Viz Comic and The Critics – Forget That, Writing Feedback Is Useful

Since Viz comic launched in 1979 it has become a staple of British life, harnessing smutty innuendo loved by the Carry On watching public, reinvented for the punk generation.

Regular readers will know The Critics, a couple who in this cartoon are delivering an excruciating and hilarious meta-commentary about Christmas.

Viz’s parody is an hommage to critique overall.

It reminds us of what we’ve heard about art, read in column inches about the latest album or film release and identify in those who ‘spout forth’ about every creative thing around them.

The Critics can deconstruct any art form including the written word.

Are there are times when critique can be positive?

When giving feedback about writing, yes there is.

In a talk hosted by Kingston University with Baroness Gail Rebuck of Penguin Random House, students of the MA in Creative Writing asked what was important to ‘get published,’ the holy grail of many.

The discussion centred on the art form of writing and ‘being good’ but it was also mentioned that in the MA programme, students are expected to do their part in promoting themselves and their work.

Author marketing, in other words

One of the early members of the Surbiton Writers Group who also holds a MA in Creative Writing said: “I’m not so good at all the promotion stuff that they expect you to do these days, I like the writing but, well, I know what I’m good at.”

They took part in our first writers circle in 2015 and at the moment all SWG members are thinking about critiquing afresh as our next feedback group is coming up.

How is feedback part of knowing the strengths of your work?

Like it or not, publishing is a business and a competitive one at that.  Even with MA’s in creative writing, those who are producing work are competing inside an industry that many thousands of writers populate.

Authors work, in the main, alone. It is just you, your imagination and your words. That makes for an isolating experience that is remote from the eye of potential readers.

Writing is a solo task 

Writers will have done a lot of thinking, creating, drafting and committing to their written ideas long before it gets to the point of deciding what they want to do with it.

Some ideas are left at the draft stage or the ‘in my head’ stage for weeks, months or years before they are ready for someone else to read them.

Some pop out more quickly and almost fully formed.

However it happens, in order to compete within the writing field it can be useful for others to read your ideas and give feedback to you.

Blind spots exist in everyone. Writers can be so wrapped up with ideas that often stumbling blocks are missed until it’s too late and they’ve run the risk of someone in the industry rejecting them.

Beta-reading for established and new authors 

Established writers seek out feedback as much as newbies.

Beta-readers are people who read drafts of work that are complete from the perspective of the writer and ready to be sent off for a competition or publication.

Beta readers are often professional writers themselves, they can command an income from their work and they know the writing business and the industry inside out.

The Surbiton Writers Group runs quarterly writers circles

We don’t offer beta-reading services but we do have a writers circle.

The writers circle, so called because we sit around a table together and discuss work, is a closed session.

In it we give detailed feedback to our members who are ready to take the next steps with their work.

Format of work 

There is a maximum word limit for any writing that is submitted for feedback. This helps people drill down and focus on having a meaningful discussion of work.

We take at least 2 hours to give verbal feedback and it’s supported by a summary written on paper for the writer to take away also.

The circle is open to members who have a skill, interest or commitment to developing others’ writing and interested in giving feedback both verbally and in writing.

Join us to find out more…

What critique isn’t

The Critics show the worst of what giving feedback can be like; pretentious, over-subjective and useless to anyone but themselves.

The SWG writers circle doesn’t do that. We focus on constructive feedback; that means feedback that the writer can really take away and use.

We pinpoint what areas work and what areas weren’t so successful for us as readers. We listen to the writer talking about their work too.

Our discussion intends to help the writer solve issues they themselves identify but also ones that a blind spot may have prevented them from seeing too.

At the end of our writers circle we hope that the writer has a clear road map as to what to do next, if one is needed.

We aren’t high falootin’ about it and don’t give feedback like The Critics.

At our writers circle people will know what their writing was like from the point of view of friendly readers – readerships are wide and varied and our group members are too!

We are like market research!

