Hiatus

Lovely folks,

Whilst the group is still going, this site will be taking a bit of a hiatus until new contributors can be found.  You are still able to get in touch with the group by sending an e-mail to: openbookwritersgroup@aol.co.uk

 

Happy writing 🙂

The Question of Qualia

When you write a piece, be it long or short, poem, prose, report or review, you want to instill in the reader a sense of satisfaction, anger, fear, joy, wonder, love or another strong emotion.  The process by which your written word is turned into a readers emotion is described by the word qualia – a subjective sense of experience by an individual.

You as a writer have this power 🙂

You can craft words and put them on a page or screen, and a reader can read or listen to your work and feel something.  You, as a writer, have provoked an emotional response in someone you may have never met, seen or talked to, just by putting words in an order.  Your reader may want to read your work over and over again to get the same sense of feeling.

If you’ve ever read some of Stephen Kings horror work and found your heart beating fast or your mouth going dry, ever read a favoured character death scene and felt yourself getting upset, ever got all emotional at two characters finally getting together in a love scene finale, that’s qualia at work.  The next time a book or text has an emotional effect on you, step back and look at how it’s been set up.  Deconstruct the scene and look at the words, images or characters that pull you in and make you feel.

Why don’t you drop us a comment about the scenes from books/ films/ TV that you can identify as using qualia?

So: how do you instill qualia in your own work?  What hooks, words or phrases do you use to get your reader entangled and caring about your subject or characters?

 

NaNoWriMo

No, the cat didn’t stand on my keyboard, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it’s held every November.  The challenge is to write 2000 words per day for a month, ending up with a novel length piece of 50,000 words in 30 days.  So yes, those of you good at maths might realise that you can underwrite for a couple of those days at least, and still make the target 🙂

To participate, you can sign up to the website HERE and upload your progress as you go.  If you want to have go, now is the time to start planning and researching, so that when the first of next month rolls around, you can get straight on!  As well as tracking your progress online, you can get lots of support and help from the people who run the site, and also other NaNoWriMo’ers 🙂  It might be the perfect excuse to go write!

To storytell, or not to storytell…

A few days ago, we went to go visit the Sheffield Storyforge, a storytelling night run by the gifted Edinburgh Fringe performer Tim Ralphs.  Although the room became somewhat crowded (a testament to the night’s popularity) we found seats and watched as storytellers and poets got up to perform short pieces before the first break,  after which it was time for the main event: Tim Ralph’s own telling of ‘Can the Mountain love the Sea?’  At the very beginning there was fire and ice and a single man stood in front of us, and then the words began to build, with not a rich word wasted, weaving us the audience into sitting amongst the norse gods in the halls of Asgard, taking us inside a beautiful tale of love, sacrifice and compromise.

We were quite sad when it ended, mirroring the saga structure by using imagery and words from the very beginning of the performance, which now had more depth and remembrance attached to them.  We left feeling very entertained indeed, having witnessed several fine storytellers demonstrating their craft.

Yes it was a night of norse myth, something that I know well, and so you might say that I’m biased and in favour of any retelling.  But you might also say that I’m more critical of material that I know and love being re-imagined and performed live, a single storyteller becoming a cast of characters through face and voice and pose, even becoming a very convincing goat.  If you’d like to know why the goat, it involved a piece of rope and some testicles; for the rest you’ll just have to go see the performance for yourself.

So, my questions to you are: is storytelling an art that you would like to learn to perform some of your own work?  Does reading your work out loud give you a better sense of setting and character?  If someone else reads your work out loud, does it give you the same picture as when you wrote it?  Would you go to an open mic storytelling night and perform?

Mountains of Scenes in the Summer Break

Whilst you, our lovely members are on our official group Summer Break and busy writing away on your current works in progress – here’s a diagram which might just help you on clearly figuring out what bit goes in which scene…

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Of which the pinnacle is: what’s changed since the last scene to move your story forwards?  Did your characters find a clue in your murder mystery?  Did they move forward in terms of character development/ relationships? Did they meet up with someone important?  Did they lose/ sacrifice something important?  Did they go against their own values and ethics to gain something they want?  Did they triumph over a plot twist?  If you’re not sure if the scene adds anything – why have that scene in at all? – if you cut it out, does the story still make sense?

Let us know how your own personal mountains are doing!

