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.