Writing Groups: Giving Feedback

by Ekaterina Fawl

I’ve already talked about the joys and challenges of receiving feedback graciously (even if it’s not the glowing praise you expected!) and using it to improve your piece (even if the comments aren’t as helpful as you might have hoped). Now it’s time to turn the tables… Let’s delve into the art of giving feedback! How can we do that without crushing our fellow writers’ spirits, while giving them our honest opinion? How do we organise our thoughts? How do we provide the most useful and thoughtful feedback the writer can get?

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The Spur: writing motivations.

by Cathryn Burge

I started writing to win an argument. Or rather, I started sharing my writing because I wanted to win an argument. I’d been writing in secret since I was ten. I’d got into this argument on an online forum about Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a TV show about which I was (and am) fiercely passionate. I forget the precise topic of the debate; all I remember is jaw-clenching, hair-tearing-out frustration at my inability to get my opponent to see reason. Viz: agree with me. To my mind, I was being rational and clear, quoting closely from the show. To my opponent, I was simply wrong. Continue reading

The Art of Letter Writing

by Bon Nightingale

[This week’s blog post is by guest blogger Bon Nightingale who, at 96, still corresponds regularly with friends and family and members of her church. She writes for us about the (nearly) lost art of letter-writing, and the part it’s played in her life.]

I remember when I was seven, my father gave me a pencil box. Oak, with a slide-top. It had compartments inside for pencils and rubber. It smelled of wood, like my dad’s workshop.

I started writing letters to my Grandma – my father’s mother. I went to her for music lessons, and we’d write little notes to each other. At school I enjoyed dictation, the pleasure of forming letters and sentences. I remember writing ‘A Day in the Life of a Cat’ for a composition exercise, and got in trouble because my imagination ran away with me. My cat lived a day as a human. He went on an adventure on a boat. My work was marked with the dreaded ‘see me’ from the teacher, who told me off for using too much imagination. After that I stuck to more factual writing. Continue reading

Festival season is here!

by Helen Kenwright

This Friday, 16th March, the Writing Tree are delighted to be providing a ‘Writing for Fun’ workshop at York Literature Festival.

I’m feeling a great sense of excitement –  and not just our event, but because the Festival is one of the highlights of my year.  There are over 350 literary festivals held in the UK each year, and I always look forward to York’s Festival, which takes place from 15th to 26th March at various venues across the City.  This year there’s an added sense of excitement for us, as the Writing Tree not only makes its debut at the Festival with the workshop, but also with a spot at the HUB Bookstall on 19th,  where we will be officially launching the paperback of ‘Forest‘.

As writers it’s easy to become isolated and invisible, and a festival is a great opportunity to see that we’re not alone, but part of a thriving creative community. For a couple of weeks each spring, I do my utmost to tap into the opportunity to be inspired, to learn and to find new friends in the world of local writers.

The Hay Festival (referred to by The Guardian as “the Glastonbury of literary festivals“) is now regularly televised for its interviews with famous authors.  I’m looking forward to York’s headliners, including TV historian Lucy Worsley talking about Jane Austen, local MAN Booker nominated writer Fiona Mozley and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, author of ‘The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain’. But what inspires me even more are the ‘fringe’ events: the workshops, the stand-up poets, the open mic events, the opportunity to hear from the small indie publishers and self-published authors who one might not discover otherwise. I always come away with new ideas, new skills and a refreshed appreciation of how many talented writers there are out there. We may not all have that top spot at Hay in our sights, but we share a love for our craft, for books and writing, and the opportunity to celebrate that each year is precious.

If you can’t join us in York, I hope you have a similar event you can get to in your own locality. Or if not, we will do our best to inspire you here at the Writing Tree all year long!

The Joy of Restraints: deadlines, themes and wordcounts.

BY CATHRYN BURGE

In theory, writing a story which might be included in an anthology seemed like a wonderful idea. In practice, it seemed like a very stupid one. Once I’d decided to go for it, every single story seed I’d ever had promptly withered and died. I wandered around for days trying to shake something promising out of my brain, but to no avail. Cue self-doubt and panic: I’d blithely committed myself to producing something and I couldn’t even think of anything suitable, let alone write it. Worse still, there was a deadline, an absolute date by which I’d agreed to submit a story for publication. It seemed like the only answer might be gin.

Forest. I rolled the word around my brain as I walked the dog. What sprang to mind when I heard the word ‘forest’? What pictures formed in my head?

Teddy bears. Yep, teddy bears. ‘If you go down to the woods’ and all that, swiftly followed by Goldilocks and axe-men intent on lopping the heads of princesses at the behest of jealous step-mothers. Ridiculous, I told myself; you’ll have to think again. Continue reading

Writing Groups: Taking Feedback

by Ekaterina Fawl

Being in a writing group is tons of fun. Socialising with like-minded people, getting to read their first drafts and workshop their stories as they take shape, getting a glimpse of others’ creative processes – all amazing experiences. But sooner or later comes the time do that what you have ostensibly joined the group for: receive feedback on your own writing.

You might dread it, or can’t wait to hear what the others think, or some healthy combination thereof. But the fact is, taking feedback and effectively using it to improve the story and your writing as a whole is a skill in itself. If you’re new to it, there’s quite a lot to learn there.

