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Another manuscript evening is around the corner.

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We will be holding a manuscript evening on Tuesday 6th March at 19:30 at Anteros Arts Foundation, 11-15 Fye Bridge St, Norwich NR3 1LJ.

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This will be a good place to put those critique skills from the previous workshop to good use!

Please bring in a maximum of 1000 words to be critiqued in the group. Work will be looked at it small groups, so please ensure that you bring 6 copies, double spaced, with the font at least 12pt and preferably Times New Roman, or Ariel.

If you do not have access to a printer, please email the piece you wish to work on to norwichwriters@hotmail.co.uk. Please be sure to use the subject ‘Manuscript evening’ and please include your name and the story title somewhere in email.

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Keeping it constructive

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“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.”

― Frank A. Clark

 

On Tuesday 6th February we ran a workshop on how to give a critique. Kathy Joy, who runs her own critique business called Fine Tune Your Fiction, walked us through the process.

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First, we discussed constructive criticism.

Kathy defined constructive criticism as having 5 main characteristics:

  • It is specific – it clearly states what the problem is, and why it is a problem.
  • It presents solutions instead of problems. 
  • It focuses on the work not the author.
  • It is never personal.
  • It makes no assumptions.

In addition, Kathy explained that these rules applied to both positive and negative criticism. Positive praise that is not specific and does not explain exactly what was so good and why is empty praise, which is a form of destructive criticism.

Next, the group was walked through how to assess a manuscript and give a critique in four simple stages:

  • First, the group was asked to read through the work. No markings or notes were allowed – the task was simply to take in the story and become familiar with what was happening, who the characters were, where it was set, and so on.
  • The second stage was using a red pen to highlight any weaker areas, but also be able to explain specifically what wasn’t working, and why.
  • The third stage was using a blue pen to highlight stronger areas. Once again attendees had to zero in on the specifics – what was good and why.
  • The final stage was to pick a single weak area and suggest a way to resolve it. This was the first and crucial stage to giving a critique.

critique-4.jpg“The most important part of any critique is to ensure your suggestions are not how you would do it if you were writing it, because it’s not your work. An editor’s job is not to impose their style on other authors but instead to cultivate an author’s voice, to refine it. To do this, you must look at the work and try to understand what the author was trying to do and think of a more effective way to achieve it that fits the existing content.”

-Kathy Joy

Everyone managed to highlight a specific weak area and most could come up with a possible solution to it.

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Overall the workshop went exceptionally well, with everyone learning something new, which can be applied going forward.

“Much like how reading more helps you become a better writer, so does learning to critique. Seeking out strengths and weaknesses in the work of others makes you more sensitive to it in your own work.”

-Kathy Joy

The NWC would like to thank everyone who attended.We would also like to thank Kathy for walking us through the process of analysing work and offering effective, constructive criticism.

Norwich Writers' Circle

Don’t Be A Stranger To Your Voice

It’s official!  On Tuesday 18th April, we officially launched this year’s Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition.  We were joined by Ralph Jackman, our adjudicator, Frank Meeres, author of Strangers: A history of Norwich’s incomers, and Charles Wilde, marketing and development manager for Norfolk Museums Service, who have kindly agreed to assist us with the competition this year.

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First, Frank Meeres gave a fascinating talk on some of the mysterious and intriguing ‘incomers’ into Norwich.

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Then it was up to our adjudicator to offer advice to prospective entrants:

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“I’m afraid, that if you have come today to glean what it is that the adjudicator will be looking for, or what kind of writing I like, then I’m afraid I’m not going to be very helpful.  Because the answer is I like such a wide range of writing, just as I do with music … When something’s good, it’s good.  It stands out.  It captures the reader.  It lingers in the memory afterwards.  So I encourage everyone, whatever their style, to give it their best, no one can ask more, but also to have the courage to submit.”

– Ralph Jackman

Ralph went on to detail his take on the theme, what sorts of images or ideas it conjured for him:

“A brief google of ‘stranger’ led me to the following: A person whom one does not know or with whom one is not familiar; A person who does not know, or is not known in a particular place or community; A person entirely unaccustomed to a feeling experience of situation.  What a broad palette this allows us … The first thing that crossed my mind, is how we were all strangers once, even to those who love us the most, not just our partners,  but our mums and dads, our brothers and sisters, our best friends.

