Again for the second fortnight in a row we both welcomed and said goodbye to members of WLW. Sadly tonight was Robert’s last meeting as he will be moving to Hartlepool in the new year. However, WLW welcomed Scott to the group who recently had one of his scripts turned into the movie Electric Man.
The only other bits of new this week is that we confirmed that the award winning Jane McKie will be attending WLW on the 24th of January where she will do an hour workshop around poetry before looking over the pieces that will be read that evening. We hope everyone can make it.
Finally as the next meeting will be the last one before Christmas, we would like people to come along with Christmas themed poems and stories. Limit of 500 words please.
Of the eight people there tonight six read. Their pieces were:
Tension – a tale of someone trying to escape by Barbara.
Electric Man – a scene from Scott’s film. Jazz and Lauren chat about life, love and comics.
Two Poems – Robert read a couple of poems he wrote for a couple of religious cards many years ago.
Edible Seashore and The House at Scraggy End - Anne presented two pieces she recently wrote at a writing retreat. The first Edible Seashore was an attempted Haku about the beach at Kippford. The House at Scraggy End is a short story about the year in the life of a house.
The End You Want – A short story by Stephen. On a late night bus journey two people come together.
The Allotment Society - Finally for tonight, Eric read the next part of his novel. After the slightly murderous accident at the quarry, Daniel heads into a local town trying to find a bed and breakfast.
Why Fictions Freest Genres Need Its Most Rigid Rules is a great article by Tasha Robinson over at the AVClub.com discussing the ‘rules’ of a story, especially science fiction, horror, and fantasy. They look at both good examples – the new Stephen King novel 11/22/63 - and the many bad examples – Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and In Time.
The core of the article is that it is hard for writers of speculative fiction to set rigid rules as their genres have the most freedom. If they do not then they can end up losing the audience’s goodwill and destroy that most important thing, suspension of disbelief.
I would totally recommend a read of Why Fictions Freest Genres Need Its Most Rigid Rules for any writer. Please be warned that it does contain spoilers for a number of films and books.
Tasha Robinson is national associate editor of AVClub.com who first published the article on the 14th of November 2011.
Here is an article from Daily Writing Tips that will provide Five Tips to Clean Up Your Writing from a grammetical point of view. The tips are:
- Always Use Serial Commas - The policy of preceding every item in a list but the last one with a comma is commonsensical. Confusion is possible when you don’t and highly unlikely when you do. Adherence to serial-comma style eliminates any chance of a dilemma.
- Minimise Capitalisation - Job titles are capitalized only before names. Names of academic majors aren’t capitalized unless they are already proper nouns, like names of languages (“English”) or references to regions (“Asian studies”). Generic names of entities (“the hospital,” “the organization,” and so on) are lowercased.
- Repair Comma Splices - A comma alone cannot separate two independent clauses in a sentence. Break the clauses into distinct sentences, or separate them with a semicolon or an em dash — or a comma and a conjunction (and, or, and so on) — but not with a comma alone.
- Omit Extraneous Hyphens, and Insert Necessary Ones - “Decision making,” “problem solving,” and similar compound nouns require no hyphen, unless they precede a noun as a compound modifier (“decision-making procedure,” “problem-solving aptitude”). “Near collision” and other similar constructions don’t, either, with the same exception (“near-collision statistics”). Established compound modifiers usually don’t require a hyphen even before a noun (“high school student”). Confused? Here’s a simple rule: Look it up.
- Limit Displays of Emphasis - Words can be italicized to indicate that they are being used to refer to themselves, not the things they stand for (“Note the word emphasis”), or to signal a foreign term (“Wunderbar” means “wonderful”), or to make sure the reader understands that something is really important. Words can be initial-capped to indicate irony or other humorous intent. (“The rent-a-cop exuded the air of an Authority Figure.”) Boldface is appropriate for introducing new vocabulary or otherwise calling attention to an unfamiliar term but is best limited to textbooks and guidebooks. But all-caps are invariably excessive, “scare quotes” are seldom necessary, and be judicious about otherwise calling attention to words and phrases.
As always we are interested to see what you think of these points. Please comment below!
The fifth author in The Guardian‘s list of Ten Rules For Writing Fiction is Helen Dumore. She is a poet, novelist and children’s writer. During her career she has won a number of prizes including the Orange Prize. Sadly she only offers up nine rules but they are still very useful:
- Finish the day’s writing when you still want to continue.