Writers circles for 2016 /2017

Our next writers circle on October 29th is already full, however we will be running more in 2017.

If you’d like to attend, contact surbitonwritersgroup@gmail.com and we’ll tell you what happens next.

There are always spaces around the table for new people who like reading and giving verbal and written feedback.

All we ask is that you devote the time to considering another person’s writing and like developing written work.

Want to join? contact surbitonwritersgroup@gmail.com.

Happy writing!

Copyright Surbiton Writers Group 2016. 

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SWG of 30th April Cancelled and Moved To 22nd May – Different Location – Different Time

We’re cancelling the SWG of 30th April and moving it to 22nd May. 
Readers note: we won’t be meeting in April!
That gives us lots of extra time for enjoying ourselves over the 30th April May Bank Holiday weekend and more time for writing though so it’s a win-win.
May 22nd SWG – Sunday Lunch – Coronation Hall Surbiton 
 
May 22nd is a Sunday. In 2015 we had a Sunday lunch at The Coronation Hall in Surbiton.
It was a fun meet-up and this year we are doing the same…
 
We have a table booked to accommodate us which is on the left hand side of the ‘Corry Hall’, as the locals call it.
For those of you who haven’t been yet, it’s an extraordinary building:
It was built in 1911 and used to house Surbiton’s Ritz Cinema. Inside it is decked out in cinema memorabilia and at the front it is light and roomy. The large windows look out onto St Mark’s Hill which runs down to Surbiton Station.
The Corry Hall has full disabled access also.
Location, travel, parking…
 
If you can get to Surbiton Station, you are there. 
 
Surbiton Station is very easy to reach by bus and rail. Nearby on Claremont Road is a Waitrose which has a car park. 
There’s also a car park on St Philip’s Road which is behind the main road, Victoria Road.
Time is different 11:00 am start
 
Because the Corry Hall gets full and lunch takes time, we’ll be meeting from 11:00 am. Last year we stayed on until past 3:00 so be ready for a proper lunchtime treat.
Websites – Bring your laptops 
 
We’ll have plenty of time to look at websites / blogs and author marketing which was planned for 30th April. 
 
Please remember to bring your laptops and it’s a good idea to make sure they are fully charged.
 
Sharing work – critique and advice 
 
Please do also bring along any ideas or work you would like to share with the SWG.
That’s all for now folks and Happy writing!
The Surbiton Writers Group 2016. 
Contact us: surbitonwritersgroup@gmail.com

Surbiton Writers Group Talks: Pearls Of Wisdom About Writing Success From Author Peter Wells

“Through fiction you can talk about your observations in life in a way that resonates with other people,” said Peter Wells  in yesterday’s talk on publishing success to the members of the Surbiton Writers Group. 

Although he has always been passionate about literature and writing, Peter’s publishing success started one morning in 2011 when he had an inspiration for a new story.

The inspiration itself was not unusual: since the early days when he took a degree in English Literature at Manchester University his imagination was full, but this story was different – it made him start a blog.

His blog Counting Ducks was born from a desire to write in a way that others can find and read.

Reading ‘Ghost Of A Love Affair’ and ‘A New Bard Strides Forth’ from Counting Ducks prompted some to sit back and shut their eyes to fully enjoy his prose and from both pieces Peter’s signature style was clear.

Whether bitter-sweet, he prefers the word ‘melancholy’, or laugh-out-loud funny, his writing style is wordsmithery and imagination mixed with universal truths.

Peter divides up his writing into 2 types; humorous and not-humorous, but his advice about writing both is clear: “always be real, tell the truth, read, read, read, write every day and be serious about your writing.”

“People want to read things that are real because it connects them to your writing,” he advised.

The work and objective of writing a blog was not to be underestimated to the world of publishing.

Garnering over 5000 followers in the years since that first post in 2011, it was this following coupled with the quality of his writing that attracted the attention of his publisher.

Now writing his 3rd book, he’s learned a lot along the way. He says he is “fanatically interested”  in developing characters and for him it is one of the most important aspects of getting his writing right.