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New Branches

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This is a very exciting week for the Writing Tree, as we launch our publishing branch, Writing Tree Press, with a collection of short stories from brand new writers, ‘Forest’.

The stories cover a range of genres, including fantasy, horror and romance.

You can buy Forest as an e-book on Amazon or Smashwords, with a print copy available in February. We hope you enjoy!

We’ve also relaunched our website with information about all the services we now offer, including one-to-one tuition, coaching and editing services, along with our Creative Writing Kickstart course, which is now open for enrolments for a start in April.

Have a browse and a read, and we hope you enjoy all the new shoots on the Writing Tree have to offer!

 

Crafting a poem: an insight

by Susi Liarte

In this post I’m going to cover how I usually approach writing poems. It’ll be reflective of the type of poetry I like to read and write, which is short, rhythmic poems that try to capture some imagery or poignancy. There is no ‘knowledge’ required of types of poetry and it is not my aim to cover that in this post, so I’ll be using very little terminology. I’ll work on doing that in another post. With that out of the way, let’s start!

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The Writing Squad

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by Ekaterina Fawl

Writing is a lonely pursuit. There’s really no way around it: when it’s happening, it’s just paper – or the screen – and you. We have the company of our characters, of course. We draw constant, invaluable mentorship and inspiration from our favourite authors. But there’s nothing quite like sharing your stories with actual real people.

Unless you’re already a successful writer, swamped by fanmail, you might struggle finding readership. Your Mum might read your latest masterpiece, but you might not get much more than “That was nice, dear” in terms of feedback. It might be time to discover local members of your secret tribe of mad scribblers and join a writing group. Continue reading

Journalling

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by Helen Kenwright

Most of the writers I know have a stack of notebooks that live a quiet life, sitting on a shelf or in the deep darkness of a drawer or chest. Doomed to be unwritten in, simply because they’re ‘too pretty to use’. I confess I have this problem myself. I can’t resist a pretty notebook, and generous friends buy them for me, too. But then I buy a stack of cheap, plain ones to write my drafts in. Workhorses. Ordinary enough that I won’t mind crossings out and bad handwriting and all that messy stuff that happens when you’re crafting something. Continue reading

No writer is an island

by Cathryn Burge

If there’s an opinion piece type that’s guaranteed to raise my blood pressure, it’s one in which the author pontificates about How To Write – particularly if their pontificating is dressed up as well-meant advice. And there are lots of articles like that out there, especially on the internet. Here, have a small selection:

  • If I’m reading a Western story and the author has tried to render the characters’ accents phonetically via non-standard spelling, I stop reading. Please don’t.
  • I don’t judge … well, actually, I do. I stopped reading a romantic story when the author thought the expressing ‘sucking face’ would make a nice change from ‘kissing’. It didn’t.
  • Careless spelling in summaries augurs ill for a story. ‘Adam’s proposal peeked Rickard’s interest’. Peeked. PEEKED. Someone please tell the author the word they were looking for was ‘piqued’.
  • Another phrase I’m sick of reading is ‘their tongues fought for dominance’.

Don’t get me wrong: we (almost) all do it. We look at other writers’ work and pass judgement on it. After all, why shouldn’t we? Developing the ability to differentiate between what works and what doesn’t can help us make our own writing better. But how can we be sure of what’s ‘good’ and what’s ‘bad’? What standards do we use to guide us? Continue reading

The Writer’s Cooldown

by Helen Kenwright

So, how was Nanowrimo for you? Or perhaps there’s another big writing project you’ve recently finished?

One of the criticisms sometimes directed at Nanowrimo is that it can cause writer burn-out. Hopefully if you’ve followed the advice in Ekaterina’s blog post last month you won’t have succumbed to total mental and physical exhaustion. But there can be an aftermath to be dealt with, and in this post we give you some advice to help move forward from the experience, however it went, and keep writing into the future. Continue reading

Review: Lights, Camera, Fiction!

Lights, Camera, Fiction! by Alfie Thompson

reviewed by Susi Liarte

In this post I’m going to write about why I love this book, what it offers (and what it doesn’t) and how it can help writers among the many other writing books out there. I haven’t read any of the author’s other books, but I know she has published one called Writing for the Reader which I’m interested in checking out next.

Lights, Camera, Fiction! packs a lot into a slim, 250 page volume. Its tagline is “A movie lover’s guide to writing a novel”. The book approaches the subject by analysing several well-known films and picking out different aspects such as character and plot in order to showcase what they do well, and how this can work for novels as well as screenwriting. The core structure pairs one film for each topic as follows, but references and examples to other films are scattered throughout. Continue reading

NaNoWriMo, your wrists and the triumph of common sense

by Ekaterina Fawl

My first NaNoWriMo was a wild ride.

I’d heard about this challenge from a friend. They weren’t doing it that year; all my questions as to why not were met with hollow laughter.

I decided to give it a try, and do it all by myself. I didn’t join the website, thinking it would just upset me if the Internet recorded my early failure for the posterity. I didn’t think I needed a writing buddy, or any kind of community support. All I needed was write 1667 words a day for a month. Easy.

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