- Listen to what you have written. A dud rhythm in a passage of dialogue may show that you don’t yet understand the characters well enough to write in their voices.
- Read Keats’s letters.
- Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn’t work, throw it away. It’s a nice feeling, and you don’t want to be cluttered with the corpses of poems and stories which have everything in them except the life they need.
- Learn poems by heart.
- Join professional organisations which advance the collective rights of authors.
- A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk.
- If you fear that taking care of your children and household will damage your writing, think of JG Ballard.
- Don’t worry about posterity – as Larkin (no sentimentalist) observed “What will survive of us is love”.
Tonight’s meeting saw seven people including a new member Barbara. Sadly it was also David’s last meeting as he is moving Midlothian. West Lothian Writers wish him well with his work in the future especially his novel The Mechanician’s Apprentice.
We are also proud to announce that local author Jane McKie, who recently won the Edwin Morgan Poetry Prize, will hopefully be presenting a workshop on the 24th of January next year. We will confirm the details at the next meeting.
The pieces read tonight were:
The Mechanician’s Apprentice – a novel extract from David. The king decides that Pip should have a name more in keeping with his new standing and Pip is secretly delighted with the choice.
A Brother’s Shadow - another chapter of Norman’s novel. Alec Keller was so happy to receive a reprieve from bully Terry Vance that he further attempts to impress him with his pick pocketing skills.
Grey Roots - a poem from our newest member Barbara comparing life and aging to the changing seasons.
She’s Always A Woman to Me - Chris read the first chapter of a possible novel . A young man in the office falls for the new girl and nervously attempts to get to know her.
*untitled* – Eric read a humorous short story about a young girl getting the wrong end of the stick on so many counts.
*untitled* – Robert read a very short story, about 130 words, about a grumpy budgie who ‘succeeds’ in obtaining his wish to leave home.
*untitled* - Finally Jenifer read a short piece about children’s literal understanding of one of the Beatitudes.
The next meeting of West Lothian Writers will be on Tuesday 29th of November from 7-9 pm at the usual location:
Nether Dechmont Farm
If you are not sure where you are going either type the above post code into your sat nav or follow the map below.
Cost £2 (£1 concession)
Hope to see you there
“If you read a lot of books, you’re considered well read. But if you watch a lot of TV, you’re not considered well viewed.”
Clare Dowling has written over 100 episodes for Irish Soap Fair City so who better for Writing.ie to ask for Tips for Writing For TV. Remember having the great idea is only the start. Turning into a piece of television is far harder. Clare’s tips are:
- Watch telly. This seems very obvious, but you’ll find your best teacher on the TV screen in front of you. Transcribe episodes of your favourite TV or buy the script book.
- Every scene should have a purpose; that is, it reveals some new information that drives the drama on. If it doesn’t earn its place, or has the whiff of a ‘filler’ scene about it, then be brutal.
- The importance of biography and scene breakdown. Di Burrows, writer and producer, who has written for shows like ‘Bad Girls’ and ‘Footballers Wives’ says “Depending on your favoured way in, begin with biographies for your characters (so you know who they are, what drives them and how they’re connected to each other) and a synopsis of your story with a clear arc – beginning, middle and end. Once you’re happy with your synopsis, progress to a scene breakdown – a brief outline of scene content.”
- Layer your drama. While a scene may have a particular story point to deliver, there can be ten other things going on the background that make your story meatier. When you’re looking for these complexities, it can help to see where each character is at in any given scene. Then you have material to play with.
- Create interesting characters. It doesn’t matter if your idea is explosively brilliant; if your central character is a cliché, or a dull plodding soul that your viewers will find difficult to identify with. Characters that are complex and layered work best; they’re likely to react differently in different situations, to have love/hate relationships with other characters, and basically provide you with plenty of fodder as you go along.
- Beware of the remote control. Readers of books tend to be forgiving about lengthy, scene-setting expositions; television viewers will probably just zap across to the X-Factor. Construct your opening scenes to make them as punchy as possible. For series and soaps, it’s best to start with short, pacy scenes, and save the lengthier stuff for later on.
- Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. This one is probably the most painful. After the exhilaration and rush of getting that first draft down on paper, the hard work of editing begins. Be your own worst critic; if a word, a look or a scene isn’t working then go at it again until it does – or else cut it out entirely.