But writing is a business and without a following and a market, a term called ‘audience’, publishers may think twice about investing in your work no matter how original and good it is.

“How do you build your audience?” asked one SWG member.

“Get to know people who read your writing,” he said, “look at your website stats, your blog will tell you what is working.”

“Be polite, treat social media as you would if you were saying ‘hello’ in real life and like and comment on other writers blogs,” he added.

His final words come down to attitude and polish.

“For every finished piece of writing there are hours of editing and honing it until it’s complete,” he said. “Never ever ever publish something until it’s perfect,” he added.

He tells himself: “nobody is interested, you have to get them interested.”

Success has come quickly for Peter and is well deserved.  You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter and like Counting Ducks here.

Follow our blog to keep up to date with our news and events and join us by emailing surbitonwritersgroup@gmail.com

© Carrie Henderson 2015

How The Surbiton Writers Group Gives Constructive Feedback To Writers

You’ve done it – the piece of writing you’ve honed and worked on has got to the point where you want some feedback. Woo hoo. Well done. Snoopy dance!

This piece of writing is your baby, you’ve crafted it and you’ve imagined it.

You’ve enjoyed it enough to think about sharing it with the Surbiton Writers Group in one of our writers circles.

Reticent about receiving feedback on your writing

But you are stalling with the next bit – thinking about what that feedback is going to be like.

Something says: “I’m not sure if I want to”, “what if they don’t like it,” or even “Nooooo. I’m not ready yet. “

So – should you be nervous of hearing about what we think and should you take our advice on board anyway..?

Evaluating writing subjectively and objectively

Writing is an art and as such, is evaluated subjectively and objectively.

The subjective experience of people’s writing is what’s personal and unique to each reader, what you think and feel while you are reading it and afterwards.

Often private and not shared, it stays in your thoughts and memory, with snippets coming back to you over time. It’s the: “I really enjoyed that book,” feeling, without necessarily explaining to yourself and others why.

The objective experience of someone’s writing is like a critique – what we do in the Surbiton Writers Group. It involves standing back from the piece of writing. This says: “I really enjoyed that book,” but you do explain why.

Here, you focus on, for instance, the way the writing was constructed throughout the entire piece, the way the dialogue was written, how it felt on an emotional level or the way the grammar and punctuation read throughout.

As we also look at writing for online publication, we talk about constructing blog posts properly, for instance.

We are also interested in author marketing, by the use of social media and sharing work, so that’s included too.

Both the subjective and objective experience of the piece of writing is used in the SWG.

What’s included in a writing critique – constructive feedback is key

People critique in different ways, but, in the Surbiton Writers Group, we focus on giving constructive feedback.

As we say on our website’s front page, constructive feedback pinpoints elements of the piece of writing in a way that is in itself positive.

It is positive because it explains if, why and where elements of the piece of writing needs more work and also where the writing was successful.

We discuss and suggest and explain this with the writer in our circle sessions.

It’s not a cold process, it’s intended to be interactive, discursive and helpful.

The objective is to give the writer feedback that they can utilise and work on. It is never, ever to make the writer feel bad, or say their work is worthless.

We critique and give feedback about the writing, not the writer.

Why critique writing anyway?

You are right – no pun intended – writers can skip this step. However the Surbiton Writers Group is interested in helping develop people’s writing to achieve their aims.

Some SWG members simply want immediate and quick feedback, full stop. However other SWG members also intend to publish their writing at a later stage by approaching publishers, submitting to competitions or pitching for writing online.

It’s best to know the strengths and weaknesses in your writing before you get to that stage.

Publishers and editors are inundated by manuscripts and submissions. Yours has to be the best it can be, before it’s seen by others.

Audience, author branding and marketing is part of that too.

Consider us your market research!

Constructive criticism guidelines – the ‘how to’ of giving feedback

That’s why we are doing it, but what do we do?

