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Self-editing Workshop

On Tuesday 5th February Kathy, owner of Fine Tune Your Fiction, a professional critique service, ran a workshop on self-editing.

The workshop focused on editing content rather than spelling and grammar. The areas we focused on were:

  • Show vs Tell
  • Tightening Point of View
  • Tightening the Narrative

Kathy went through each area:

‘Show’ vs ‘Tell’

‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass’

– Chekov

What is the difference between showing and telling?

Telling does what it says on the tin – it tells the reader something, usually in a purely descriptive manner with no emotional attachment. Showing, on the other hand, is a more immersive experience for the reader, allowing them to feel and sense what is going on.

It might help to think of showing as firsthand experience, and telling as second hand experience, at least as far as your reader is concerned.

When should you ‘show’ and when should you ‘tell’?

Telling engages the readers intellect. It is useful when you want the reader to take in information to carry with them through the story.

Conversely, ‘showing’ engages a readers imagination and emotion. It helps them feel what is happening first hand. Any time you want the reader to have an emotional connection to what is happening, you need to show.

‘By this I don’t just mean making the reader feel happy and sad at the appropriate time. Of course you do, but there are other ways this applies.’

– Kathy

Kathy went on to discuss effective characterisation:

‘Your reader has to get to know your characters. The only way to do this is to show them. It’s not enough to tell them “John was shy”. Show them what shyness looks like for John, allow them to experience him. This is something that will take time to build and you can only achieve it through consistent showing.’

Then we moved onto showing atmosphere.

‘It’s not enough to write something like “She ran into the creepy house and was scared”. It doesn’t give the reader anything to go off of. You need to show what it is that makes this house so creepy, and also how this character reacts when scared’

– Kathy

Kathy then explained ways to identify ‘telling’ sentences:

  1. Look out for adjectives. Adjectives are nearly always telling.
  2. Looking out for emotional qualifiers i.e. ‘She said angrily’. If you’ve shown your scene well enough, you won’t need it.
  3. Describing sensory experiences i.e. ‘John smelled freshly baked bread’. This is not a first hand experience for the reader – instead let the reader smell the bread too.

Then it was time for the first exercise or the workshop. Attendees were tasked with going through their extracts and underlining any instances of ‘telling’. Then they were challenged to re-write them to show everything they ‘told’ instead.

Tightening Point of View

‘Whenever you write a story, you are telling it from somebody’s perspective … How we perceive things is very personal. We all see, experience, and describe things very differently. You have to take this into account when you are writing.’

– Kathy

Kathy then explained three things that affect how writers describe a scene:

  1. Is this how the perspective character would describe them? What is their frame of reference?
  2. Is this what the perspective character would focus on?
  3. How does their mood affect how they describe things?

‘These things overlap. You need to scrutinise every word you use and everything you choose to describe. Ask yourself – is this what the perspective character would focus on? Is this how they would describe it? Does it match their frame of reference? A sixteen year old girl and a ninety year old man are unlikely to focus on and describe things the same way. On top of all that you have to consider their mood. We describe things differently and focus on different things when we’re angry, or sad, or happy.’

– Kathy

Participants were then given their second exercise: go through the ‘showing’ passages again and scrutinise every word, asking those three questions.

Tightening the Narrative

This is sometimes referred to as ‘proportioning’.

‘It’s all about removing the extraneous details … sometimes you show things you don’t need to, or repeat yourself’

– Kathy

Are you showing in detail how a character opens a door? Readers know how doors work – you can simply write ‘He walked through the door’ or ‘He left the room’ and the reader can fill in the step in between.

‘I once read work where the writer described their character getting dressed – how they put on their socks and then underwear, then their jeans and shirt and so on. This was completely unnecessary. When a reader gets to descriptions of clothes, they’re probably going to figure they’re wearing underwear, assuming they care at all. Most likely, they don’t.’

