Saturday, 19 August 2017

Swanwick - a week of writing related indulges (Part 1)

This past week I have taken time out to indulge in the world of writing. I have just returned from Swanwick - The Writers' Summer School. This was my second year and it was good to see some familiar faces as a group of around 70 of us waited for the coach at Derby station on the 12th August.

On arrival I was able to lead a few newbies in the direction of Lakeside accommodation where we picked up our welcome pack. As I arrived at my door I realised this was the room I had last year. To say I was excited is an understatement. I all but leaped across the room! It was like coming home. Soon the kettle was on and I was unpacking. So began my week - a chance to say hello to old friends and to meet lots of new people. After dinner on the first night we had Stephen Booth (crime writer) come and speak to us. He was a delight to listen to as he told us about his way into writing and about the books he writes, the characters and how readers get so caught up in his plots and characters that they make suggestions or go to visit the places where scenes took place. His anecdotes were funny and his passion for what he does shone through. There was time for questions before he sped off to sign copies of his latest book.

Courses began the following morning (Sunday). With so much to choose from it was often a difficult choice, though I had highlighted my preferred options as soon I received my brochure through the post! For my specialist course I chose Writing Popular Fiction with Sue Moorcroft which ran over four mornings, an hour each session. Over the course of the week we looked at various aspect of writing starting in session one with the difference between popular fiction and niche markets; we were given advice on knowing where to look for up to date advice into trends, what is selling etc.  In the second session we looked at the shape of a novel - how to improve the saggy middle, about prologues, endings and what to include in the first couple of chapters. Sue gave us a great insight into her plotting for her latest book - a string of A4 sheets stapled together in concertina fashion. We all had a laugh at that. She also explained mind maps and timelines. Session three was the dreaded submission process - covering letters, synopsis and the first three chapters of the novel. This was really useful as Sue explained what to include in the letter and what not to and how to set out (format) a synopsis and chapters. Session four dealt with themes and messages of novels, characters (central, secondary and walk-ons), viewpoints and how to go about self-editing. Sue was generous with her time and answered multitudes of questions. I found the course insightful. I only have to use all this information to write my bestseller!

My work zone! Though here I am catching up with the World Athletics live stream!

I can only comment on the courses I took during my week at Swanwick. There was a choice of four other specialist courses (Fiction for Children & Young People, Scriptwriting, Non-Fiction and A Year in Poetry). Then there were the short courses - different choices each day each with two sessions. My short course on the Sunday was Short Stories with Della Galton. I would have loved to attend Forensics & CSI one but I need help with my short story writing! I did buy the CSI book though (by Kate Bendelow who tutored the course). I heard a rumour that 40 copies were being placed in the book room one evening and I got there early. There was already a queue to pay for copies which were going fast. Anyway, the short story course was interesting. Though geared mainly for women's magazines (not my area) I have come away re-thinking it. The parameters of what the few magazines accept has widened and it might be worthwhile reconsidering this market. Having said that the market is shrinking and the day after the course we heard that the fiction editors of Women's Weekly have all left so they are no accepting anymore submissions for now. It seems that to save money magazines are either letting their fiction editors go or only employing them for something like five hours a week. Very sad. At least I'm armed with tips - how to, how not not, good endings, bad endings and lots more.

Our evening speaker on Sunday was Sophie Hannah. Again she was excellent, funny and happy to tell us her route into writing and how she came to write a Poirot continuation novel.

The first Monday short course I chose was Writing Intimate Scenes with Liz Hurst. She writes under two names. and writes mainly erotica. This class was lively to say the least! At times it felt like being back at school with everyone trying to think of new words for certain body parts! We had a go at writing about a kiss and later to write an erotic scene of our own. Our starter was a female in a room where she knows a man is watching her in another room via a camera in the room. She gives him the turn on of his life without taking her clothes off! Some brave souls offered to read theirs out. I learned about alternative lifestyles (some I'd never heard of!). It was enlightening that's for sure.

I then attended a workshop in Writing for Competitions (which I do a lot). Our tutor was Ingrid Jendrzejewski who has won competitions and now judges them. We got through an enormous amount of information in one hour - the difference between the longlist and shortlist and how to get further. Ingrid gave examples from real competitions of why some entries didn't make it, how to do good beginnings and endings, common themes, how to do them better, editing, choosing the right contest and about submitting smart like reading previous winners, researching the judges, keeping records and taking time out to research new opportunities.

There is still so much to say but I shall leave it to the next post. I will say there were early morning half hour sessions to do before breakfast for writing and for mind (meditation by the lake was one) and evening entertainment and opportunities. I have to say this year I took more time out to re-charge and I slept better than last year. That helped a lot as between courses there is all that eating to do, refreshment breaks (with more cake if you can find a space for it!) and chatting. However, I did make the Facebook and Twitter meet up during one tea break.

See you soon.

A couple of other books I bought

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