Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Writing Buddies in the City

Penny Legg, Writing Buddies' leader, writes local and military history. Today she found herself as guest speaker at the Women's Institute. She says, 'Writing about the paranormal takes me to meet lovely people. Today it was my privilege to join the ladies of the Shirley (Southampton) branch of the Women's Institute to talk about ghosts and things that go bump in the night. I had not spoken at a WI meeting before. I found it amazing (and exhausting!) just listening to all the things they get up to, fundraising for several good causes and generally enjoying life. I came along and talked about ghosts, which was appropriate for the time of year but slightly different to their usual talks! They kindly listened and some bought my books and tickets for Humps, Bumps and Oral Entertainment, an evening of ghost stories and mediumship with Medium Andy Ford, on 27 November. I had a lot of fun and I hope the ladies did to.' The next meeting of the Writing Buddies is on Friday 7 November, at the Mercure Dolphin Hotel. Everyone is welcome.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Writing Buddies, September 2014

The regular monthly meeting of Writing Buddies took place on Friday 5 September 2014, at the Mercure Dolphin Hotel, High Street Southampton. The meeting was introduced by a fit-again Penny.

Good News

There was a lot of good news shared at this meeting, which was great to hear. 

Josephine writes for The Voice, produced by a group of Wessex writers, whose tag-line is 'bringing writers and readers together'. At present there is no website/blog for this publication as it is sent out via personal subscription.  If anyone is interested in receiving this in pdf format, please contact via the Writing Buddies blog.
   The Writing Buddies were very pleased to hear that Josephine has had her piece 'Sunday Afternoon' accepted for publication in the annual edition of This England magazine. This England is a quarterly magazine, with a special annual edition in October. Competition to be published in this edition is fierce.
   Josephine is looking at ideas for articles, and is willing to block off a whole week to look at them without interruption.

James, maintaining his new 'gangster' image, has started work on a gangster novel and, in just ten days, has got to the fourth chapter.
   He is also pleased that his latest published book, A 1940's Childhood has reached 186 on the Amazon Best Sellers List.  The Writing Buddies congratulated him on this achievement.
   James is also trying to get a new Jayden the goldfish children’s book out, Christmas In The Pond. His team is currently producing a copy illustrated in black and white, with some colour.

Jacqueline gave a talk at Portswood library, about her life and works, with particular reference to her book Bottles and Pots. She signed copies of her books after the talk.
Jacqueline Pye book signing copies of 'Bottles and Pots'

Penny had attended the Ultimate Speaker Camp, a three-day course run by a John Lee, a self-made millionaire at 32. It was one of those American-style highly motivational speaker events, where she learnt 'how to give and receive' when public speaking.
    Penny attended the Society of Authors (SoA) lunch on 4 September, in Ferndown, Dorset. This is always a good opportunity to network. The SoA is ostensibly a Trade Union for writers, and if you have had full-length work published you are eligible to join. The fee is £95, which entitles you to discounts and preferential rates on many things, including Public Liability Insurance.
   Whilst at the lunch, she met best-selling author Pam Fudge, who has just launched a new course for writers.  
   Penny gave her personal thanks to both Jacqueline and James for stepping in to run Writing Buddies’ meetings while she was recovering from the accident she suffered in July.

Welcome to Newcomers

Hazel is just beginning her writing journey and her genre is memoir and family stories.

Helen is drawing upon her experiences in property to produce Property Developing for Blondes. She has plenty of ideas but admitted that she is just starting and needs a push. The Writing Buddies will be happy to oblige!

A warm welcome was extended to them both.

General News

Bill mentioned that the new local television station, That’s Solent will soon be available on Freeview TV (re-tune to Channel 8), which means we will have access to local broadcasting. This could be an opportunity to contact the wider population.

Writing Buddies have access to an internal email information loop and Jacqueline reminded those present of her regular listing of the many competitions available to enter. She asked if it was of use and was assured that it was. Several members regularly enter competitions.

Josephine offered a review service for Writing Buddies work, which was immediately taken up by members.


- Competition
  • You want a pay-off of some kind (even an entry in an anthology)
  •  Adhering to all the criteria is essential.
  • Understand the theme and the audience, and researching the publication will give you many of clues to this. A magazines target audience doesn't change overnight (or month to month).
  • Do adhere to all restrictions (e.g. If maximum 800 words, do not exceed that)
  • It is best to use standard spacing - double line more pleasing on the eye, and easier to read.
  • Keep a log of what you enter, and although the odds are often long, remember somebody will win. 