How do we move from stranger, to dear friend?  Is there something there, to be explored?

Then in the news, Prince Harry spoke of the need to speak about his grief “even to a total stranger” and I thought, what is it about strangers, that we can open up to them? Why is it, that we can share with them our deepest secrets or worst pain?

What other opportunities does meeting a stranger bring? A chance to start again? A chance to pretend, to assume a different persona.

People deliberately move, uproot their entire lives, in order to become a stranger, as a means to start again, to protect themselves from painful memories, or distance themselves from sins of the past.

So being a stranger can, on the one hand, feel lonely, isolated, even frightening.  But on the other hand, it can be desired, wanted, liberating.  Celebrities might seek to be a stranger, to escape the recognition, and they haven’t necessarily sinned … Then I thought how interesting it is, that even in the modern world, with the internet, mobile phones and the like, it’s still possible to be a stranger.  The mask of the internet allows people to hide who they really are.”

– Ralph Jackman

So in short, there is no secret formula that will pique the adjudicator’s interest.  The best way to set yourself above other entrants is to write the story you want to tell and tell it well.  The theme of ‘strangers’ allows for a variety of different interpretations and there are countless ways to explore it.

“I am open to all styles and all genres. 2000 words is not a large number, but it’s enough to change a reader’s life … This does not mean your stories must make the world a better place but perhaps it needs to have entertained, or been thought-provoking – something that makes it an experience … Don’t try to second-guess what I might like. Write a story that you want, in the manner that you want it to be told.  Ultimately, don’t be a stranger to your voice.”

– Ralph Jackman

With this in mind, we wish all entrants the best of luck!

For full details of the competition, including terms and conditions, please visit the competition page.

Remember if your entry wins, not only do you have the chance to win a cash prize, but also see your work in print in a future anthology.

The anthology containing the winning entries of the 2015 and 2016 competitions is available to buy at our meetings or online at: http://www.lulu.com/shop/various-authors/norwich-writers-circle-anthology-2017-stepping-out/paperback/product-23103350.html

Copies are £7 each plus postage (where applicable).

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The NWC would like to thank Frank Meeres for giving his talk, the Norfolk Museum Services for their generous offer of help – particularly Charles for coming to the gala and for his steadfast support.  Finally, we would like to thank Ralph Jackman for his enthusiasm and thoroughness, as well as for agreeing to be our adjudicator.

Norwich Writers' Circle

Meet Ralph Jackman

On Tuesday 4th April, Ralph Jackman, author of Actium’s Wake, is coming to give a talk to the NWC.

Ralph will be talking about his career and answering any questions.

If you would like to meet him, and chat and with other writers at the group, please come along to our meeting at Anteros Arts Foundation on Fye Bridge Road Norwich.  The meeting starts at 7:30 PM.  Light refreshments will also be served.

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Don’t forget, Ralph will also be out adjudicator for the Olga Sinclair Short Story Competition.

We hope to see you there!

Norwich Writers' Circle

Slanting The Truth

On Tuesday 7th March we welcomed Sally Craythorne (S. E. Craythorne), author of How You See Me, to give a talk on reliable narrators.

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Her talk was informative and fun and everyone learned that no narrator can truly be trusted.

“We want things to make sense.  So if something doesn’t make sense we kind of pull it into the schema of our knowledge …  Memory is an active process and can be therefore unreliable.  If you’ve got a first-person narrator recounting a story, it’s their story, it’s probably not truth, even if you’re making it up.  They will be fallible.”

– Sally Craythorne

Sally went on to describe the five main types of unreliable narrators:

1. The Picario:

A narrator who exaggerates and brags.

Example: Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

2. The Madman

A narrator with a mental impairment.

Example: Before I go to Sleep by S. J Watson.

3. The Clown

A narrator who does not take narration seriously and deliberately plays with the subject of the narration.

Example: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

4. The Naive

An immature narrator with a limited POV – this could be a child.

