“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 firstname.lastname@example.org
© Carrie Henderson 2015
Challenge Yourself To Open Doors With Your Writing – A Talk With Peter Wells, Author.
Saturday 6th February, 12:30 -2:00.
In the 4 years since he started writing professionally, he’s gone from strength to strength. He has learned a lot along the way which he likes to pass on to other writers, mentoring them and helping them achieve the same.
“It wouldn’t have happened had I not written Counting Ducks,” he said. “I’m passionate about writing, and I want everyone to achieve excellence,” he adds.
Peter is a humorous and enjoyable speaker who has run popular talks in the past. He will be telling his story – which he calls his ‘route map’ – as well as pass on those crucial snippets of information that all serious writers need to know.
The power of social media and how vital blogging is to building an audience will be an important focus of his talk.
Ask Peter – Q and A time
There will be time at the end for a Q&A with SWG members to pick his brains and learn more about the secrets of his success.
This talk is open to Surbiton Writers Group only.
Numbers are limited and it will be popular, so please ensure you RSVP via the main email address to ensure your place in the session.
Attendees need to arrive on time as the talk will start at 12:30.
Attendance is free. If you haven’t already joined the SWG and would like to attend, email us at email@example.com.
The Surbiton Writers Group 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!!
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 Historical 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. “
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.
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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
© The Surbiton Writers Group 2016
The point about writing is that other people read your end product – 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.
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.
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