Penny mentioned that when she recently judged a competition, a quarter did not follow the guidelines and so were rejected. The winner followed all the criteria.

Advice Sought

Helen had sent out copies of her unfinished property book to readers for feedback. She was told to re-jig it, chop it up and cut sections. She had been told to put it into two sections, i) background and experiences, ii) how to succeed. As the book was still unfinished, she was not happy with the feedback she has received.
   She was advised to 'get it out of her head', and onto paper or a computer screen. She should stop editing what she had written and finish the book (so you keep the flow), then re-visit in whole structure and edit it. She should then re-read the complete manuscript, whilst reminding herself of her mission statement – have you achieved what you set at to do?

Useful website for writers

Penny Legg was the guest speaker, on Photography for Writers.

  • You do not have to be a professional photographer to sell photos
  • With a little thought you can produce good results an editor will be delighted with
  • Always fill your viewfinder with the subject
  • Take a deep breath, or breathe out, before you take the shot
  • Be prepared to take several shots to get the right one and make sure that you have a data card big enough for the days shooting            
  • To allow your photograph to be seen clearly and sharply as possible, no matter what the picture size, take them at 300 dpi (dots per square inch) or higher
  • If you set your camera to the highest resolution, you will take fewer shots, but they will be better quality
  •  Most software will allow you to save images in a variety of formats and so check with your editor which format he uses.
  • Useful books: The Digital Photography Handbook by Doug Harman (Quereus, 2012) and Photography for Writers by Simon Whaley (Compass Books, 2014).
The next meeting will be on Friday 3 October at the Mercure Dolphin Hotel, Southampton, at 2pm. The speaker will be Martin Pavey, Central Librarian, Southampton Library Service. Everyone is welcome.


Writing Buddies August 2014

The Writing Buddies met on Friday 1 August 2014, at The Mercure Dolphin Hotel, High Street, Southampton. James Marsh led the discussion.

Good News

Jacqueline’s interview with Josephine appeared in The Voice, and she is one of five joint winners of a flash fiction competition for a 200-word story. Although there was no tangible prize, there was an interview on their blog, the story on their website, and a badge for her blog, which has created some new followers on twitter, as well as impressing her granddaughters! 

Penny was hoping to take up her invitation to book sign at the War and Peace Show in Folkstone, but had an accident the evening before and so could not attend.

James took his books to the War and Peace Show, with his son. He is working currently on his new gangster image and a book in the same vein.  He is busy with AloeJimmy Publishing and is also editing a book.

Lisa is publishing on many platforms, including Createspace, but she said there are no benefits in publishing other people’s books. She noted that it can be difficult to get some people to realise that they have to pay to download books, and they are not free copies.

Richard (Hardie) told us about the success he is having with his Temporal Detective Agency series, (published by Crooked Cat Publishing), whose basis is time travel between the time of Camelot and the twenty-first century. He passed around copies of his two latest books, Leap Of Faith, and Trouble With Swords. There were to be (full costume) themed book-signing days at the bookshop in Lee–on-Solent and at Calliope Gifts, 12 Westbrook Walk, Alton in August.

Josephine mentioned her review in Forester Magazine for a book called 25 Ways To Lose Customers, which she called a good mixture of humour, common-sense and courtesy.


On 9 October between 6.30 and 9.30 pm, the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, are hosting a poetry slam evening for visitors (poets and poetry appreciators) to come along to the museum and be inspired by their newly opened HMS – Hear My Story galleries. Attendees will be invited to create their own poetry for the event, on the theme of war, remembrance, and reconciliation through the stories and experiences of those who actually served through conflicts. These will then be read (performed) and the winner will be announced at the end of the evening. More details here.
James is giving another reading of his work at Bitterne library and for the Southampton Writers Circle.


- The difficulties with getting an agent:
·      many agents will only take one or two new writers a year,
·      a one in three chance of getting published,
·      one in 1,500 chance of it becoming a viable proposition.

- The importance of getting material online, using Facebook and twitter, and other social network sites.

- Characterisation:
·      Characters take on their own personalities
·      Some advocated characters first, then plot.
·      Readers aren't always sympathetic to well rounded, all action hero types, but like downtrodden characters, who sometimes get it wrong.
·      Don’t make it too complicated.

- The difficulties of producing front covers for books published on Amazon.