One of our members has an MA in Creative Writing, where there were weekly peer critiques about the students’ work.

She developed a useful set of criteria which is very helpful when thinking through what you want to say.

Here’s her list of what to consider. Our thanks to Alex for these:

Form, voice, theme, plot and structure and pacing, details, language and tone, style, characterisation, dialogue, setting and place.

We also consider:

Sub-editing like spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Form and format – like writing format for online or book manuscripts.

Ways of developing your audience – maximising your marketing potential to build an audience for your writing

How do you know what advice to take on board?

Although there are many different viewpoints in the writers circle we advise that if you find a piece of feedback is being repeated by group members or resonates strongly with the group members, that’s the feedback to focus on and pay attention to.

Think of it like market research. If a lot of people say the same thing, that’s something that shouldn’t be ignored.

Diversity of writers within the Surbiton Writers Group

The diversity of writing interests in the SWG is crucial to giving a breadth of feedback.

We are not only fiction-writers, we have non-fiction writers, playwrights, journalists, children’s authors, bloggers and people that like writing but aren’t currently producing anything too.

All of us have different tastes, perspectives and professional or educational backgrounds.

There are different ages and stages in life in our group also.

All of this brilliant diversity makes for really interesting, creative, well rounded constructive feedback to take away and help you successfully polish and finish your piece of work.

Happy writing!

Copyright The Surbiton Writers Group 2016

We are open to new members from all types of writing backgrounds. If you are interested in joining the Surbiton Writers Group, email us on surbitonwritersgroup@gmail.com and we’ll get back to you.

The Surbiton Writers Group: Searching For Sugar Man to Will Self, Our Most Memorable Writing From 2015.

What’s the most memorable piece of writing you watched, read, or listened to in 2015?

The new year is a few days old and thoughts have already turned to what delights this year will offer, but the Surbiton Writers took no time at all to reveal what writing has stuck in their thinking from last year to this.

Films, books and newspaper columns all figured in our list, showing the diversity of writing out there to choose from and the enormously wide range of taste within our writers group.

What, no Star Wars!!  

Star_Wars_Episode_VII_The_Force_Awakens

We’ll give you a spoiler. Our list doesn’t include the screenplay of the long anticipated film release of the year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Carrie said: “as a film fan,  I’d have loved to say this was the most memorable writing of 2015, after all, it was THE go-to film event of the year, but it came quite far down my list and so did Netflix’s House Of Cards Series 3, another must-see.”

Read what Carrie did choose further down the page…

Will your picks be the same as ours…

If you were at a party and someone asked you the same question, what would you say?

Each piece of writing the Surbiton Writers chose wasn’t necessarily first available last year, many being published or released long beforehand.

Regardless of whether our choices ride the curve, they show that good writing has longevity, changes one’s perspective and moves us, altering our inner, imaginative worlds for months after that first watch, listen or read.

Here’s our list. Ta daa!

Janine writes playful and imaginative picture books for the under 5s age group

Her choice was Twan Tan Eng’s ‘The Garden of Evening Mists,’ adding that what stuck with her was the “simply beautiful prose.”

Published in 2012, it was the Malaysian writer’s second novel. Telling the story of Yun Ling Teoh making sense of her experience during WW2, it was short listed for the Man Booker Prize and won the Walter Scott Prize for Historicsearching for sugarman film posteral Fiction.

Peter Wells publishes novels and writes a hugely popular blog  Counting Ducks 

He chose the film Searching For Sugar Man (warning spoilers included):

“..the most striking thing I watched was the film “Searching For Sugar Man” which, as everyone may know, tells the true story of Sixto Rodriguez who, after a period trying to make it in the music industry faded into obscurity and spent the majority of his working life in the construction industry unaware of the fact that he had achieved legendary success in South Africa.

The film tells the story of his rediscovery, and illuminates his supreme modesty and dignity in the face of his growing fame: heart warming on so many levels.”

