Friday, 25 November 2011

Writing for Children by Anne

All children have to learn to read. Give them a good book by an accomplished writer and they will be hooked... Or so we like to believe.
I am in the process of a very extensive rewrite of my first novel aimed at young adults (and still enjoying it) but I have a very active mind and I’m telling myself so many new stories. So, I decided that I would start a new story too. This time I would focus on the pre-teens. I teach ten year olds so my target market is readily available for constructive criticism and, oh boy, are they critical. Some have decided to write the story for me. They have great ideas whilst others keep prodding me with ‘What if....?’  ‘but why?’ ‘...can’t you say...?’
I’m listening and trying to take on what they are saying whilst staying true to the story and maintaining the voices.
As part of my quest to listen to them, today I decided to conduct an experiment. The Scholastic Book Fair is in school for the week. There are 4 large bookshelf cases loaded with the latest books for 3-12 year olds. I opened up all the cases and told them to imagine that they could buy any book that they would like. Before I let them loose on the shelves, I asked them to be conscious about HOW they chose their book. What did they look at first? What were their criteria for choosing a book? I even role-played the process. I perused the shelves carefully, picking out book after book. I analysed the cover, read the blurb, opened each one up and read the opening lines finishing off my charade by flicking through some pages reading random excerpts.
 It was their turn. They raced, pushing unceremoniously past one another to grab the book that they had been eyeing whilst I had been doing my one-man-show. Although the instruction was to refrain from holding on to a book until the five minute choosing session had ended, they knew what they wanted. The Top Gear book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the Titanic Diary and D-day were gripped by determined hands. Without letting go, they filled in their quiz sheets and started to read. The result surprised me. Very few children opened any of the books whilst choosing. They made up their minds quickly. Looking at the results it is clear that they looked at the cover and read the title. If it was a series they knew and loved, that was enough to convince them. If it wasn’t, the cover picture was more important than anything else.
‘I have all the series and I treasure them.’ Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Cabin Fever Jeff Kinney
‘Because this one shouted at me.’ Titanic Ellen Emerson White
‘I liked it because the puppy looked sad.’ Dog Lost by Ingrid Lee
My favourite : ‘This one was authorised by my favourite author.’ Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Cabin Fever Jeff Kinney  
So...spend as much time as you like crafting and re-crafting that crucial opening sentence. If you haven’t got the cover right, you won’t sell the book.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Julie Cohen's Advanced Novel Writing Course

Julie Cohen  
(Julie Cohen who is officially Ace).

Hi there and thanks for visiting the baby blog of the Ciren Writers.

It's my turn to write a post and I said I would do one about Julie Cohen's Advanced Novel Writing course held a couple of weekends ago in Reading.

Trouble is, how to pack 8 hours of BRILLIANT information, feedback and guidance into 500 words? Tricky. And I've already used up loads saying hello.

Anyway, as well as being a wonderful day (and I would advise anyone lucky enough to spot a Julie C course to sign up immediately) it got me thinking...

A couple of my writing friends said recently that they have stopped going on writing courses as they feel like frauds. They said they aren't really writing much at the moment and don't want to be the kind of people who Just Go On Courses and never actually finish any serious pieces of work themselves.

Well, I reckon it doesn't really matter if you do. Nobody ever advertises a writing course and says Small Print: We're going to check on you all in six months time and if you haven't at least churned out a novella, we'll tell everyone on Twitter that you're The Inflatable Boy and have let yourself down.

Exactly. Being an amateur writer and hoping to get published...or maybe even a long enough road as it is. Going on courses and learning from talented, generous people who can inspire you even to write a paragraph more, is one of the best things of all. 

And spending a day with ten or so other people who just love to write and just hope to be alright at it and just want to have a go? Well, for me, that's one of the real bonuses of writing. Learning and listening and chatting about stuff.  And eating cake. Obviously.

So, even though Julie's course had me scrambling to open the laptop again as soon as I got home, for anyone who writes - or isn't at the moment and feels really guilty about it, I say, go on as many courses as you want. Hold your head up high and be a Serial Courser if you like.

Writing doesn't always have to be about achievement and worrying about agents and trying to get published. If it makes life a little bit more fun and a little less gloomy, then in the words of the lovely old farmer in Babe, that'll do. (Pig.)

Thanks for reading this and please visit again. We're not sure if we'll be any good at doing a writing blog but we're giving it a try!  Floss did the first post, I've now had a go and Anne will be doing the next post soon.

Bye for now
(Where Things Are Mostly Cheerful)

PS: Julie Cohen's new book Getting Away With It is available from Amazon and all good book shops now.  Read all about it and her other books here:

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Ciren Writers Group

The problem: the tendency for so many writers groups to produce nothing but self-indulgent ramblings.
The solution: to bring together a motley crue of fiction writers united by one ambition….to become successful, commercial novelists.

And so was formed Cirencester Writers.

The original group met at the 2010 Cheltenham Literature Festival’s writing workshops, after I asked if anyone who was serious about commercial fiction wanted to join me. Ever since then, we have met in Cirencester once a month to share work, discuss writing challenges and, now, to write this communal blog to detail our efforts towards success.  

Progress has been good. We moved to wine rather than tea about six months ago, and we haven’t looked back. Chocolate and biscuit consumption remain steady.

We’ve even had one of our number secure an agent, spurring the rest of us on to write and network more (and think about some counselling for those jealousy problems).  

So here we are. Please follow us and share your thoughts on any and all of our postings.

Floss (aka Felicia Willow)