Guest Speaker: Josephine Shaw on ‘How To Produce A Perfect Manuscript.’

·      Think of the end result. What is the writer trying to achieve? Have they done it? What does it do to the image of the writer?
·      Did the reader get what they wanted from the book?
·      Put the manuscript away for a while, and then come back to it as a reader.

Editing and proofreading are the cogs that push your book through various processes and stages.

·      Checking for grammatical and spelling errors, and word repetition
·      Ask does it sound right?
·      Is it complicated or confusing?
·      It should not be monotonous, nor should it have to be re-read to be understood.
·      Use the opening words of the first chapter to start the journey – you need to get the reader engaged quickly. The writer has the obligation to write it in a such a way that it is easily understood, however the reader has no contract to 'stick with it', if it is hard to follow.
·      Are the characters 'real'? Do they act in character - unless acting out of character forms part of the story?
·      Remember your genre. If you leave the manuscript for a while, re-read what was written previously, and continue in the same vein.
·      Are sentences too long or too short, and are there too many?
·      Cut any superfluous material. Avoid verbosity.
·      Can you make it sharper, slicker, easy flowing?
·      Does it need a contents page or an index? (non-fiction).

Question from the audience, is there a strategy to stop editing?  Answer: If you still love it continue, if you hate it, then it's probably ready.


·      Punctuation – is it correct? Use a reliable reference source.
·      Check for missing words, duplicated words, spelling errors, typing errors.
·      Re-read yourself, or preferably get someone else to proofread.
·      Does there need to be a change in the physical sentence construction.
·      Avoid 'Americanisms'

Remember: What You See Is What You Get
·      pay attention to chapter and paragraph sizes.
- Are they consistently laid out?
                     - Check indentations and font.
- Consistent headings?
·      be aware that spell (grammar) check, although useful will not do it all.
·      It is easier to proofread from a printed page, but to have it printed may incur costs.

The standard of your manuscripts also impacts on your image, which is portrayed to influential people. 

The next meeting will be Friday 5 September, at the same venue. The Guest Speaker will be Penny Legg on photography for writers.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Letter to an Unknown Soldier

Still time, just, to be involved with this:

LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER, a new kind of war memorial, made only of words and by thousands of people.
Until 4 August, 11pm

There are only 4 days left to contribute to LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER, the digital memorial created by Neil Bartlett and Kate Pullinger as part of the 14-18 NOW programme of cultural commissions to commemorate World War One.

17,000 people have already written letters to the memorial, which is inspired by Charles Sargeant Jagger’s statue of a soldier reading a letter on Platform One at Paddington Station.

Letters are pouring in from people of all ages, from 4-90 years old, from grandmothers and Gurkhas, midwives, musicians, schoolchildren, students, teachers, politicians and prisoners.

Letters are being sent from as far away as China, Brazil, South Africa, USA, Australia, India and Egypt.

Distinguished writers, personalities and politicians who have written letters to the soldier include A L Kennedy, Joanna Lumley, Stephen Fry, Sheila Hancock, Sebastian Faulks, Dawn French, Lee Child, Andrew Motion, Lesley Pearce, Malorie Blackman and the Prime Minister David Cameron.

Our team of editorial moderators are reading every single letter that comes in. If you need some inspiration, they’ve come up with a wishlist of letters that they’d love to see. Their ideas include letters from the ghost of Archduke Ferdinand, a Time Traveller, a prisoner forced to enlist, a spy, and a woman fighting at the front disguised as a man.

All the letters are published online and the entire collection will eventually be archived in the British Library web archive.

LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER will remain open to receive letters until 11pm on 4 August.

Everyone can contribute a letter, either by visiting the website
or posting it to LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER, PO Box 73102, London EC1P 1TY.

Writing Buddies Enjoying Summer - July 2014

The Writing Buddies met on Friday 4 July 2014, at 2.00 pm, at the Mercure Dolphin Hotel, High Street, Southampton.  Penny sent her apologies and so Jacqueline chaired the meeting. Twenty four writers were present.

Good News

Congratulations to Calvin (Friends of Portswood Library) for his part in the organisation of the successful Armed Forces Day Exhibition at the librarly, which was opened by Penny and also attended by Jimmy, both holding book signings.

Tessa is trying to organise a writing group/forum, which is at present very much a work in progress. Please contact her via this website if you are interested in joining. She won a Swift Writing Award, in a short story competition, for her book Ladybird Fly.  

