The WWG Away Day

Sophie muses on today’s WWG Away Day…

This morning I looked out of the window to see snow – not the usual will- it – won’t-it -is- it – actually – more – sleety-drizzle type – but actual snow and it was settling on my car. Plus the Woldingham Fog was doing its usual thing. So there went my plans for a brisk walk to the Golf Club on a sunny winter’s day. I had no real basis for this idealistic image of my active walk to the WWG Away Day and by the time I’d packed my laptop, notebook, pens, handouts, large tennis ball and a box or two to stand my laptop on (to avoid neck ache you understand) into two bags for life I’d formed the firm opinion that the car was probably the better option anyway.

So I packed myself in and headed off with a slight degree of nervousness to the first Away Day of The Woldingham Writers’ Group.

Well, I didn’t need to be nervous. Given the snow, a number of attendees had turned up bright and early and we set about setting up our writing stations for the day and trying out the coffee whilst also having a bit of a chat. I felt a bit lazy for having backed out of my walk when one of our members turned up having hiked up the Down from Oxted!

We started with an icebreaker – Don’t drop the ball – the large tennis ball referred to above – where we found out little known facts about each other as well as a bit about our writing experiences. We also nearly smashed the coffee cups but we won’t mention that here. We then moved on to a quick trigger word exercise before moving off to our separate workspaces to either work on the exercises available or to continue with our individual works in progress.

Lunchtime came and the food was delicious and the company wonderful. We talked about writing and other things we had in common and then moved back to our workstations to carry on.

Towards the end of the day some of us convened for a feedback session where we shared some of the work produced during the day. We had an insight into the terrifying life of a six year old child working in the Welsh mines, shared the feelings of children playing in an Anderson air-raid shelter, were right there with a young man in an offenders’ institution, could feel the tension between an elf and a water-nymph meeting again after some time and faced the increasingly common role of caring for an elderly relative while managing to maintain a terrific sense of humour.

Thank you fellow attendees for the experiences you managed to take me to with your writing today and thank you for making the day itself such a success!

We shall no doubt do it again soon.

Until then, happy writing!


Blog posts and meetings

So we’ve gone off the boil a bit in the last few months and haven’t managed to get down in writing tales of our most recent meetings for our blog.

Well plotting with Alice was great fun in July. Alice presented a session on plotting and we all had a go at writing a blurb – taking our plots down to their bare bones was quite a challenge.

In August we did meet but I cannot remember what we talked about – however I am sure it was writing related and very inspirational.

In September we were visited by The Self Publishing Partnership. Douglas Walker talked us through how the SPP would quote for a piece of work, the different types of services they offered and brought along some beautiful books that the SPP had previously published. It was a fascinating insight and we were very grateful to Douglas for taking time from his busy schedule to come and meet with us. Some of our members are considering using the SPP’s service for the publication of their work in progress once finished.

In October we met again, a small group this time and over wine and crisps we discussed poetry for our collection and many other topics including what makes behaviour inappropriate. This gave us an idea for our next writing challenge.

On 7 November we have David Shelley visiting us to talk to us about traditional publishing. He will be our last guest this year. The we’ll have some Christmas drinks in December before deciding what the group wants to do in 2018 in our January meeting!

So there you go – that’s the update on what we’ve been up to.

Back again soon – in the meantime, enjoy your writing!


If at first you don’t succeed…

Some time ago the WWG decided we would publish a collection of short stories. We wrote a few posts about it so you may recall the plan.

Well everyone who was keen to write stories went away and produced some really excellent first drafts. But that was the problem – they were first drafts, they needed more work, more polishing and honing to make them the stories they were clearly meant to be. Some went away and revised and submitted further drafts of their stories but others were unable to commit the time – for very good and more important reasons life got in the way. The result was that we didn’t have a sufficient body of work to move to our publishing goal – plus the work involved in editing, formatting and preparing the book for publication was also going to present a challenge in terms of time.

Does any of this sound familiar?

A quick browse around writing blogs shows that finishing work that has been started is a common problem. In the interim the WWG’s membership has changed and we have moved on but for all of those writers that produced draft stories, they now have something to go back to and work on when they decide that they are able to go back to and prioritise those stories. I sincerely hope those writers do so – those stories deserve to be told.

Now the WWG is trying again. This time we are having a go at a poetry collection. We all have one thing in common – the wonderful areas we live and work in – the rolling North Downs, the Kent Weald, London. The theme we have chosen for our collection is Place. Many of the poems submitted talk of places much further afield than Woldingham. Our hope is to self-publish the collection at some point. We shall keep you updated and hope that this time we shall succeed.

In the meantime we should receive some tips from The Self Publishing Partnership who are coming to our meeting next week to talk to us about the world of self-publishing.

What about you? How many unfinished drafts litter your desk or sit in computer files? Do share, we’d love to carry on this conversation.

We’ll be back next week (assuming we can prioritise the time – ha!) with a post about our September meeting and what we’ve learned about self-publishing.