- Dialogue isn’t everything. While it certainly helps to have cracking dialogue, it’s only one element of storytelling; you need to write visually too. It’s the old rule of Show Don’t Tell. When scenes regularly run to five or six pages of dense dialogue, you might want to decide whether it’s better suited to the stage than the screen.
- Write other things. It can be difficult to break into the television market. Many television writers are very experienced in other areas of writing; few land a TV gig without having written anything before. Writing for other genres requires different writing skills, but common to all are the basics of character and plot development, and the construction of a story arc.
- Try to be original. This doesn’t necessarily mean coming up with the next highly original hit TV series (although that would certainly help). It’s about finding new ways of telling old stories; of discovering and developing your own screen voice. Everybody has a distinct style, whether writing original television or as part of a writing team.
- Buy some screenwriting books or do a course. If you’ve never tackled a television script before, it can be quite different from other genres. There are technicalities, such how to format the script correctly (different television companies will have different rules), what to do about commercial breaks, and how to write for the camera without acting like a director on the page. It can be easy to get bogged down in it, so it’s a good idea to get some training, in the form of a good television writing course or pick up one of the many books on the subject. Also, maybe join a writers group and get some feedback from others on.
As always for the full details go to Tips for Writing For TV over at Writing.ie. Clare Dowling is a best-selling author and scriptwriter for RTE’s Fair City. Her new book, ‘Would I Lie to You’, is out in February. The article first appeared on Writing.ie on November 2011.
According to Daily Writing Tips the following 10 Intensifiers You Should Really Absolutely Avoid. Whether you do or not is very much up to you but they suggest that doing so will strengthen your writing. The terrible ten are:
- Absolute: The original sense of absolute is “ultimate,” but now it is weakly used as an intensifier. There are similar issues with “outright” and “unquestionable.”
- Awesome: Originally, something awesome inspired awe but is now used to describe almost anything.
- Fabulous: This adjective, derived from fable, once referred to sensory stimuli one might expect to encounter in a flight of fancy. It’s long since been appropriated to describe extravagant fashion sense or, more mundanely, notable accomplishments.
- Fantastic: Avoid using as a synonym for excellent; senses such as “unbelievable,” “enormous,” and “eccentric” are truer to the source.
- Incredible: As with fantastic, usage of this word has strayed far from the original meaning of something that does not seem possible. Only if a story literally cannot be believed is it authentically incredible.
- Magnificent: Something magnificent was originally grand or sumptuous, exalted or sublime, but the word has been diminished in impact by its exclamation in response to merely commendable achievements.
- Real: This term derives from the Latin term res, “thing, fact,” and should be used only to denote genuine, actual, extant, practical phenomena; minimize its use, and that of the adverb really, as a synonym for complete or completely.
- Terrific: Terrific, originally referring to something terrifying, has long been rendered impotent by use as a synonym for great, but try to reserve it for such descriptions as “a terrific crash.”
- Very: The most abused word on this list — and one of the most in the entire English language — comes from the Latin word for “true.” Consider restraining yourself from using it in writing except to convey verity, precision, and other adjectival connotations, rather than the adverbial sense of “exceedingly.”
- Wonderful: Use when a sense of wonder is involved, or at least when there’s an element of surprise, not just to suggestion a reaction of delight.
Writing is sometimes very very easy. Often however, it isn’t so to some that you are not alone I wanted to share the thoughts of five published and very famous authors who all struggled to write at some point or another.
All the quotes were first collected on The Scottish Book Trust‘s article NaNoWriMo Writing Is Not For The Faint Hearted first published on 17th of November 2011.
So the quotes are:
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. ”
“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”
“Every writer I know has trouble writing.”
“When something can be read without effort, great effort has
gone into its writing.”
Enrique Jardiel Poncela
“A ratio of failures is built into the process of writing. The wastebasket has evolved for a reason.”
An essential part of any creative writing is the Revising and Rewriting of your piece. Below Cat Rambo offers there four points of advice on the subject:
- Time is your friend. Putting a piece away for a week or so lets you go back to it with a more dispassionate eye.
- Revising is a good time to think about what you want to do with the piece.
- Revising is sometimes a collaboration with yourself, a chance to go back and discover the bits your subconscious supplied and make the most of them.
- Reading aloud is a necessary part of the process. You can’t escape it so go ahead and do it.
To see the full detail of each of Cat‘s points go to Revising and Rewriting on her own website.
Cat Rambo is a Science Fiction and Fantasy author. The post was originally published on 19th of October 2011.