on the writing & reading trail

Posts tagged ‘memoir’

Writing and critiquing



Writers Group meeting

Our Writers Group meeting where we critique one chapter of each other’s work takes place on the first Friday of each month. It is always an interesting exercise but sometimes the breakthroughs are truly exciting. Today felt special.

It was a delight to find that after a longish break the writing of one member was back to full-bore quality. The struggles she acknowledged with the effort to regain impetus and multiple rewrites paid off – they were not apparent to us. Although she is writing to an audience in another culture, having teens in her household authenticates the interactions between friends, acquaintances and genders in that age group. Every scene sparks. When she’s done, I predict the first agent or publisher to receive the manuscript will be sold straight away.

And because of her daily lived experience her critique of another member’s chapter on teen misbehaviour was so penetrating. The rest of us, now distant from that involvement applauded the small tweaks she suggested that will shift a great chapter to an exceptional one.

I am amazed at every meeting at how differently each of us sees segments of the stories and the mix of issues we pick up on – so valuable in representing the responses of a cross-section of readers.

All of us wanted one author to add depth to anecdotes by incorporating more personal details about lead-in decisions, emotional reactions to events and interesting historical details to cajole readers to feel more involved.

My chapter, about a quarter-way through the third book in The Long Shadows Series is set in wintry Edinburgh. I was grateful for all suggestions to increase the drama of a brother and sister interaction over a family mystery. Also important were promptings to refresh readers on carry-over details from previous books – such helpful reminders. The characters are so clear in my mind I sometimes forget that a new reader (or even someone who has read the previous material) might welcome a recap.

Today’s specialness was the forward leap of the member who has been battling for several years to write the harrowing interpersonal memoir through the final stages of a sister’s terminal disease. After several years she has found the key and is now able to visit the emotional trauma of their experiences with such power and insight. It is wonderful work.

Two members were unable to attend so that’s all for today. Exhilarated when we left.

Nostalgic video

Do have a look at this wonderful video with aerial views of Edinburgh in early winter – music worth a listen as well. Nostalgic for me – I lived there while at Uni long ago.

You can skip the ad if you want to. Enjoy.

Edit diary update – getting there

Days 62-64 (April 28-30)

It’s hard to believe another week has rolled around.

Today – 30 April: Very focused on editing, and worked pretty well straight through 20 chapters. I’m hoping that means enough work had been done on earlier sweeps and not that I’m missing something now; not still too close to see the flaws. All changes were fairly superficial – of the tweaking variety. When I’m done, I guess that means the manuscript is ready for some wider opinions – beyond the Writer’s Group and my own. Hoping to finish and format by 5 May.

Pages are looking cleaner now

Over the lunch period I critiqued a draft short story in memoir form for a Group member. Aren’t other people’s lives fascinating? Usually we don’t get under the surface for casual friends unless through memoirs and the guesses we make from reading their fiction. More critiquing to come before our May meeting on Friday.

Weekend editing – 28-29 April: In fits and starts. Many interruptions. Cursory scan of two chapters only. Disappointed as it means I missed the April 30 Part One deadline for completion. Still it feels better to have a goal than not, and I don’t think I’ll be too far behind.

Weekend reading: Somehow I got distracted and read very little for a change. Am still with the Collins the keepers of truth. While still enjoying the writing if not the story, I admit to finding the visions of the industrialisation impacts somewhat repetitive. Am about four fifths through and I got the message quite a while back, unless something new crops up to prove it all needed to be said over and again.

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