– Kathy

Kathy also explained that it applies to other areas such as:

  • Using dialogue tags that are obvious i.e. “Where are we going?” she asked. We know from context that this is a question, so you do not need to tell the reader again.
  • Repeating yourself when creating similes and metaphors. Example: ‘It was as dark as the deepest ocean, a darkness so thick it enveloped everything.’ The second line is basically exactly the same as the first, just with different words. They’re describing that deep, dark ocean again. If you want to build on your simile/metaphor to create a more vivid mental image, try focusing on a different aspect such as ‘It was as dark as the deepest ocean, and silent as a tomb’.

The final exercise of the evening was to read through the showing lines a third time and check for redundancies and repetition.

Kathy finished by offering some general tips for catching mistakes:

  • Read your work aloud. Sentences that are hard to say are often hard to read.
  • Try reading aloud passages how you want the reader to process them – if you have fast paced passages, try reading them quickly. The same goes for slower ones, or passages that fluctuate between the two. If you can’t do it, chances are your reader can’t either and you may need to edit some sentences further.
  • Try reading lines of dialogue how your characters are saying them – if they’re shouting, or laughing etc. If you can’t, then your character can’t either. 
  • Use text-to-voice software. Even when you read out loud, you still risk missing mistakes because you know what the words should be. Text-to-voice software will read everything exactly as you wrote it. You can therefore listen out for incorrect words that both you and your spellcheck missed. Frees ones include:

If you own a Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/gp/sendtokindle 

Online: https://www.naturalreaders.com/online/

  • If you’re struggling with a ‘showing’ scene, try listening to appropriate music while you write. For example, if you’re working on a sad scene, listen to sad music, if you’re writing a battle scene, try fast paced or ‘angry’ music (such as death metal, or Ride of the Valkyries). It will help put you in the tight mindset to think of appropriate language. If you’re easily distracted, try music without lyrics. You can listen to these for free on services like YouTube or Spotify.
  • Do you often forget to consistently take into account the setting/environment of your scene? Try playing some appropriate ambient sound effect tracks to help you immerse yourself . You can access anything from forest sounds, to ocean waves, rain on a car roof, to city sounds, and even space ship noises – all for free on YouTube. Play them as you write the scene. A channel which provides a lot of different ones is called ‘Relaxing White Noise‘. You can also find plenty more simply by searching for the sounds you want such as ‘haunted house sounds‘ or ‘crickets‘.

Word clouds can also be useful to check the overall balance of characters and themes. There are plenty of free generators too. They work by scattering words into an image/shape, with the most commonly used word at the centre in the biggest font. With this in mind, you want major characters, themes, and possibly settings to be the largest text. If they aren’t, you may need to look at the manuscript again.

‘It’s not totally foolproof … but it can be useful to see at a glance what words crop up the most. It is especially useful if you are juggling a multitude of characters. You want the biggest name to be your protagonist, but if a secondary or background character is the most prominent, you may need to cut back some of their scenes, or show more major characters more prominently. The same can go for important themes or settings.’

– Kathy

The NWC would like to thank Kathy for guiding us through the editing process. Everyone seems to have benefited from it.

If anyone is interested in hiring Kathy to critique their work, you can visit her website: www.finetuneyourfiction.com or email her on kathy@finetuneyourfiction.com. Kathy has offered to give NWC members a 15% discount.

Lastly, we’d like to thank our members and guests for coming and actively participating in the workshop. It went far better than we ever could have imagined. We hope you enjoyed it, and look forward to seeing you at out next meeting.

 

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Norwich Writers' Circle, Uncategorized

Prepare to self-edit!

person woman desk laptop

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday the 5th of February at 19:30 at Chantry Hall, Norwich. We are to welcome back Kathy Joy of Fine Tune Your Fiction, a professional critique service, this time to run a workshop on self editing.

Rather than focusing on grammar and spelling, etc Kathy will run through how to edit the content of your story and look critically at establishing a strong point of view, character development, plot, showing versus telling and so on.

In order to participate, please bring a 1500-2000 word excerpt from a current work in progress (fiction only). Ideally you should bring a hard copy, double space, but you are welcome to work from a laptop or tablet, though please be advised there are limited plug sockets.

It would also help to bring some paper or a notebook,and plenty of pens and pencils so you can make notes.

business college composition desk

 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us:

norwichwriters@hotmail.com

We hope to see you there.

