Showing posts with label feedback. Show all posts
Showing posts with label feedback. Show all posts

Thursday 7 January 2016

Getting Back Into Routine...

The first week back after major holiday times is always difficult for me. My regular routines are not all quite back in place yet.

So I'm easing myself back into the writing process this week.

I've dug out the short story I need to revamp for sending off. I must get my editing pens out and mark up the manuscript for changes- among them taking out repeated words in close proximity. Distance really does help the editing process.

At the moment I'm judging one of the quarterly prose competitions at the writers' club. So it's actually helpful I haven't completely slipped into full editing mode yet.

After the session I did on character bios (last year) I agreed to judge one of the members competitions on this subject. I wanted to be able to believe that their character could be out there, and those who have taken up the challenge have done well. I just need to finish the comments and print them out so they can be returned at this month's meeting, and the winner announced.

Then I have an entry to do for the club's winter prose competition. The words are swirling around my brain in quiet moments, so that will get done before mid-March when it has to be submitted.

There I was thinking I was being lazy... :D

Working time...

Image courtesy of supakitmod &

Monday 30 November 2015

Full Speed to Christmas...

Only 25 days to go...

Despite saying last year I'd start my Christmas shopping and card writing early, I haven't.

Honestly, the last months creeps up on you, and you wake up one Monday morning (today) and realise the countdown to Christmas has begun!!!

Though every time I cross something off my to do list, another task gets added.

My shredder has stopped working- so I've got to chase up the manufacturer- as it's not a year old yet. But of course, it happens when there's old, old paperwork to be cleared out.

I have a final few things to do for Awards Night on Wednesday. There's competition entries to be returned to members, along with the comments from the judges. So I have to sort them out.

It's always pleasing to look around the meeting room and notice a writer motionless, their head bent over their manuscript reading the comments, while around them there's noise and movement that they're oblivious to. Then when they look up there's a smile of pleasant surprise, that even though they didn't win they can work on improving the piece.

Until the New Year I'll be posting weekly- as I need to fit in all those regular Christmas tasks over the next 3 weeks.

If you've been doing NaNoWriMo, congratulations. Even if you didn't reach the target amount by today, 30th November, you'll still have learnt a lot from it, and have a story with potential waiting to be discovered.

Right, I'm off to get on with that list... :D

Sunday 8 November 2015

A Little Help from Your Friends...

The great thing about writers is that they are not only fun friends to have, but they are willing to share their knowledge to new and developing writers.

I know I wouldn't have improved without the generosity of experience of many current writers, and those who are no longer with us.

One of my roles at the writers' club is Prose Secretary; I find judges for our assorted competitions held throughout the year. The valuable comments each entry receives back helps the writers continue to develop their skills, and highlight where they may be going wrong- as well as what they are doing right.

So when I was tasked with finding a judge for the 2016 Nottingham Writers' Club, National Short Story Competition, I had a few potential people in mind.

I'm very glad to say that my first choice, a successful short story writer and novelist agreed to the job.

Admittedly, Patsy Collins sprung to mind due to her short story pedigree, plus the 2016 theme which is 'Fire'. Patsy just so happens to have released a new book- a few days ago- called 'Firestarter'. I have it ready to read on my Kindle.

I'm assured there's a hunky fireman involved... :D

You can find out more about Patsy's latest novel over on her blog Words about writing...

The club's national competition usually opens on the first day of the New Year, but for 2016 we're holding the submission period during February. And as next year is a leap year, there will be 29 days to submit entries, either online or by post.

PLEASE NOTE that only entries from writers residing in the UK can be accepted.

There are a few rules of course, so do read and follow them. Often newer and less experienced writers are put off entering competitions by the thought of competing against 'professionals'.

So the main criteria for anyone considering entry: if you've earned £300 or more from short story writing during 2015 please don't enter.

For more details about the 2016 competition, pop along to the page on the Nottingham Writers' Club website.

Firestarter- the new novel
from Patsy Collins

Thursday 4 December 2014

Winning is Great...

Now that Awards Night is over I can finally reveal that I won the Nottingham Writers' Club, Mary Street Memorial Shield for Romance Writing for 2014.

The Mary Street Shield is a bi-annual award that alternates with the Gwladys Bungay Rose Bowl for a Novel (any genre/subject); both require a synopsis and the first three chapters.

(The latter of the two ladies was published by Mills and Boon as Gwladys Duke in the 1960's.)

My winning story is actually a contemporary romance for a change- and my current work in progress.

The synopsis and first three chapters were written in just over six weeks, after my intended entry just wasn't working and it got temporarily shelved.

The contemporary idea had been lurking in my brain for some time, inspired by a book purchase, the cover instantly created a visual image in my mind, my heroine Felicity is stood looking up at a painting, and she's wearing an identical outfit to the woman in the portrait- and that moment eventually turns up in chapter four.

