Monday, 27 August 2012

Leaving your fingerprints all over it

Our writer’s group recently had a mini-competition. We all wrote a piece on the same subject, read them all out, not knowing whose work was whose – except of course we did. Many of us now have a distinctive style and I have to thank the group for this gift. Before, I wrote all kinds of stuff in all kinds of styles. But now through the group’s encouragement and insightful critiquing I now know my style, what I like to write and why I write what I write – and believe me that’s a gift that keeps on giving. (Is that a cliché?).

I also have to thank Graham Greene, who has helped me crystallize what I am trying to achieve with my writing. To distinguish his serious works from his other work he called them ‘entertainments’ such as The Ministry of Fear and Stamboul Train; that word switched a light on in my brain (another cliché?). That word is now my ‘brief’ every time I start a story. I write 500/600-word fiction with the emotional depth of a raindrop,but hopefully enough to raise a smile and book a short stay in the reader’s memory.

Now of course my mission is to try and get better and hopefully nudge past average. All of us in this group are striving to achieve our own personal goals and because of this group confidence is high; apart from of a night in with Inspector Montalbano, these Saturday mornings are the highlight of my week. 

Steve Wright

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Not no-man’s-land

I was standing at my bedroom window lamenting the state of my garden with this incessant rain when, in true ‘compare and contrast’ mode, I studied the neighbours’ lawns. Of the three degrees one side sported thigh-high grass wrapped around garden furniture, a giant trampoline and a dozen or so footballs. On the other someone had managed to nip out between showers and give the lawn a lop-sided Mohican. And in the middle?

The middle is in-between, neither rampant nor manicured but showing steady growth and promising success. Not much of an analogy but this is how I see my writing at present: I’m past the starting gate.

When I first attended Leicester Writing School’s critique classes I tried to interpret tutors’ comments. At the time I wanted to target women’s magazines (still trying!) but, although I religiously followed guidelines, got nowhere. In retrospect there were too many tutors addressing different genres.  All had something to give, but they also had a common denominator of ‘good phrase’ or ‘not quite there...’ I would have preferred less ‘tentative’ and more ‘definitive.’ Don’t get me wrong, I learned much.

So why am I happy to be in the middle? It’s all due to Phoenix Writers.

Well, look what you’ve done to me: you’ve made independent editors publish my work and propel me into the middle distance. Neither here nor there? Oh, I’m ‘there’ all right. And I assign all bragging rights to my fellow writers, to the band of serious scribblers who work hard at their craft and are unstinting in their support. We’ve done it with knobs on! (All right, so it’s a cliché!).

Because Phoenix Writers don’t do ‘tentative.’ Because the critique is solid. And because of the group I’ve learned to listen: I hear what isn’t said, good, bad or throw-away.

Unfortunately this has also ruined my coffee-shop experience as covert eavesdropping catches every whisper, expletive and queue commentary.

I shall file that under ‘recycling’!

Krys Wysocki