Jacqueline won second prize in a Union Learning Centre Competition (UNITE), in Writers' News.

Jimmy said his 2011 book Growing Up in Wartime Southampton, Other People’s Trousers has recently passed 1,000 sales. His book, A 1940's Childhood, has achieved sales of 2,200 in just six weeks.

Ann said she had a work in progress, a 2,000-word novel, which she writes by hand, edits, puts on the computer, and edits again. This she is doing chapter by chapter.

Lisa is working on a couple of projects. She re-told her Mills and Boon experience, the fact that they left it too long to come back to her, that their processes were not clear and that there was also no communication between departments. They then assumed that she had moved on, so no formal request was made for the manuscript.

Calvin is writing a short story and a book with James. They have completed about 5,000 words of a historical novel, so he is getting off to a great start to his writing journey.


Penny, Bill and Lisa have been looking into the feasibility of this for the group. Bill favoured setting up a YouTube channel, and Lisa said that she had some good quality equipment that the group could use. It was suggested that the monthly meetings could be video recorded, with the real benefit being that they could be linked into, and also listened to at any time.  
   Lisa said she could do the recording and editing, and switch to audio only when required. Penny and Lisa had said that the equipment process was easy, and it would be have to be operated on an 'opt out' rather than an 'opt in' basis.
The videos of individuals, promoting their work would take place in a separate room.

Public Liability Insurance
Penny has been searching for a policy that could cover the group. A policy giving up to £2M cover could be obtained for £252 p.a. Jacqueline said as treasurer she will start circulating Annual Accounts. A hand vote was done and five were for, and seven against, with the others abstaining. 

The Writing Buddies at Markets
The group has been attending Bert and Gert’s Market at Marlands and West Quay.  Future dates are:

6th September - West Quay Shopping Centre

13th September – Marlands Shopping Centre

Robert is attempting to write some fan fiction, Halloween, hell raiser, horror crossover including Jason and Freddy. He is encountering some third party ownership issues. He is trying to work with the movie people, but there are permission problems, regarding proof of concept. There is interest but there are author/director relationship issues, with one of the companies saying they don't accept outside submissions. Lisa gave him some advice regarding his approach (i.e. not pitching a movie), and warned that he could be charged for using their character. She asked if he could just ask for profit from that particular story, and warned that he might need a copyright lawyer, and even then there would be no guarantees.

Nita wanted to use some music, and when she sought permission she was told it would cost her £200. She was advised that it might be worth considering whether to pay an annual fee, rather than a one-off payment as it could work out cheaper.

Tessa suggested the group invest in buying a microphone, as some group members were having difficulty in hearing the meeting. Three table microphones were suggested and this will be investigated.

Jacqueline said that there are rules about having to deposit as many as five copies of a work with the British Library. She recommended to do it if requested but not to volunteer them; rules may be different if you are using I.S.B.N numbers.

Jenny mentioned a writing group at The Avenue, St. Andrews Church Hall, every Saturday morning, 10 – 12.30, and extended an invitation to all.

Guest Speaker – Tessa Warburg, The Thorn Press
Tessa owns The Thorn Press, a small press publishing company based in Southampton.  She gave some general advice on publishing.

Publishing is when the written word becomes generally available, even online. You can submit work via an agent (more expensive) or self publish (a lot more work and complex).
   There are a lot of self-publishing requirements, and to assist Tessa sub-headed several areas, with a extensive list of helpful website addresses and typical charges involved (in the form of a handout). 

The following apply more to self publishing, but also cover jargon an agent  may use. They are guidelines and you may wish to seek further clarification on certain areas.

I.S.B.N – are recognised as being unique for each edition, and small changes can be made using the same number, however larger changes would require you to use a new number.

As mentioned earlier you may be requested to sent one copy of your book to the British library and five other libraries. Remember you also need I.S.B.N. for e-books.

Editing – Editors make sure reasonable standards of English are used, and they check for spelling mistakes. They could not, however, check the validity of any information therein. A copy editor corrects spelling and grammar.

Design – this would be in respect to size, colour, weight etc. The range of possibilities is large, but not unlimited. Contrast a textbook (non-fiction) and a novel.  It must be able to be read in a reasonable way. Margins, indents, fonts, italics, varied spaces are essential, as the easier it is to read, the more likely it is to be read. These are all decisions to be made, but don't make it difficult for the reader to enjoy. A typesetting program is useful in doing this. Typesetting is not quite so important for e-books. A style guide takes you through the processes that are possible.
   For formatting, typesetting, aligning etc. there is an excellent book, Perfect Pages by Aaron Shephard.
Also consider a computer program Self Publishing with Microsoft Word.