He reminds me of another man I came across last year, Nick Drake, who took his own life at the age of twenty-six after a shortish period in the music industry were he met with very limited recognition, despair over which may have played a part in his tragic decision.”

Once again, after his death there was a slow discovery of his work which I discovered as part of the soundtrack on a Hollywood film called ” A Perfect Man” which was released in September 2015.”

If you look up the name “Nick Drake” on IMDP you will see his music has featured on many well recognised films in the following twenty years.”

In both cases, as a hopefully creative man, who speaks so much through his writing, both films inspire me with the message that the worth of what you do may not be immediately recognised, and that to persevere is a key ingredient in making your mark. “

Anu is a business journalist, who’s speciality is in change management and often refers to non-fiction writing in her articles. 

Quiet Cover By Susan Cain

She selected another non-fiction book for her memorable read: ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain.

A study of the difference between introversion and extraversion, it explains how the introverted amongst us have unique qualities which are embedded at the level of our brain chemistry.

You could argue that all writers have an introverted side, writing alone and living in a strong inner world is essential.
Accessible and fascinating, Anu described it as: “quite memorable.”

Darren is known for his witty and humorous writing style.

He chose 2 writers who have changed the writing landscape in Britain: Harold Jacobson and Will Self.

However, it was a piece about global warming that changed his attitude towards the race to save the planet.

will-self

“For me it has to be Harold Jacobson from The Saturday Independent, just love his witty style of writing.  I suppose in some ways I base my writing to his. Will Self is another brilliant writer.

As for story that I read this year. Well too many to choose from.”

But if I had to choose one. It would be learning that within 15 years all gas cookers and boilers must be fazed out.  This is supposed to help with climate change! !!!. This can only happen if we are all singing from the same sheet.”

and what did Carrie choose?

It’s not an easy choice,” she said, “but I’d have to say the most personally changing thing I read last year was an article in the Hull Daily Mail from 1931.

Having spent a year or so researching a married couple for a book I’m writing, who have sadly now long died and their family with them, this has been a far more complicated process than programmes like Who Do You Think You Are suggest it is. I’d exhausted all the obvious and not-so-obvious channels so the research had stalled completely.”

Image Courtesy Hull Daily Mail.
Image Courtesy Hull Daily Mail.

Then by accident I found an article in the Daily Mail. It was a feature about a society wedding – their wedding – and there was a beautiful black and white photo of them as well, looking straight at me from the page.”

After reading so much about them, it was the first time I’d seen them in person and I stared back into their faces wanting so much to reach out through the years and talk to them.”

It changed everything and immediately brought them to life. This article reinforced to me how important journalism is to recording events that even on a local level preserve history for generations to come.”

There are our most memorable pieces of writing – what would your choices be?

Tell us whether our list has inspired you to read or watch more.

In the meanwhile we’ve added all of these examples to our growing list of must-read’s for 2016.

If you are interested in joining the Surbiton Writers Group, email surbitonwritersgroup@gmail.com

© The Surbiton Writers Group 2016

Journalism And Creative Writing – Difference, Much?

The Surbiton Writer’s Group is a group for people who write in any genre; journalism, creative writing, blogging, rapping – anything that involves wanting to put words down on paper or a screen, whether it’s writing for a job, with an intention to be published or for fun.

While I’ve been chatting with people about the Group we’ve discussed the differences between creative writing and Journalism.

“Surely,” said one person, “Journalism is creative? I really like Polly Toynbee’s writing in The Guardian. That’s very creative!”

Listening to 3 writers of Fantasy Fiction talk so eloquently and expressively about creative fiction writing at an author talk at Waterstone’s book shop in Kingston caused me to think about it again.

Isn’t everything that is newly created and written down creative, whether it’s online, for a newspaper, a business or a blog?

Isn’t it all the same process, the same ideas – including the books Baroness Rebuck publishes at Penguin Random House?

What exactly are the differences?

Journalism

The most obvious difference is that in Journalism, you are collecting together facts and then writing about those facts. You choose words that are easy to understand for the target audience you are writing for.

