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.

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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

Writing Tips: Break That Creative Block – The Hat Game

blank computer screen surbiton writers group

The screen flickers back at you blankly, goading you to write something. Your fingers twitch with half formed thoughts, but nothing comes. 

All you want to do is write something, but your mind is a wasteland. You tell yourself: “write something, Goddammit!”

We’ve all been there with the dreaded creative block – the feeling you get when the flow of ideas dries up completely.

When it strikes fiction or creative writers it can stall progress because the words are all their own.

Non-fiction writers find the creative block can happen because they struggle with organising factual information in the right way.

But The Block can strike anyone while they are writing no matter what genre it is!

What can you do about it? 

One idea is to try The Hat Game. You don’t need a hat or a even a cat, but you can use a bowl or a table.

How to play The Hat Game:

Get 3 pieces of paper:

Paper 1 is for nouns.

Paper 2 is for verbs.

Paper 3 is for situations or settings.

Now use paper 1,2 and 3 to type out, or write down, examples of each thing.

For instance. A noun could be “table.” A verb could be “running,” and a situation or setting could be “trapped in a locked railway station.”

piles of paper surbiton writers group

Write as many examples as you like. 

When you’ve finished, cut out each example noun, verb and situation or setting so that they are on one strip of paper each.

Next step. 

Put them into piles of nouns, verbs and situations or settings.

Fold them over so you can’t see them. No peeking!

Here’s where the fun begins. 

Pick one example from each pile.

Open them up and look. Then write as much as you can using each noun, verb and situation or setting.

You can write anything you like, but you must use each example.

Doing The Hat game is a really good way of getting words to flow, when you think the river has dried up. 

It distracts the mind from The Block and frees up your creative juices to flow again.

Having fun is essential when you are writing – your readers sense it when words are dry and forced.

The Hat Game is great for reinstating that creative flow!

Let us know what tips you have for breaking The Block too!

© The Surbiton Writers Group 2015.

Contact: surbitonwritersgroup@gmail.com