Example: Until I Find You by John Irving.

5. The Liar

An in-tune narrator with a sound knowledge who deliberately lies and misrepresents events, usually events or actions they don’t want to reader to know about.

Example: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.

“… traditionally all narrators are unreliable to some extent and that’s part of the joy of reading them – that you get carried away with the story and then you go ‘hang on, do I know this person at all?’.  But … if you do want to make your narrator unreliable, which is really good fun, you have to believe in them.  You have to think about the fact that your reader has to read that book all the way to the end … Their unreliability is to make them real rather than to make them completely unreadable.”

– Sally Craythorne

With this in mind, we then discussed our fourth competition of the year: The Ivy Ferrari Cup.  Traditionally, this contest was for romance fiction but in recent years it evolved to focus on strong, central female characters.

So, what is Sally looking for in winning entries?

First, all entries must follow the theme of motherhood.  This can be a mother, either biological or foster/adoptive.  It could follow somebody with motherly qualities who cares for another person who does not have to be a child or even related.  This person could be a grandmother, or friend, or even a nurse.  It is up to you to explore and bring out the fullest of this theme – the only stipulation is that the character must be female.

Sally is specifically looking for:

  • Diversity
  • Believable characters
  • Good story

The story must also be fiction but it can be any genre.  Although Sally is looking for realism, she is happy for any genre ranging from contemporary to sci-fi.

Your narrator does not need to be unreliable either.

As the word limit is only 2000 words, it is advisable to stick to a minimal cast of characters.

The deadline for the contest is 4th April. Entry is free to NWC members, or £3 for non-members.  For full details of the competition, please visit the competition page.

The NWC would like to thank Sally for her thought-provoking talk and excellent advice.  We would also like to thank everyone who attended.

Our next meeting is Tuesday 21st March at the Anteros Arts Foundation.  Phyllida and Gill will announce the winners of the Impressing the Publisher competition.

We hope to see you there!

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Norwich Writers' Circle

A Productive Evening

Our manuscript evening on Tuesday 21st February was a success.  We welcomed three visitors and one new member.

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We tried a slightly different format than usual, breaking off into smaller groups.  Those who brought work waited for each member of the group to read it and then received feedback.  Overall, the evening was productive, enjoyable and informative.

We had the pleasure of reading poetry, fantasy, historical fiction, young adult, comedy, biography, academic and science fiction.

Our next manuscript evening is 20th June.

In the meantime, our next meeting is Tuesday 7th March.  Not only will we be launching our third competition of the year, but S. E. Craythorne, the adjudicator, will be giving a talk about the joys and struggles of working with an unreliable narrator as well as exploring how ‘reliable’ any realistic narrator can be.

We hope to see you there.

Norwich Writers' Circle

Manuscript Evening

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We’re having a manuscript evening on Tuesday 21st February.  Attendees will be able to read their work in small groups and receive constructive feedback.

You can bring poetry, fiction, non-fiction – whatever you’re working on, we’d love to read it!

If you are interested in joining us, please bring a sample of no more than 750 words of your work.  You will need to bring six printed copies so they can be handed out for feedback.

If you do not have access to a printer, Phyllida Scrivens, our chair, has kindly offered to print them out and bring them to the meeting.  Please email them with the subject ‘manuscript evening’ to:

phyllida.scrivens@icloud.com

Please include your name and the title of your work in the email to make it easier to hand them out on the night.

Our meeting will be at 7:30pm at Anteros Arts Foundation on Fye Bridge Street in Norwich, opposite The Mischief Pub.

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We look forward to seeing you.

Norwich Writers' Circle

A Promising Proposition

On Tuesday 17th January we had our first meeting of 2017.  We kicked the new year off with a bang when our very own Phyllida Scrivens and Gill Blanchard launched the third competition of the year: Impressing the Publisher.

To begin, Gill and Phyllida offered some excellent advice on how to create a proposal with a good hook that will pull the publisher or agent in, offering samples of their own proposals to help.