Most importantly, you don’t make things up.

The facts must be well researched and well supported. You also need quotes to support your story. You stay in the background and remain objective.

When I am writing a factual piece the facts lead the words, not the other way around. 

Journalism is non-fiction, not fiction.

When I am doing creative writing the ideas lead the words

In creative writing, ideas do not have to be factual. Unless the veracity and detail of the facts are important to the story I’m writing, I don’t necessarily have to research them as deeply as I would do when writing a journalistic piece.

I can take liberties and chances. I am in control of what I write. I can choose which words to use from the ground up.

But does that mean journalism isn’t as creative as creative writing…

Here’s a ‘for instance.’

Amy McCulloch at the writer’s talk at Waterstones book shop, said she chose to research the history of China in depth because she felt it was important to setting the scene in a way that was authentic to her as a writer. But she didn’t need to – it was her choice.

At the same talk, Tom Pollack said that his London locations are real, but they don’t have to be 100% factually correct. That’s all part of the creativity of writing the setting in fiction.

A Writer Writing

Journalism expects factual accuracy. It also expects that a pattern of writing is adhered to.

The first paragraph of an article needs to sum up for the reader what the rest of the article is about. Ideally if a reader reads nothing more before they put their IPAD down or throw the paper onto the seat on the train, they should have the salient facts of the entire article.

But if you are reading a column by Polly Toynbee it seems to be more creative because it allows her freedom to write in a way she chooses, a point the member of the Surbiton Writer’s Group made.

Is that sort of journalism Creative Non-Fiction? 

“Well no,” I said in reply, “that’s a feature, or an opinion piece,” I added, confusing things further. “What isn’t seen is the editor at their desk deciding which of those words make it into the published edition.”

“That’s the same as fiction writing!” they said.

Word counts are crucial to journalism. There is an art in being given 250 or 500 words in which to sum up and explain what the article is about, including quotes.

It focuses my mind on what words are important, which words are superfluous. Flowery language is a luxury, not a necessity. Your word budget has to do the job and your first para’ has to sum that up exactly.

So is journalism as creative as creative writing?

I’ll finish by saying something that I read in a blog recently. It was in a post about different types of writing that journalists do.

The journalist was asked what type of writing was most ‘them’; writing for online articles in a popular daily online magazine, writing long feature pieces in a broadsheet newspaper or writing a book.

“All of them,” was their reply. “Each voice is my writing and I have to be able to do each equally well.”

The jury may be out for people reading between the two genres but there’s still plenty of creativity in journalism – they are simply different sides to the writing coin.

© Carrie Henderson 2015

The Value In Listening To Writers Talking About Writing

The point about writing is that other people read your end product –  right?

Right.

But there’s also value in listening to writers talk about the writing process itself.

This is not only because writers like words – and that makes for easy listening – but because hearing about their writing process opens up insight into the world of writing from A to Z.

Writing is a hidden, personal place. It’s the place writers go to when they are shut in their sheds like Roald Dahl, or tapping at their laptops in offices consumed by noise, fear and deadlines like journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Berstein in the film All The President’s Men. 

Roald-Dahl-in-writing-hut

When writers wind backwards from the end result you gain insight into how you go about “this thing called writing” in the first place.

First up. What is writing anyway?

Looking at the gallery of quotes about writing at goodreads.com, one thing becomes apparent.

Every writer thinks about writing differently or at least they say different things about the same process.

Stephen King, the author with a knack of telling us how the backwaters of the US make minds twist to horror, wrote a book called “On Writing, A Memoir Of The Craft.”

In it he’s given perhaps the most universally applicable quote of all:

“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.” 

One online dictionary defines the craft of writing as either “the activity or skill of writing” or “the activity or occupation of composing text for publication.”

Ah ha! So writing is an activity, a skill or an occupation and can also be for publication. It all becomes clear now.

Or does it? 

