Monthly Archives: February 2016

Feb Critique – Full House

This week we had three submissions (all WIP). The common themes for the critiques:

Let the character be alive and doing things – just a description of what happened is not very interesting to a reader: Live, live, live!! through the eyes, heart, nose, mouth (dialogue), mind of the POV character.

Cause and effect – the character doesn’t fall until after the gun is fired; they don’t hear the doorbell until it is rung; his voice isn’t described until after it has said something. This is an area where all the group have improved, and it gets harder to find these moments, but if you find yourself at a point in the story where you stop and have to think about what just happened, you probably found somewhere it has happened – even if it is subtle.

Take advantage of the moments in the story that expand the character through their actions, through their words, through their thoughts and feelings (and ACTIONS – was that said before?). The story isn’t about the character, it is the character living the story in their own words, in their own world, through their own feelings, judgements, actions (etc., etc., etc.).

Comma use – some people put them in where they’re not needed, some people don’t use enough. Reading the work aloud, or having someone else read it aloud to you, may help (see that last sentence – if you take out the words between the commas, the sentence still makes sense).

Length of sentences, pace, and character actions – long sentences slow the reader down, slow the pace. Short, sharp sentences increase the pace (sometimes the tension), measured sentences of one metronomic moment represent something similar to a piece of music – and music has a beat, a movement, a feel. If the beat is of the character breathing fast, use the sentence to reflect that beat, that rhythm.

Exposition, telling, does not make a story interesting. It becomes interesting when the character walks, talks, sings, yells, punches, pulls, swears, DOES something to instil in the reader the same information as the exposition.

It all sounds so easy! The biggest issue (probably for most writers) is that we write what is in our head, and we see the whole picture. When we put the words on paper and someone else reads them, they have to make their picture from only the words. Become the reader and read only what is written, visualise the world through the words, and if something is missing or lacking (depth, purpose, etc.), recreate the words to truly reflect the world you want to share.

ALSO, Two members had work published in the Tea Tree Gully Fringe Festival Event: A Trail of Tales:  http://atrailoftales.com/ an event staged by Tea Tree Gully Council (see page for full details).

Look for the Houghton Howler.

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Wicked ways with Word

Last week we departed from our usual toolkit format, opting for a hands-on learning experience delivered by one of our expert members.

With our keyboards hot under our feverish hands, we explored the many features of Word that are of particular interest to writers.

CasDun has already posted a summary of the content covered, but I’d like to add a little about the usefulness of the session.

I’ve been using Word for a long time, and I already knew most of what was demonstrated. But I still learnt about features that I can apply immediately to save time and effort. More importantly, they also reduce the amount of cognitive processing needed to work on long piece of text.

For me, that’s priceless.  I have difficulties with memory and visual processing, so to find new ways to orient myself within a document and reduce distraction is a rare and precious thing.

So I would like to thank our excellent tutor for sharing her expertise. But I would also like to thank the member who spoke up and asked for help in the first place.  When one of us learns, we all learn. And that’s the power of the Writers’ Group at work.

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Jan Tool Box – Using MS Word for Writing

Most writer’s use a software program to write their stories. Most people know enough to write what they want to write. Sometimes you hear people say “I wish it had this feature, or that feature.”

Today we discovered a few of the features that are useful to an author. Some of these useful things are:

How to insert comments when reviewing or editing;

How to split a screen so you can be working in two places at once (yes, it is possible);

How to check the readability of your work;

How to use (and define) short cuts to avoid too much mousing;

How to select pieces of your work that comply with one specific format.

There were others, but these were the main items. Software is a tool, and the best tools are the ones you know well.

As a writer, we probably use a limited range of the available options, but if we learn all the options (and where to find them) we can make the best use of our time, rather than swapping between different software packages, or between screen and paper, or . . . well, you get the idea.

As expected, there was a lot of discussion (and several different versions of the same software – a tutor’s nightmare!) and a lot of practice (practice makes powerful), but we all learned something (even the tutor!).

We also discussed a poem submitted on the day. Power to the voice of Women. It speaks in a rhythm, it seeks truth, but where do we find this truth? Look within.

Next meeting Friday 19 Feb is one day after the launch of A Trail of Tales. See you there.

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