The evening was capped off with a workshop.  First we wrote the start of our proposal synopsis, focusing on ‘the hook’. Gill and Phyllida advised that the hook could be a quote, the first couple of sentences or short an extract from the book that conveys something of what it is about and makes the reader want to know more.

Next came the hard part: giving and taking criticism from the group.  This went very well, with many participants receiving helpful pointers and suggestions from their peers.

Finally, Gill and Phyllida rolled out the competition.

To enter the competition you must submit a proposal for either a fiction or non-fiction book.  The guidelines are as follows:

1,000 words maximum

These 1000 words should consist of:

1). Synopsis: 200 – 300 words

  • Chapter outline & synopsis of plot/premise

2). Author Biography: 50 to 100 words

3). Marketing 50 to 100 words

  • Concept, audience, social media

4). Sample (remainder up to 1,000 words)

  • If you choose to submit a proposal for non-fiction, your sample should consist of a detailed chapter plan.
  • If your proposal is for a fiction story, your sample should be an extract from first chapter.

The maximum size of your sample will depend on how many words you used for the synopsis, author biography and marketing.

For example, if your synopsis is 250 words, your biography 100 words and your is marketing is 50 words, you will have used 400 of your 1000 words, leaving you 600 words for your sample.  There is no minimum for the sample, so you could write less than the amount of words you have left, but you need to ensure that what you have written has a good hook and captures your story.

Phyllida and Gill also offered a little advice on what publishers and agents are looking for when considering a proposal:

  • Originality.
  • Fresh voice and new insight.
  • Why you, and only you, can write this particular story.

If you want to enter the competition, email your entry to norwichwriters@hotmail.co.uk

The deadline is 21st February.  For more details visit the contest page.

Norwich Writers' Circle

The Christmas Party

Saturday 17th of December was our annual group Christmas party and it was wonderful to see so many faces.  There was food and drink aplenty, and everyone had great fun.

 

After tucking into some delicious food, the group played a few rounds of ‘The Connecting Wall’, which was organised by Paul Tayor.  The game was inspired by the BBC program ‘Only Connect’.  Special thanks to Paul for putting this together.

At the end of the evening, everyone went home with a raffle prize, a Christmas hat and, we hope, a little extra Christmas cheer!

Our next meeting will be January 17th 2017, where Gill Blanchard and Phyllida Scrivens will launch Competition 3: Impressing the Publisher.

We hope to see you there!

 

 

 

 

Norwich Writers' Circle

Competition 1 Winners

On Tuesday 6th December, Norwich Writers’ Circle welcomed back Dr. Susan Burton to adjudicate our first competition of the 2016-17 season.  The competition was to write a personal profile or non-fiction character study and the winner would be awarded the Annual Past Search Prize for Non-Fiction sponsored by Gill Blanchard of www.pastsearch.co.uk.

After a thorough and comprehensive assessment of the entries, including an invaluable tip on detecting the difference between Personal Memory and Collective Memory during an interview, Dr. Burton announced the winners.

  • 1st  Phyllida Scrivens with ‘Christopher’, a study of a man with Down’s Syndrome who spent a year of his life as official consort to the Lord Mayor of Norwich.
  • 2nd Anne Funnell  with ‘The Hernia Hedge’, a study of Mary Manning, Norfolk Gardener who kept records for over 60 years of when certain plants first flower each year and who had visited Anne’s garden to identify plants.
  • 3rd Maureen Nisbet with ‘Victoria Refused to Fall’, a study of a woman called Joan from Leamington and her life during WW2.  In the discussion afterwards Maureen admitted that Joan was her mother.

The authors read their entries aloud to the meeting, followed by a humorous reading by Iain Andrews of a fictional magazine interview with medieval character Will Kemp.

The entertaining evening finished with the raffle and refreshments.

Our next meeting is Saturday 17th December and it will be our Christmas party!  There will be drinks and a buffet.  The party will be held from 4pm -7pm in our usual spot in Anteros.  Members and guests are more than welcome.  There will also be a raffle with some fantastic prizes up for grabs.

We hope to see you there!

 

phyllisa
Chairman Phyllida Scrivens, winner of the Past Search Prize for Non-Fiction 2016-17