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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.

critique 1

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.

critique 3

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.

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Norwich Writers' Circle, Uncategorized

An Evening with Heidi Williamson

Members of Norwich Writers’ Circle were delighted to welcome award-winning poet and mentor Heidi Williamson to our meeting on Tuesday 16th January.  Heidi led an instructive and entertaining workshop on how the use of poetic techniques can improve both our prose and poetry.

Heidi

The group was challenged to join a number of free-writing exercises, demonstrating the use of sound, patterning, editing and silence.  Heidi encouraged us to experiment with the length of sentences, to read our work out loud when editing (where we get bored, the reader will get bored!), to seek stronger words to replace overused verbs.  We should look to improve both the rhythm and vocabulary in our sentences.

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Heidi recommended us to become absorbed in a different world, seeking out occupations or places that are out of our life experience, in order to expand our range.  Why not to go the dictionary, find ten random words and try incorporating them into a paragraph of free writing? Do not be afraid to repeat words for emphasis – poets often use patterning repetition to great effect.

Finally the group discussed the use of silence, pauses and tension in our writing, techniques more often found in poetry than in prose.

The workshop was inspiring and enlightening and Robin Parkinson thanks Heidi on behalf of the group.  During our refreshment break Heidi signed copies of her two anthologies, Electric Shadow and The Print Museum.

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

Six Honest Serving-Men

Ben Scott02For our meeting on the March 1st 2016 author of childrens books and creative writing tutor, Benjamin Scott took inspiration from Rudyard Kipling. Specifically, Kipling’s poem naming What and Why and When, How and Where and Who. And then he told us what to do.

The workshop’s theme was how perspectives of one event differ from character to character. Benjamin had us coming up with scenarios inspired by postcard images, giving voice to objects and landscape features, switching tenses and heads – first person to third. A very insightful exercise as it turned out.

Paul Taylor gave the vote of thanks.

Successes: Patricia has been commissioned to do another article for Flora International Magazine.

Notices: Things are moving along nicely in preparation for this year’s Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition. We’ve secured an adjudicator and sponsors, including Van Dal Shoes. More information will follow closer to the launch date. And again, if any members have someone they’d like to hear as guest speaker and can be approached, or would themselves like to present a workshop to the Circle, please tell the committee.

Norwich Writers' Circle

Different Perspectives

WordPress Benjamin Scott Author

Tuesday March 1st:  Hosted by children’s author and creative writing tutor, Benjamin Scott aka Max Chase, members are looking forward to another entertaining workshop. This Tuesday is Benjamin’s return visit, and he is all set with a series of exercises sure to inspire and unleash our hidden potential. We all know how good it is to experiment and succeed in genres we might not otherwise try.

Visitors are always welcome. Please be reminded that there is a door /admission fee for room hire. We look forward to seeing you at Anteros Arts Foundation at 7.30pm (doors open 7.00pm).

Norwich Writers' Circle

Exit, Stage Left

A big thank you to James Dimelow for his well-received workshop at our last meeting on Tuesday 3rd November. James’ workshop was entitled “Play Time” – and it certainly was! The playwright had members reading parts from a TV sketch or two, which had us laughing out loud. Ice truly broken, the work began.

Firstly, a workshop on character(s), for which James supplied us each with a “Simpsons” Top Trumps playing card for inspiration as we worked alone. A photograph shared then sparked inspiration in two workshops on settings: the composition of a monologue spoken by our creations, followed by a dialogue with our partners.

Punctuated by readings out, the whole evening was both productive and entertaining. And if that wasn’t enough, James also brought along handouts comprising tips, competition guidelines and suggestions, recommended reading as well as examples of script writing formats. So attendees can consider themselves well informed.

Norwich Writers' Circle

It’s Play Time

WordPress NewPlays.org.uk

November 3rd: A return to our normal haunt, The Assembly House in Norwich’s Theatre Street will see accomplished playwright and former committee member, James Dimelow, providing the fun. James will be treating us to his workshop, entitled “Play Time”.

James has penned six plays to date and received praise from London’s Soho and Royal Court theatres. “An urban Wicker Man” was how one review described his second script, Fall & Rise.

James’ workshop will herald our second in-house competition. In-house competitions can be entered free of charge by members. Non-members may also enter but must pay £3. James will be returning as speaker to deliver his adjudication of the competition on February 2nd which will include feedback to individual submissions’ authors. For full guidelines please click here: Competition Two.

Looking forward to seeing you all Tuesday. Don’t forget your pens and pads, now will you?