June meeting – points of view

This month we met at Sophie’s house to talk about points of view. One member had completed the feedback exercise so we started with a discussion of that – the piece told the same tale from the point of view of the mother and then of the child. Both were written in the first person. We talked about the different perspectives the points of view brought to the story and discussed which we thought made the story most effective.

We then moved onto take a look at the books that others had brought along in the context of how the choice of point of view and narrator impacted the story. We noted that without the child perspective given by Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird the novel would have had a very different slant – the perspective of an adult on the events would have been very different to that brought by Scout.

The view of the second Mrs De Winter in Rebecca enables tension to build throughout the book. A narrator who already knew about Rebecca and Maxim’s marriage would not have been able to tell the story in quite the same way. Telling it from the perspective of a naïve second wife meant that the story could unfold as she discovered more about Rebecca, the secrets of Manderley and her husband.

We also talked about the interesting perspective of a sentient ship in Ancillary Justice. Quite apart from the ability of Ann Leckie to get the reader to identify with a ship as the main  character, the use of the ship as the narrator enabled parts of the story to be told in many different locations and over thousands of years and yet all using first person point of view.

It was a fascinating discussion and reminded me of that fact that now I’ve started writing, I look at books so very differently. Before I would have read a book and enjoyed it without thinking about what it was that made the author decide to tell the story from the point of view chosen or what additional insights (or lack thereof) the choice of narrator brings to the story.

We also discussed spending some of the Group’s money at the June meeting and are thinking about running an off-site writing day. More about that to follow!

Our next meeting is on Tuesday 18th July when Alice Clark-Platts will be running a workshop on plotting for us. Alice’s novel, The Taken, was recently shortlisted for the award for Best Police Procedural in the Dead Good Reader Awards.

2017 Member Events

Check out our Events page which we have finally updated with events planned for 2017! This year we are welcoming Alice Clark-Platts once again and she’ll be running a writing workshop for us in July. In September the Self Publishing Partnership are coming to talk to us about self publishing.

These events are for members only so if you’ve been toying with the idea of joining the group and you want to attend Alice’s workshop then perhaps now is the time!

May meeting – dogs eating custard and atomic bombs!

Thank you to Janine who has summarised our May meeting below:

May already! Ten of us gathered at Clarens including a guest attendee who has done creative writing as part of an OU degree course in English. We set off with an introduction to article writing and publishing by Jane, who shared a very useful structure for analysing various article ‘outlets’ and improving publication opportunities by fine tuning subject and style to the magazines’ readership profiles.

Zsuzsanna also introduced the 3-act approach to writing that provides a framework into which both plot and character development can be orchestrated.

A number of us had submitted the set exercise for this month: a short story in 100 words – these were reviewed by the group – all of them very different and though provoking. The discipline of limited canvas in terms of number of words with and endless palette of language is fun for some and slightly disturbing for others! Subjects ranged from custard eating dogs, life summarised, the effect of atomic bombs, Orion’s Belt and so much more. Janine mentioned JK Rowling and it all kicked off for a while – she won’t be saying that name again for a while.

Jenny and Sophie submitted a chapter of the YA novel and AF novel synopsis respectively. These drove quite complex reviews with very detailed ‘debates’ about both plot and character evolution. The synopsis was still proving a challenge to get the essence and key turning points across succinctly and without causing confusion. 

Unfortunately some members had to leave early and there was some disruption to the flow of the meeting. Perhaps we are better together around a table as that brings us closer together in more ways than one and more focused and dare the author suggest, respectful of each others work and the discussions themselves.

See you in June!  Where does the time go?




April meeting – Fancy dress?

One of our members, Robin Owen, writes here about our April meeting.

We had a good crowd of nine for our latest meeting, including Sally who was with us for the first time.  Many thanks to Christopher for hosting the meeting.

Much of the evening focused on the writing exercise we had been set when we were last together: 700 words of fiction, non-fiction or poetry on the theme of ‘The Costume Party’ (inspired by Elaine’s new venture into fancy dress hire for charity).  Jenny had also brought the latest version of Chapter 4 of her young adult fiction ghost story for us to look at.

So we had a bumper crop of work to talk about, with imaginative interpretations of the theme and a range of characters: the fancy dress competition judge; princesses at the Masked Ball and the princes who were not what they first appeared to be; werewolves; the widow seeking her new place in the world; monks and ‘thin places’; and the friend seeking a new life.  A lively discussion ensued, with everyone appreciating the feedback they received.  As is often the case, comments on specific pieces of work led naturally to discussion on wider writing-related topics.  These included: the nature of fairy tales (many of which were never intended for children it appears); how to build tension as a story unfolds; providing enough detail to help the reader understand what was going on but not so much that they can’t use their imagination; and knowing the audience you are writing for.  It all gave us much to think about.

Sophie reminded us of the survey she had set up so we could share our views on what we want to get out of the group in the future.  She also reminded us that Alice Clark-Platts will be running a workshop for the group on 18 July 2017 about plot drafting.

The next meeting will be on 9 May.  Our mission for the meeting, which we all accepted, is to write a 100 word short story on any subject.