That pesky synopsis bit

Just in case you’ve never sent anything off to to an agent, publisher or been asked to describe your work in a few sentences, you might never have come across the writers terror that is:

 

the synopsis.

 

Breathe, breathe, it’s allright, it’ll be fine, you just need to breathe.

A synopsis is a (very) condensed version of the whole, so no sub plots, no detailed setting descriptions, no character names beyond the main two or three.  (How George RR Martin coped with this, I’ll never know…) The synopsis can be a useful thing, really, it can.  It’s a short, short version of your magnum opus.  Some agents/publishers will ask for a short synopsis, others for a 2-3 page one, so it’s good to know what to put in, and what to leave out.

Typically a very short synopsis will be around 400-500 words in length, and a 2-3 page synopsis will be… well, 2-3 pages.  See, not that difficult?

Guides on how to write a synopsis can be found HERE HERE and HERE. Many plots follow The Hero’s Journey, so they’re fairly easy to map out.

Most people write the synopsis at the end, condensing the work down, but you can write the other way, creating a short synopsis first and using a technique commonly known as ‘snowflaking’ or the ‘snowflake method‘ to expand it out.  This has the benefit of you being able to keep sections of the work in proportion, without losing sight of where it’s going.  If you get new ideas along the way, you can confidently add bits in, knowing that they’ll not unbalance the whole.

Go Write!

A workshop with the lovely Rod Duncan

On 16th June, just two short days ago, we had the pleasure of hosting Rod Duncan for a workshop.  Rod’s work includes The Bullet Catchers Daughter, Unseemly Science and the third in the Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire Trilogy, Custodian of Wonders (forthcoming).  He lectures in creative writing at the University of Leicester, and is also known to do screenwriting.  You can find his website HERE and Twitter @RodDuncan.

All we have to say on the matter is: pie 😉

Ahem, no, there was a little more to it than that.  This was a writers workshop with a difference; we had been invited to send in any questions about writing that we had before the event, so the first part was absorbing the answers and discussing topics; everything from the use of social media to how to keep going when self-confidence wavers, from the etiquette of critique to the best ways to approach agents and what they look for commercially.

We even had Steven Poore from the SFSF come and join us from over the border in Sheffield.  Hullo lovely SFSF peeps *waves* ( you can follow their socials meetups on Twitter @SFSFSocial)

Needless to say we might have had quite a few initial questions, and then there were one or two clarifying questions, so what was planned as half an hour became a wonderful hour full of personal light bulb moments.

The second part was two writing exercises designed to quickly create an authentic sense of place, and different way of portraying secondary characters.  Notebooks at the ready!

Somehow it was all over too soon, so sadly we had to say goodbye, with exercises to practice and heads full of hints, tips and answers, we all headed home, counting stars and thanking goodness that we didn’t live in the Anglo-Scottish Republic…

Generating Characters

If you’re stuck in creating white, european, non-diverse characters and can’t get out of the rut, then try looking at current world statistics for birth rates, such as this handy guide from the CIA or birth rates by map. Or you could check out the Worldometers website, which counts up various stats from today or this year.

If you have a few hours a week spare, check out the free online course The Lottery of Birth from Futurelearn.

For a more personal view, check out THIS talk on writing diverse characters.  It’s focussed on the gaming industry, but crosses over to the writing one with very little effort.

The Office for National Statistics can also provide a wealth of information about the current population by theme, so that you can make your own setting as genuine as possible.

For those who write fantasy, fear not!  You can take the underlying principles of the above and turn them into questions about your own world (s)- where has the highest birth rates, the lowest crime, which group gets the best education, the best areas for farming or areas most prone to flood? Where are your characters from, and what opinions do they hold about the world around them due to their cultural upbringing?

This can very easily feed into your conflicts and drivers for your characters and provide you with a basis for a story.

What are you waiting for?  Go write!

PLEASE NOTE: Change of venue

Lovely writing folks,

At our meeting last night, we confirmed that the Crispin, our writing home for the last good few meetings, will be closing in a week’s time.  This means that our next scheduled meeting will not be taking place there.

We are currently searching for a new home for the group to meet on a regular basis, so as soon as one is choosen, we’ll post it up here with much fanfare and frippery!

All right, maybe not so much in the frippery department, but there might be a tiny hurrah and a flag waved once or twice 😉

 

Lovely new members/ those who want to come along and see what we get up to: don’t be disheartened, be not afraid, be not overcome with terror, just drop us an e-mail and we can let you know when and where!