Bernie Steadman is our guest on the blog today. Bernie is here to talk to us about writing groups.
Obviously, as the facilitator of two regular groups, I am an advocate of writing groups. But don’t take my word for it – have a read of what Bernie has to say.
Thanks to Bernie for taking the time to write this piece for us.
Bernie Steadman on Doing it together (an antidote to the loneliness of the long-distance writer.
It can be a lonely business, writing. At some point the avoidance tactics have to stop, the bottom gets attached to the chair, fingers flex and the process of creating a new story begins. You settle into long hours teasing out the plot twists and fleshing out the characters.
It’s easy, however, to fall prey to doubts when you are alone for so long with only a screen or notebook. Is it any good, or is it total rubbish? Even worse, you read a brilliant book and want to throw yours at the wall. Support was needed. I tried several ways to build it; a local writers’ group which meets regularly, an on-line community, and attending as many writing festivals as I can afford.
I belong to Bow Wharf Writers. We meet in the back room of Art Tea Zen in Langport, Somerset.
Regular critiques from the members and having to do ‘homework’ or plan and lead a session are invaluable in keeping me fresh and open to new ideas. I started writing short stories and poems; things I hadn’t done since school. We read and critique each other’s work, find stimuli to get us writing during the session, and enjoy days out in places with a bit of atmosphere to spark our creativity.
Also enjoyable are the twice-yearly ‘Ways with Words’ evening which form part of the Langport and Ilminster Litfests. It can be challenging for writers to stand up and read their own work aloud, but it’s an invaluable skill to develop.
When I first started writing I joined the Word Cloud, an on-line writing community that takes particularly good care of new writers. On there I could submit short pieces, and learn the language of critique, as we were all expected to comment on other writers’ work. I had to learn how to give criticism fairly, and to receive it graciously (yes, that was hard…)
In the meantime I was working so hard on drafting and re-drafting my first crime novel. Writers’ Workshop (parent company of Word Cloud) offered an on-line ‘Self-Edit your novel’ course, so I signed up for that, and learnt a huge amount. After applying the skills learnt on the course to the first novel, I can honestly say writing the second one was a lot more straightforward. Not easier, of course…
So, five years after starting to write seriously, Death and Deception, which took two years to complete and was rejected six times, was signed up by independent publisher Bloodhound Books (never give up!). They are about to publish the second in the series, Death and the Good Son on December 6th, and I’m already getting butterflies.
Do look in your local area for writers’ groups and go along and see what they do. Take care to find one which is serious about writing, but not full of its own self-importance. You need to feel able to experiment there, to challenge yourself… and to fail. A supportive group will enable all that, and you may well find some good friends and the support you need.
Bernie taught English for many years but only dabbled in short fiction and poetry. She completed her debut novel, Death and Deception, when she escaped the classroom and could finally stop marking essays.
Death and Deception was the first in a series featuring DI Dan Hellier and his Exeter-based team. She has also completed the second, Death and The Good Son, which will be published by Bloodhound Books on 6th December 2016.
Bernie lives in a small village in East Devon with her husband and two cats. She is a Trustee of the Ferne Animal Sanctuary and a keen practitioner of Iyengar yoga. Regular application of cake and coffee may also feature in her writing lifestyle.