Writing

My First Writers Group!

Hi readers and followers! It’s been ages since I put up a blog post! It’s something that’s been hovering on my mind since I’ve been inactive here, I’m glad I finally came onto the blogosphere again! I’ve been playing the Sims 3 and vicariously living through them these several days, because it is a lot more entertaining stirring shit up with fictional characters to take the emotional consequences. In between waking up quite late and playing Sims 3 too much I’ve also been reading library books: of the Amber Brown series (which I’m legally too old for) and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life, to gain insight into marriage itself as the story I’m really working on is KevinxMelrose, my main characters who are already married.

Finally attended my first writing group last weekend! I got the lead on it through the leaflets and notes I got from the Academy of Literary Arts and Publishing Singapore short story workshop I attended a few months ago. Initially I was supposed to go last December but due to events that clashed I sadly couldn’t. I’m glad that I could make it this month just in time for the new year! It’s something I’ve really want to do, getting plugged into a community where I can hone my own skills, get feedback and learning about writing as a whole. In Christian living, there’s a similar belief in walking together in life in communities as well, as we believe that we need one another to cover each other’s blind spots and learn from one another and complement one another. It’s also something that I brought with me in my approach to writing as well. Writing on one’s own does get very isolating after the novelty of it wears off.

The writers’ group is called Writing The City, meet held at the top floor of a town library which I had to travel several train stations to get to. It had the same setup as the short story workshop I attended, a U-shape table setting to faciliate group conversation and discussion. Not a very large room, but a cozy setting indeed.

Which made stepping in a very daunting experience for me. I don’t suffer from shyness or stage fright or anything like that but I did find myself swallowing unaccounted for lumps in my throat in my first few minutes of being present. Everyone else present kind of looked at me while they seemed like they had been in the group for a while. In a U-Shape table setting, its like having strange eyes surrounding you from all directions.

After a brief round of introductions, at least three more people joined in as well and I did feel better each time someone else stepped in. For this month, the first half on the meet agenda was writing exercises on characterisation, all were given little slips of paper; specific characters to flesh out. It was enlightening to see how others fleshed out their characters and how they inferred back stories of their own characters through things like what they would have in their fridge and how they might talk about a TV show to a friend. While most of what we write may not end up in our final versions of whatever we write eventually, it is a great way to draw ideas on how a character may act, what situations it might be going through, human contradictions etc.

In the past workshop I attended, writing about what a character might have in his/her fridge was listed in my notes on writing prompts and exercises as well, which I did for both of my central story idea characters, Kevin and Melrose. They are the reason why I brought myself out of the house at a earlier than usual timing last Saturday anyway. I haven’t written anything about them for a long time except for a dual perspectives scene yesterday afternoon, which I have yet to edit. I’m not sure if I should send sonething of them to get critiqued, since I have no idea about anything much yet. Perhaps not.

For the sake of the writing exercise, I had to stick to the character I’ve been given. People in the group were invited ti share what had come out of their writing exercises, one even came up with personal contradictions in a character based on that. Some were hilarious in a true-to-life way, one wrote about a character smuggling LSD.

The second half on the meet agenda was critiquing 3 different pieces of writing. The faciliator told us the markers to look out for, such as point if view switches, thematic, idea and topic transition within the work etc, basically what it is to be looked out for in a piece of work. It was always different for each one. One guy got started on his sci-fi novel, and it was mentioned the first chapter he shared to get constructive crtitique of was his 17th draft. I admire his persistence.

I wonder if I ever get a novel of my own published, how many rewrites it would take for me to come up with the final version. Early on during my short story writing forray, I realised then that when people say they like a writer’s works, they probably mean the REWRITES. It takes a lot of shaving extra edges and gargled literary content to come up with a whole story that is clear and succint in its thematic ideas and message.

During short breaks, I had the opportunity to make brief talk with the other members of the writing group. The few I talked to held day jobs and try to write during weekends and whatnot. The talk was pretty brief but then its my first time in a writers group. I’ll definitely discover more as I keep coming whenever I can. That’s it for my first writers’ group meet!

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