Friday, 3 October 2014

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.

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