 

 

 

Member Successes, Uncategorized

Unexpected coincidence, luck and fate

On Tuesday 15th January 2019, in place of the advertised speaker, Chairman Phyllida Scrivens and author of Escaping Hitler (Pen and Sword 2016) and The Lady Lord Mayors of Norwich (Pen and Sword 2018), gave the Circle the very first showing of her new illustrated talk called: ‘When the Past collides with the Present – Remarkable true stories of unexpected coincidence, luck and fate when researching biography.’

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Members were transported back to 1930s Norwich, 1940s Gloucestershire and Suffolk, 1950s Harwich and to various locations in Nazi Germany.  Members were invited to give constructive criticism and ideas of how to improve this presentation, which makes it debut at The Out and About Club in Norwich on Wednesday 23rd January.

The meeting concluded with light refreshments and a raffle.

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Prepare Yourself.

Our first manuscript evening of the season is on the 6th November. It will be led by Kathy Joy of Fine Tune Your Fiction, a professional critique service.

This time, we’re going to try something different.

As usual, you can bring along six double spaced printed excerpts of no more than 1000-1500 words of a current or past project, be it poetry, prose, screen play, non-fiction, or a blog/journal article.

However, if you don’t have anything ready to be critiqued, we have some other options.  Do you have a blurb you’d like to get some feedback on? Or a book cover? Or both? Bring 6-8 copies, double spaced, to the meeting and work in small groups and get constructive feedback.

Are you stuck somewhere in your current project and need to bat ideas around? Do you have questions like:

“My character needs to find a piece of evidence but I can’t think of a believable way to do it.”

“I can’t decide between these titles. Which do you think works best?”

“If my protagonist does this, would they still be likeable?”

“Should I write this in third or first person?”

“I need to find a title for my work/can’t decide between these titles.”

You can ask your fellow writers in the group and bat ideas around and see if they can’t help you fill in some gaps or overcome hurdles you are experiencing. Bring excerpts of your work to give context, six copies, double space, but not more than 1500 words.

We hope to see you there!

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Winners of the 2018 Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition

We are pleased to announce the results of the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition 2018!

Main Competition:

 

1st Place: Guernica by Sue Ryder Richardson

Adjudicator’s Comment:I love the way that you chose to tell Ana’s story through her grandchildren’s eyes and this multigenerational approach brings the past very much into the present. This could have become expositional and rather dull but, instead, you make it vivid and relevant to the reader. The writing is excellent. In this particular competition there really was nothing to choose between first and second place but, your final sentence, which was both vivid and haunting, stayed with me and secured the win.

Overall, an engaging and powerful story demonstrating excellent writing.

2nd Place: Scarlett Johannson Is The Anti-Christ! by Louise Wilford

Adjudicator’s Comment: I loved this story. It makes excellent use of the market theme and the descriptions of produce are vivid and build both the tension and interest in the character. There’s a real sense of undercurrent and the story has an effective and punchy resolution. You use dialogue well and Lucy was well developed and believable.

Overall, excellent writing, a polished and a very memorable read.

3rd Place: Circle Of Life by Rhona Godfrey

Adjudicator’s Comment: I was drawn to this story for its strong market theme, its warmth and the dynamic that forms between the two characters. The last sentence really added to its impact too. The formatting was distracting and, although it wasn’t marked down for this, other competitions might penalise which would be a shame. You have double spaced but don’t put an extra line between paragraphs and you should indent the first line of every paragraph apart from the first in each section. The most important change you need to make to your formatting is to make sure that there is a new paragraph each time someone speaks. But, otherwise, it was a very enjoyable story.

Overall, a warm and engaging story with strong reader appeal.

 

Runners Up:

 

El Rastro by April McIntyre

Adjudicator’s Comment: Lovely sense of place. The atmosphere is built gently and the story is well paced, it is quite mellow and more about characters and the moment than about plot and, because of this, it felt as though it would have been a chapter or section of a longer piece – that isn’t a criticism at all, and I would have been interested to read more. You use local words and you have achieved the balance of using enough to add flavour but not too many so that it becomes a distraction. Pay attention to proof reading, e.g. ceramists should be ceramist’s and ‘A pale, marginally overweight woman in her twenties only months before…’ only months before relates to her being in her twenties rather than being overweight.

