Given the number of groups that come up in a search, this seems surprising but that is how it is.

So, what is it exactly that a writing group actually does? Looking at some of the groups websites and back articles on such things in magazines, they would appear to fall somewhere between a support group and a forum for critique. Writing is (or can be) a lonely occupation. It is one reason perhaps, that we blog, in order to make contact with like-minded people. I can see the attraction then, of face to face meetings to talk about writing with others. I can also see the attraction of getting some honest feedback from people who have some expertise in the area. But.

I have been part of many interest groups in the past, and while they seem fine on paper, things can get a whole lot messier once you involve, well, people! They come with baggage, they come with agendas, and they can come with egos the size of a planet. Of course, this can all make for some hilarity if you observe the interactions casually, but more often you are intimately caught up in things and become embroiled yourself. As for running groups, if you haven’t tried it yet, go outside and hit your head against the wall, then take a pee into the wind, and that will give you some idea of how it can be. In my experience there are usually a few people who do everything and a lot of people who sit back and expect to be entertained. Ah,  the tales I could tell you about interest group committees that I have been part of (tries to control nervous facial tick).

But despite all that I have learned through bitter experience, I still find myself thinking of starting up such a group locally. Well. I guess I’m just a cup half full sort of person….

So, does anyone out there have any experiences to share about writing groups – do tell; I would love to hear.


Change is as good as a rest

Or so they say. This week I’ve changed my writing venue. From the office to the dining room/library. In reality this move is about three and a half yards but in perception it is indeed another country. I now have a large window to look out of; and look out of it I do! So first, here is a picture of my new writing space:

2013-01-20 11.12.20

Now, Scrivener is totally brilliant and I won’t hear a word against it but… it is a tad more complex than I actually require and being a Microsoft boy at heart I don’t find it particularly intuitive (probably because it has Mac origins). I came across a package called WriteItNow 4. This is a much simpler no-nonsense piece of software that is aimed specifically at novel-writing. It has a Microsoft look and feel to it and is so intuitive I didn’t have to refer to help files once. The other good thing (at least in my book) is that it saves your project as a single file – with Scrivener, I am never really sure which files are my specific project ones so I end up saving several of them and hoping.

So new space, new software, raring to go? Let’s look out of the window a little bit more first.

We have a lot of birds in our garden, largely due to my partners diligence in feeding them all year round. I have noticed though that there is one particular (very fat) blackbird who obviously thinks he owns the bird table. When he is not stuffing his beak he sits on a nearby pillar and guards it against the other birds. See the culprit here:

2013-01-20 11.07.48 Of course it is a losing battle and he expends much energy on this hopeless cause. Some of the other birds just watch from a nearby tree, waiting for their chance to swoop down mob handed and raid the table. Here they are:

2013-01-20 11.22.14

Right then, new venue, new software, window looked out of, and on with the actual writing. Well, after I’ve had another cup of tea, updated this blog and checked Facebook, Twitter and G+. Yes, then I’ll be ready…..


This week the muse just wouldn’t appear; I sat at our usual meeting place (my PC) and she just stood me up – can you believe it, fickle bunch these muses. However, I didn’t just go home with my tail between my legs (technically, I was already at home, and I don’t actually have a tail, but you get the drift). No, instead, I just toughed it out. Wrenching out a couple of thousand words. One at a time. The hard way.

Now I know that in the cold light of a new day, and hopefully with a muse that doesn’t have a blag on, these words will turn out to be pure unadulterated c**p, and that no amount of polishing will improve them to the point of useability – actually that reminds me of an old boss I used to have that called that process turd polishing; he would say you could polish and buff it up as much as you want but all you get in the end is a shiny turd! Anyway, I digress… the point is that sometimes you just have to work like this, work through the idea desert to the oasis of literary gold.

The cold light of day arrived, and rather than condemning this weeks efforts, the muse (duly present and unapologetic as ever) posed an altogether different question, one slightly more disturbing than usual. That is, what proportion of a novel should be dialogue, action, description, scene-setting, etc. I didn’t know. I looked in my ever-expanding library of ‘how to’ books on writing and they didn’t really help either. I wonder, is there a magic formula? Does it depend on genre? Or am I worrying unduly? Thinking about what I have written so far, there is a lot of dialogue and not nearly as much action (although I still have the main action scenes to write). Have you ever heard of a ‘nirvanic’ ratio – if so, do tell…

Some weeks are better than others…

Isn’t it funny how sometimes you can just sit down and start to write and everything just seems to work – It’s almost as if you are just watching the words appear on  the screen, reading them as they happen, as if someone else is typing them. I’ve also noticed that when this happens, you get a severe time distortion; i.e. time speeds up and a couple of hours seems like a couple of minutes. I know from my work as a therapist that this is indicative of a trance state, and so I suspect that the writing is generated from the subconscious while in this state – hence the feeling of someone else typing it.

Then there is the opposite. Days when you just stare blankly at the screen, when no words will come, and the few that do have ‘pants’ stamped all over them.

Well this week I had a couple of both types! So progress hasn’t been too bad, I rewrote a new beginning to the story, which I think gives the main character a bit more oomph.

The next couple of weeks though might be lean pickings, as I have two articles I need to write (and have been putting off big time), but the time of reckoning is here, so they need to take priority. I’ll still keep the blog ticking over though, with whatever progress or ideas I have.

I’ve been trying to find other people blogging on their writing; anyone know of any good sites with plenty of discussion?

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