They say that’s it’s a brave writer who exposes their work to the critiquing of a bunch of fellow writers. And those who do it face to face, in a writing group, must be especially heroic. I am one of these people. I’ve belonged to a local writing group ever since I started writing seriously. I don’t consider myself to be particularly heroic, in fact it takes a certain kind of masochism to lay oneself bare like this, but I do think that the advice I get from this disparate group of like-minded men and women has helped my writing career progress.
Writing groups take different forms. Some read out all their work and invite comments from members. We do things slightly differently – producing hard copies for everyone to take home and study properly. As well as storyline, we look at grammar and punctuation (we are very hot on the apostrophe), layout and presentation, none of which is evident when hearing a piece read out loud. Some groups don’t meet physically at all, getting together regularly online instead. Saves on rent, and you can have members on all seven continents. Horses for courses, I guess.
Further to my positive outcomes post, I thought I’d give a little more substance to my aspirations for the New Year. Any of you who’ve had career or personal development training will probably be familiar with the SMART acronym for goal setting: Specific; Measurable; Achievable; Realistic and Targeted. I’m not usually a lover of this type of strait jacket approach to growth or creativity, but when it comes to goal setting, it’s quite a neat and useful summary of where we should be headed. And knowing where we’re going and what we’re aiming for is quite motivational, to coin a phrase.
I’ve never been one for New Year resolutions that involve any sort of deprivation. So I don’t resolve to lose weight, drink less alcohol or give up eating chocolate. I much prefer positive resolutions – those that require some action or input on my part – so I might decide to take more exercise or adopt a healthier lifestyle, or, more usually, read and write more.
So, you’ve written those immortal words, ‘The End’. You’ve had your masterpiece (final draft, right?) read by some well-meaning friends and family who all agree that it’s brilliant. It can’t fail, they say.
Hang on though. Before you parcel up your precious manuscript and send it out for consideration, there are a few things that you should double check. And then check again.
Lots of talk on the interweb about the poor old apostrophe. Apparently Waterstone’s are going to phase theirs out. Let me nail my colours to the mast straight away – I LOVE apostrophes!
The apostrophe is probably the most misunderstood and misused piece of punctuation in the English language, but it’s fundamental to making our work comprehensible.
Lynne Truss, in her seminal work about English punctuation ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’, mentions her ‘inner stickler’ who rails against the incorrect use of the apostrophe. Me too – although I appreciate that I can come across as rather pedantic whenever I bring it up. Eyes glaze over; people start humming snatches of ‘Here I go again’. Do I care? No.