Covers – are crucial, people do judge a book by its cover. Decide on a hard or soft (paperback) cover. Many would prefer a well-used reference book to be hardback.

Distribution – these costs can be substantial so be wary. Talk to others in the group about this, as they may have some recommendations. Are there carriage fees? Do you have to pay a 'setting up' fee etc.

Some distributors levy an annual charge to keep your book on their list. See if you have an option to offer discounts.
   It is now possible to publish e-books in colour, but you would need an optic printer, as small office/home type printers are not suitable, but this can be prohibitive as they are very expensive.

Self publishing is now available to everyone, but it does not mean you have to use it.  It can be really rewarding, but beware as there could be a financial loss, if the book does sell well enough to cover all the outlay involved. It requires a large number of skills, and there is a lot of additional work involved. You will need luck.  

The next meeting will be at the same venue, on Friday 1st August 2014, at 2 pm. The guest speaker will be Josephine Shaw speaking about correct manuscript layout.



Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Writing Buddies, June 2014

The regular monthly meeting for Writing Buddies was held at the usual venue,the Mercure Dolphin Hotel in Southampton on Friday 6 June 2014, at 2.00 pm, and was attended by 30 persons.  It is great to see that so many writers find the meetings useful!

Good News
James' latest book, published by The History Press, A 1940s Childhood, From Bomb Sites to Children’s Hour, which tells the 1940s story from the child's point of view, is selling fast. He is book signing copies at Watersone's in West Quay, Southampton, on Saturday 7 June.
   James was also at Portswood library reading his children’s book, Jayden the Naughty Goldfish to a group of small children, which he described as a ‘new, exciting and amazing experience.’

Calvin is organising an Armed Forces Exhibition, to be held as part of a larger event at Portswood Library starting 10.00 am on 28 June. Penny will be opening the event and giving a talk on her military history book Under the Queen’s Colours and James will be book signing copies of his history books.

Lisa advised the group that Harlequin are looking for romance writers to submit material for a clean romance book, from week commencing 9 June. you need to submit a completed first chapter (although you do not need to have a completed book), as a first round submission after which they will contact you if they are interested. Details from Harlequin.  

Janet T has had two more poems accepted to be included in an anthology, Forward Poetry published by United Press. 

Michaela is book signing at Petersfield Book Shop on 7 June and will be joining Richard at October Books in Portswood, Southampton on Saturday 21 June.

Richard's book Leap of Faith made the final twelve in the People's Book Prize 2014. He was also featured in an interview in the Daily Echo.  He was the guest speaker at the Romantic Novelists Association lunch on 3 June.

Welcome Newcomers!
Rob, who is multi-disciplined mainly in fiction and songwriting, with his genre being crime-books, scripts and short novels. The fact that there is a large amount of talent in the room was expanded on by Penny who emphasised the fact that we support not only writers, but also artists, photographers, illustrators and others.

Melanie is a romance writer who has had material accepted by Harlequin.

Charles, a novelist/memoirs writer, who has had his book A Life In Bits published by Mereo Books

Penny thanked everyone for their help and support of the Writing Buddies Fifth Anniversary event which was very successful. We appeared in the Daily Echo on 2 June and Penny promoted the exhibition at the library on Radio Solent’s Katie Martin show.

The possibilities of 'meet the author' events, to enhance the profile of the group were discussed, as was an anthology proposition from JMD Publishing, which was turned down.

Podcasting was discussed.  This has come up regularly recently at the meetings.  Bill and Lisa have experience of the technicalities of setting it up and Penny, Bill and Lisa will be meeting to explore the way forward with this.

James mentioned that his blog has reached the 1,000 hits mark. He advised having one and putting everything you do on it. It pays off as his books have sold through his.  

Josephine recommended a couple of reference works to explain 'foggy' words and phrases, by Simon Heffer called Simply English  and Strictly English.

Lisa was our guest speaker on the subject of copyright. Notes on this talk will follow.

The next meeting will be on Friday 4th July at 2 pm at the Mercure Dolphin Hotel. The guest speaker will be Tessa Warburg, the owner of The Thorn Press, on publishing.