Listening to writers talking about their writing process is as fascinating as the work they produce.

This is because the words on the page are the visible peak of a large iceberg submerged beneath.

We all know that icebergs are dangerous don’t we – we’ve seen Titanic struggle and sink in TV dramasdocumentaries and blockbusting movies.

The writing process: what lies beneath!
The writing process: what lies beneath!

Listening to writers talking about their craft helps us navigate through 

Hearing about what happens after inspiration strikes, how the worlds are crafted and created, what frustrations get in the way of the plot or the perfect sentence and how editing finishes the result, are all nuggets of information that help us other writers on our voyage towards publication.

We might find an iceberg glancing across the bows but with understanding of how the writing process works for other people, we can swerve out of the way before disaster strikes.

Sometimes journalism and creative writing meets as you find in this You Tube clip from the BBC series “5 Minutes With” Philip Pullman.

Pullman democratises writing, saying that we all tell stories but writers know ‘what to do’ with a story to make it into a book. Then it’s the journalist who knows how to research and ask the right questions and how to open up the interview that makes it a success.

Both are fascinating insights into the writing process itself.

To quote Mr King:

“So okay― there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.”

Thank you for your words, writers. To know a little bit of your iceberg, helps us with ours.

© Carrie Henderson 2015

The Circle Of Write: The Surbiton Writers Group Has Launched!

surbitonwritersgroup.org.uk
L-R. Dmitry, Lisa, Alex, Darren Yallop. Founder members of the SWG.

The first ever writers’ circle of the Surbiton Writers Group met on Saturday 18th April, launching with a lively discussion about what makes interesting and good writing.

Around the table are those writing fiction, online writing, journalism, short stories, are in the business of writing, produce writing and performance, write plays, edit screenplays and are writing longer works like books.

Starting off with a practice critique from an excerpt by a published author, the mix of writing backgrounds worked well with everyone offering an opinion about what worked and what didn’t work in the chosen piece.

Not everyone agreed with eachother but that’s OK! Disagreements were not important, the objective was saying what worked and what didn’t work in the piece and what adjustments could be made.

A writers’ circle can help be helpful for writers who want to hone their work through sharing it with a critical audience.

Traditionally made up of people who write and are interested in developing writing towards publication, it can be an essential part of the writing process.

They develop a writer’s critical skills and indicate what the reader may find enjoyable or not, about your work.

Writing circles are trusted to be honest in a way that develops work rather than detracts from the confidence of the writer.

The Surbiton Writers Group is a closed writers circle – which means members have to book in to join – and meets monthly. From the next circle SWG members will have their own work critiqued by the members.

We consist of a broad group of writers from lots of different genres; including those who have taken courses, are hobby writers, write in their spare time, and / or have writing qualifications.

All are welcome, we are friendly and down to earth. The more variety of writing ‘voices’, the better.

If you are interested in joining email surbitonwritersgroup@gmail.com

© The Surbiton Writers Group 2015.

Writing Tips – Using A Writing Plan

It might seem antithetical to the creative process or even restricting to have a writing plan.

There might be lots of reasons it doesn’t sound like you.

Your writing process could be more fluid and flexible, one that allows inspiration to evolve before you put words to paper. You might not want to tinker with what works well for you.

Devising a writing plan doesn’t have to stop your natural writing flow. With a bit of adjustment, it can help rather than hinder.

Writing Plan SurbitonWritersGroup

What is a writing plan?

It’s a timetable that defines how much time you will write daily. 

A writing plan is a framework you can use to set deadlines as well.

Setting out clear blocks of time to write and defining what you do with that time can be a useful tool in getting past the barriers that prevent you from putting your writing ideas into action.

If you are aiming to submit for publication or a competition deadline or have a date for self-publication a writing plan can help you achieve your objective.

Here’s how it works

Let’s face it, the short story you are working on, the book you are writing, the lyrics you have in mind or the poem you have scribbled on the back of an envelope isn’t going to write itself.

