Friday, 7 March 2014

Writing Groups - are they worth the effort?

Many years ago before Kindle, before the internet, I belonged to a local writers circle which was good fun.  There were a few reporters, the editor of the local paper, and even.....wait for it...........Geoff McQueen who went on to write The Bill and named the police station Sun Hill after a well known street in Royston, where we all lived.

I recall a new author giving a talk and showing off about her one published short story in a magazine and how she had found an agent, who had found her a publisher, who wanted a specific book written.  Cheating or what?  She declared that she did not want to do an historical, which is what she was asked to do.  Having met her, obviously I had to read the book, and I can tell you all now that she did not do a historical.  She did a contemporary novel, with contemporary ideas and attitudes, picked it up and shoved it into World War I.

In other words, if you are going to write a historical, you have to get into the mind of a historical character.  Read Gone with the Wind for an example of the mindset of a spoilt southern belle before the American Civil War.  I have read reviews on Amazon of this most famous novel calling the author racist.  She could hardly have got into the mind of Scarlett O'Hara without coming across as racist.

Another good author to read for that historical mindset is Jane Austen who, of course wrote as a contemporary.  This is one reason I love Jane Austen, because it is like reading a chronicle of the time.  I love chronicles and diaries, like Pepys Diary, the Anglo Saxon Chronicles, stuff like that.

When I moved out to the wilds of Suffolk, I found a writers group mentioned in the library.  It was in a small village not too far away so I emailed and asked to join.  Guess what?  I was told that I couldn't join as they had enough female members and were only taking male ones!  Wow!  I thought it was a writers circle, not a dating agency.  I told them that it was illegal to refuse membership on grounds of gender and if the only reason I couldn't join was because I didn't have a willy, then they could shove it.

Just wait till I get famous!

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