This competition was judged by Suzanne Ross Jones, who also writes as Suzanna Ross, and has had five My Weekly Pocket Novels published, (four now on Kindle), and lots of other published stories.

I'll admit now, there were a few minor points that would need a little work, but I agree with Suzanne's remarks regarding them.

Here's a bit of the feedback:

"I adore stories about writers and about libraries - and this has the best of both of those subjects. This is a traditional romantic set up and you've met my expectations of the genre with characters and situation. The writing is polished and assured and I was thoroughly entertained as I read the three chapters."

Now I have to admit that my hero is a little bit older than you usually get in romances, he's forty, but an attractive forty; Felicity is a thirty-two year old librarian, and has recently been made redundant from her job. Life is about to change for both of them...

"I was actually quite sad when I got to the end of chapter 3 - this is the sort of book that I'd like to read through at one sitting."

Now normally I'd have a picture of me with the trophy, but the shield got left behind when the other trophies were transported to the venue earlier in the day. It was only realised when we collected the silverware from the locked cupboard. So I'll be getting the actual shield in the New Year.

As it was also the Christmas party I dressed up in a seasonal colour.

NWC Awards Night 2014

And if you wondered what the book was that inspired the story, and the item that appears in it, well it's this...

Inspiration for my
winning story

I'm not going to tell you more, you'll just have to wait until I finish writing it, and it gets published. But this is the priority project for early 2015...

Saturday 8 November 2014

Learning from Feedback...

Finally had time to grab a moment to blog.

November is always a busy month with family birthdays, organising for Christmas, and the run up to Awards Night and Christmas Party at the writers' club.

I took on the role of Prose Secretary around this time last year just as a stop-gap, but I decided to carry on with the job, as next April I complete my three year stint as Chairman and have to hand over to whomever is standing for election to the role.

Occasionally I also get an opportunity to judge a competition- which I've just done.

Feedback is a vital tool in enabling writers to improve, and it was while I was typing up my notes that I realised how much I've learnt, not just from reading and writing, but from the generosity of other writers giving their time and experience- whether as a competition judge, during workshops, or even informative blog/website posts.

When I think back to my manuscripts 12 years ago, I can now see how much I've learnt- and still continue to learn of course.

I don't think we can ever have a total disconnection from our stories and characters, having lived with them so closely during the writing process. So a competition judge will be reading our work with a fresh perspective and will pick up the faults we might have missed. Because we know that's what our characters are thinking, it's easy to miss getting that over to our readers...

So in just under a month I'll be handing back a number of manuscripts from the club's annual competitions- ghost stories, romance, radio, and this year's non-fiction, article writing- and the first thing the majority of the writers will do is read the comments.

Admittedly we don't need to follow the judge's feedback completely, as there's bound to be things that we don't agree with- I was devastated one year when a judge said that one of my character's who was dead was the most interesting, and then the next judge who read it liked it, and awarded it first place.

My current work in progress was entered in this year's bi-annual Romance Novel competition, so the judge's comments on the synopsis and first 3 chapters will be very helpful when I get to the revision stages.

I'll tell you how my entry got on after the December 3rd evening...

Meanwhile there's still a lot to do, and writing to get on with. :-)

Monday 21 May 2012

My Short Story has Left Home...

It's been quite a few years since I last submitted a short story to a woman's magazine, so I have to admit to a few last minute jitters before I put the envelope in the post box...

I mentioned a few posts back that the story (I've been working on) was originally created in 2007 and had had quite a few revisions since then.

By last week I was finally happy and left it for a final reading this week, and to check for anything I'd missed.

Plus an objective writer/reader read through it to give me an honest opinion; they highlighted a bit of a dialogue/description issue for a minor character that needed looking at, but otherwise enjoyed it and didn't see any spelling or grammar errors.

I even gave it to one of my sons this morning to ask him what he thought- I don't usually ask family members to read my work- but he's the really creative one on my sons, so wouldn't need explanations of why I'd done such and such in the text. He said it was okay- which is as good a response as it will get...

I had the stamps and envelopes but I wasn't too sure of the final weight, as I didn't want it underpaid I went to the nearest post office and checked- 90g, so it was 10g within the large letter weight and I could use the stamps I'd bought before the late April price rise.
It was only 2,000 words, but a story with 3,000 words could probably be in the next price band.

So it's now on its way to Woman's Weekly.

I know it will now be a long wait, but my previous attempts have all been rejected by three months, even when the quoted time was four months.

I really feel confident about this story, so if it gets rejected, I think it won't be because it's a bad story, or lousy grammar and spelling. And if it is a no, it will then be winging its way to Alfie Dog Ltd, the short story download site, for their consideration.

I'm determined it will find a home.

Now I can get back to my longer projects...

Thursday 26 April 2012

The History and Future of my Short Story ...

This month I've been revising one of my short stories.

It was originally written as a 1,000 word story for a (new) annual competition at the writers' club back in late 2007. It didn't get anywhere, but I'd had to cut it to get it to the required length, and honestly it lost something.