It’s down to you to get the words finished

For some people the very idea of committing words to paper can be intimidating.

Thoughts like “I can do that – they aren’t finished in my head yet” or “oh no, putting words on paper means they have to be right first” can get in the way of making a start on that project.

Using a writing plan helps you take the steps forward to get a draft completed

Getting the draft completed is a really big step on the way to getting it tied up and finished.

You will be half way there!

Here’s what to do

Life stuff sure gets in the way of writing. Boy, oh boy does it ever.

That last minute call to ask for a lift, that shopping trip you have to do, that TV programme you can’t miss and that phone call that you have to take. It all gets in the way.

Most people write in their spare time. To have a writing plan means making a choice to timetable regular writing into some of that spare time.

“Oh but…”

No buts! You can start small.  Starting small with a writing plan will still reap rewards.

The great news is that even 15 minutes writing time every 2 days will mean you’ll end your week with more words than you started with.

Try adding in a deadline

Some authors talk about setting deadlines to help focus their mind on the writing task in hand.

If you want your writing plan to work because you have a deadline you will need to adjust your plan.

For a writing competition you might need to produce 1000 edited words in 2 months time, for instance. A writing plan can help you meet that deadline.

Writing maths

Work out how fast you write for. Most people can write at least 500 words every 2 days.

If you write 500 words every 2 days and your writing plan sets aside 15 minutes every 2 days, you should have 1000 words in your draft version at the end of 4 days.

Finishingabook the surbitonwritersgroup

Fantastic!

It is, isn’t it. Using a writing plan in this way makes the enormity of the deadline feel more achievable.

It’ll help break your writers block and you’ll feel the sense of achievement and satisfaction that you’ve completed a step on the way to achieving your goal.

That builds confidence which in turn builds incentive to continue.

Oh but…

That again.

It is true that you’ll have to put aside other commitments. It starts with making it clear to yourself that you’ll be writing to a writing plan and then to others who also need to know.

Once that’s done though, you have bought yourself valuable writing time. Before you know it, you’ll have your first novel!

Do tell us your tips for using a writing plan in the comments below. Do you use one? Does it help?

We’d love to hear from you.

© The Surbiton Writers Group 2015.

Contact: surbitonwritersgroup@gmail.com

Writing Tips: Using Visual Prompts For Writing Practice

Writing is about forming ideas into words. 

But where do the ideas come from?

Writers often say they are about writing from experience, from the things that inspire them.

Publishers, readers, teachers and advisors say that this is essential as it gives an authentic tone to the writing.

Practicing writing in many different ways is also important to developing skills. It’s akin to an artist using a sketch book.

Can art and writing combine?

Whether you are doing a big piece of writing or practicing, visual prompts can help words flow.

You can use visual prompts to flex your imagination and run wild and free with new ideas.

What you write doesn’t have to originate from personal experience. Because of this, you can explore imaginary situations, characters and realms that your day-to-day writing or your big writing project doesn’t accommodate.

Here’s an image to practice writing from:

Writing Prompt Surbiton Writers Group 1

..and some questions to ask yourself: 

  • Where is the setting
  • How does this scene fit into a plot
  • What characters are present
  • Who is absent from the scene
  • What happened just before this picture was taken
  • What happened just after this picture was taken

Get your notepad ready…

Write as much as you can about this picture. There’s no right or wrong way to do this, all you have to do is write until you want to stop.

All done

Great! You’ve exercised your creative brain by giving it new inspiration to work with.

Does what you read surprise you?

Writing from a new visual prompt cuts through the inner critic, the voice inside us that acts as our writing editor.

It also combats our fear of choosing the wrong words.

By trying something fun and new, it can turn your writing on it’s head.

You can produce work that is original and breaks through your writing patterns – a trap that all writers fall into.

Try it and see

We’d love to see what you’ve written. Go ahead and post it in a comment below..

© The Surbiton Writers Group 2015.

Contact: surbitonwritersgroup@gmail.com