Overall, written with a strong voice and to a high standard.

Fading Times by Kathy Joy

Adjudicator’s Comment: Fading Times takes some of the familiar elements of the market and weaves them into a story which is both charming and imaginative. I enjoyed the way the tension rose and was completely invested in Iris. The story provokes thought about the challenges that markets face in current times and this is neatly reflected in Iris’s situation. Try to avoid clichés e.g. ‘knife to the throat’, ‘biting the bullet’ and ‘bigger and better’ because finding new ways of saying these things will extend your writing.

Overall, a strongly themed and original story.

The Pale Child by Iain Andrews

 Adjudicator’s Comment: You set the scene well through the use of dialogue and traditional trades which allowed the reader to place the story, timewise at least, with gothic / Victorian undertones. You have made good use of the market theme and the eeriness that is present around a deserted market at night time. The story has the feel of traditional folklore or campfire storytelling and this is a perfect choice. A small point with the formatting; please indent the first line of every paragraph apart from the first line in each section. This makes it much easier to read, especially as typescripts are usually presented in this way.

Overall, strong imagery and an enjoyable read.

The Coat by Bonnabelle Leftwich

 Adjudicator’s Comment: This story shows the relationship between mother and daughter and its effectiveness lies in experiencing the insight that the daughter, Lucy, is suddenly given. The mother’s memories build to make her a relatable character. The opening paragraph didn’t engage me, it felt as though you had tried too hard to make it stand out, but once the story moves on you settle into a more natural and fluent style. A small point with the formatting; please indent the first line of every paragraph apart from the first line in each section. This makes it much easier to read, especially as typescripts are usually presented in this way.

Overall, a warm story with a well thought out plot.

The Night Market by Peter Loftus

Adjudicator’s Comment: You set the scene well and the narrator has an engaging voice but the strength of this story is its plot; it kept me reading and you built a sense of anticipation. The final twist was unexpected and clever. The downsides were minor. I would have liked a little more foreshadowing. You also could have picked a more interesting title; quite a few entries were variations on The Market and ones with more intriguing titles were immediately more appealing. A small point with the formatting; please indent the first line of every paragraph apart from the first in each section. This makes it much easier to read, especially as typescripts are usually presented in this way.

Overall, a dark story which stayed with me long after I’d finished reading.

Traders by Mary Outram

Adjudicator’s Comment: This story immediately reminded me of a classic espionage thriller and you effectively built an atmosphere of mistrust and intrigue. Your writing shows a clear affinity with your genre. I think you could expand some of the scenes and descriptions and develop this into a longer piece.

Overall, a fast paced read from a writer with a good eye for detail.

The Trans Sahara Highway by Claire Wood

Adjudicator’s Comment: The way you link the two locations takes the reader smoothly from a British market, which is probably more familiar to most, to an African one. The comparisons are elegantly drawn and the story achieves poignancy and positivity. When I reached the end I wanted to read on. The major criticism is the story’s low word count and, for this reason alone, it almost missed being shortlisted. In general, for a short- story competition of up to 2000 words it is wise to be as close as you can to that limit without going over; 1800-2000 is ideal, however I shortlisted this for the strength of the writing and the beautiful sense of place. A small point with the formatting; please indent the first line of every paragraph apart from the first in each section. This makes it much easier to read, especially as typescripts are usually presented in this way.

Overall, sharply drawn with a strong sense of place.

MEMBERS COMP:

 

1st Place: The Market by Phillip Vine

Adjudicator’s Comment: This enigmatic story hooked me straightaway. I loved the dark humour and the Kafkaesque atmosphere. Very well paced, and lovely rhythmic touches in the sentence structure. Of all the entries, this had the strongest sense of voice. The open ending won’t be to everyone’s taste, and the last lines could have more impact. But the quirky concept and the confidence of your prose won me over. Congratulations!