So I decided to rewrite it and the total went up to about 1,500 words.

It got put aside and didn't reappear for a couple of years, until I decided to enter it in a sort of competition that Writers Forum was running with a few of the weekly women's magazines. I knew it wasn't good enough to be selected for publication- entry was free, but for a few pound you could get a critique from the judge.

The one page crit was really worthwhile and showed me how much I had right and what the niggles were- that I hadn't been able to pin down myself because I was too close to it, and inexperienced.

More time passed and after doing a workshop on short story writing for women's magazines, the tutor agreed to read and critique a story up to 2,000 words. She herself had sold lots of short stories to the women's magazine markets, and I'd read a couple of hers not long before the event and enjoyed them.

It was reassuring that the comments I received were more good news than bad. My story was almost up to a publishable standard, it just had a few minor areas that needed work.

In solving the first lot of weak points I'd created other small issues, but I was quite capable of solving them.

Since then it's gone through a couple of versions, but with time away from it and developing my writing and editing skills, I decided now was the time to make a final push at getting it finished and sent off, hopefully to be bought and published...

There were elements that I needed from three different versions of the story, so began the slow task of cutting and pasting the appropriate sections from each version. The plot was still the one I started with, but my characters had developed, and I'd discovered facts about them which I hadn't known all those years ago.

Yesterday (Wednesday) I finally completed the combining/rewriting as I went along stage. My story has now reached a length of 2, 040.

Now if I can just lose those forty words somehow, I'll be happy. So a final edit beckons.

The womag short story market has changed so much over the time I've been rewriting. The magazine it would have worked best for, no longer accepts submissions from new writers, and it's 50/50 for the second target market.

The other potential home may be the Alfie Dog Ltd short story download website. It's open for submissions and I know the editor won't accept substandard stories.

The writer earns money from their stories being purchased by readers- read the outline of how it works here, and royalty details here. The submission process is all online, so no postal costs are involved.

Whatever eventually happens to my short story, good news or bad, I'll let you know...

Thursday 19 January 2012

Best Laid Plans and Words..

This week just hasn't gone as I planned.

The plan for this week was: Monday- do any admin and any other outstanding tasks; Tuesday and Wednesday- concentrate on my Dorset novel.

Unfortunately one of my sons developed a bad infection in his injured knee-the result of  a slide on the AstroTurf in P.E last Friday. It was serious enough to need antibiotics, and of course he then experienced a few of the known side effects of the medication, usually whenever he moved about- dizziness and nausea. So he was home and I just couldn't concentrate as much as I needed to, when my brain was in worrying Mum mode rather than Writer mode...

This week was also manuscript night at the local writers' club.

I always enjoy hearing other writers' work, and Wednesday night's manuscript meeting turned into an interesting evening. A club competition judge had told a member that her monologue was not a monologue, but a story, and she wanted to know why her entry (that was then read out) wasn't the monologue she believed she'd written.

One of the long term members Phil C. suggested a brilliant description of what a monologue is- he calls it a 'think-alogue'.

I was leading the meeting last night, and was fortunate that everyone joined in, giving helpful feedback to the members reading their work (especially when they had specific knowledge of a targeted publication, subject or of a genre) and willingly sharing their insights.

Writers' groups don't suit everyone, but I know that I've learnt a great deal over the years from published members and visiting writers alike. Being able to enter competitions- especially in the first few years- where my efforts were among 8-14+ others, I didn't feel as intimidated and put off trying something that I might not have attempted without that impetus.

It's all about progressing as a writer and gaining confidence in your abilities, and it does take time.

Even now I'm still learning...

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Feedback is Important...

As you may know I've been waiting to hear what comments judge Sue Moorcroft wrote about my romance novel entry that won me the Nottingham Writers' Club  Romance novel trophy, late last year.
 (This was just the synopsis and first three chapters submitted.)

Well today I got the comments in the post (thanks to the club Prose Secretary, Christine).

Now I was stunned to win the award in the first place, so I was even more amazed when I read the judge's comments.

Like any feedback there are things I can do to improve the work, and there are certainly a number of those comments- many of which I was aware of, having had time away from the novel.

So I hope you and Sue don't mind me mentioning the really good comments. :-)

It has a "Thomas Hardy-esque plot" and the really pleasing bit for me, was this: "I get the feeling that I'll never be bored or find the action lacking. The writer has a good way with pace and momentum."

The dialogue 'shines out.'

And I've demonstrated 'excellent viewpoint control.'

"This is a promising opening, heavy on plot, pace and focus, and demonstrating a feeling for the nuances of craft."

The comments on the synopsis were as I expected, it was a bit more of a detailed synopsis (outline) than the basic version needed. (I know a good book to help sort that out.)

The feedback has certainly confirmed a few areas that I need to work on- as already mentioned.

The other less obvious value of the comments is this: confirmation of how much I've improved my writing skills, so I know my novel is progressing in the right direction.