2nd Place: Swipe Left by Kathy Joy

Adjudicator’s Comment: There’s a grizzly twist to this dark but gripping tale. Of all the entries this made cleverest use of the theme. The plot kept me guessing. Perhaps it’s a bit far-fetched (could she really spot predators so easily?). Also the flashbacks were sometimes confusing (try using pluperfect tense when you first go back in time). But the story stuck with me long after reading it, and the last line is wonderfully macabre! Well done.

3rd Place: Mr Dickens And The Bakewell Pudding by Phyllida Scrivens

Adjudicator’s Comment: What a quirky idea! Gorgeous food descriptions made me feel very hungry while reading this. Little details leapt off the page and really came to life. I loved the characters and believed in your world. But structurally it needs development. I’d definitely lose the footnote. Root us more firmly in Ann’s POV: she’s the heart of the story. But overall a joy to read, and it stuck in my memory too. Well done!

Commended:

 

The Pale Child by Iain Andrews

Adjudicator’s Comment: There’s some really fine writing here. We open with a hook, and the voice feels convincing. I love the premise and period atmosphere. But structurally it’s not quite ‘there’ yet, and overall I didn’t feel it was tense (or scary) enough. Rather a lot of dialogue and too little action – let us see the pale child for ourselves before we hear his story. But this dark little tale showed lots of promise and stuck with me after reading.


Congratulations to the winners! Your stories will all be featured in our anthology. We aim to publish this by December, however, we are all volunteers with out own time restrictions and responsibilities. We will make every effort to release the anthology as soon as we can. Updates will be posted Facebook and Twitter.

If you didn’t win this year, don’t worry. You’ll get another chance at next year’s competition. Theme and adjudicator tbc – keep your eyes on our page and social media for updates.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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Jumpin’ Jack Flash

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Our first meeting of new season kicked off in style with our speaker Keiron Pim, where he discussed how got started in his career, from starting out working for the EDP, to how he came to write a book about dinosaurs, to finally getting to work on his life’s obsession.

At the end, he graciously read from his book.

The NWC would like to thank Keiron for such an extensive and intriguing talk.

Thank you to everyone who came to the meeting.

 

 

 

 

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Goodbye until September…

The NWC has officially broken up for summer.

Our next meeting will be on 18th SEPTEMBER 2018 at 7:30pm at our new location in Chantry Hall.  

 

 

We have a full programme in store with manuscript evenings, workshops, and speakers including Emma Healey, author of Elizabeth is Missing, and Mitch Johnson, author of Kick.

If anyone has any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch: norwichwriters@hotmail.co.uk

And don’t forget your entry into the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition.

We hope everyone has a wonderful summer, and we hope to see you in September.

 

 

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Our last meeting of the season

Tuesday 3rd of July was our annual general meeting, and the last meeting of the season. It was also our last meeting at Anteros. In September we will move to Chantry Hall.

Other changes to the group include:

Door fees will be changing. Members will continue to pay £3, while guests will pay as follows:

  • Speaker evenings the door fee for guests will be £7.
  • Other meetings, including workshops and adjudications, will be £5.

It was also the time to give out the trophies to the winners throughout the year:

  • The Cooper Prize – Iain Andrews
  • Past Search Prize for Non Fiction – Phyllida Scrivens
  • Colin Sutton cup for Humour – Phyllida Scrivens
  • Overall Trophy – Phyllida Scrivens

 

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We hope everyone has enjoyed this season as much as we have, and we look forward to seeing you in September. The new programme is live on the website. Remember, we’re moving premises, so we will be meeting at Chantry Hall:

CHANTRY HOUSE MAP

CHANTRY HALL

 

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Change of Plan…

over here nwc blog

Due to a last minute cancellation by our scheduled speaker, our meeting on Tuesday 5th June will no longer be taking place. Instead the group will be attending ‘Made in Norfolk’ event in Mulbarton.

We will NOT be meeting at Anteros on Tuesday 5th June.

If anyone wishes to join us at the event in Mulbarton you are more than welcome. Tickets are £5 per person and can be purchased here:

https://mulbartonwords.yapsody.com/event/index/207251/made-in-norfolk

The rest of our meetings will take place as normal and according to the programme. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.