The Space Where Writing Grows – Nottingham Writers’ Studio
Last year for a special wedding anniversary, my husband Paul gave me the best gift I’ve ever received – a writing room. This is my space - a place where I create my stories, where characters are conceived and storylines are unearthed; sometimes by me but usually by my characters. And although the concepts of my novels take root in my small garden room, the stories grow and mature thanks to the fiction group I attend at Nottingham Writers’ Studio.
Ten years ago when my children had reached their teens, my characters began to pester me, urging me to tell their stories. They disturbed my sleep with their incessant interruptions until I decided to take writing more seriously and do as they were telling me. Nowadays it’s not a matter of writing a book, looking for a publisher and bingo – you’re an author! Those days have long since vanished. Today, would-be writers must work hard to help themselves, both in developing their writing skills and by helping to publicise their writing.
No matter how easily imagination comes to someone, writing needs to be honed and polished, grammar needs to be correct, a story arc needs to flow through your story and an agent won’t even read a manuscript if the layout of your page isn’t correct. Over the years I’ve tried to accomplish these criteria in many and varied ways. I’ve visited Harper Collins in London where I took part in a master class in creative writing. I’ve listened to published authors speak at literary festivals and at Nottingham Writers’ Studio. I’ve spoken with Jonathon Lloyd of Curtis Brown Literary Agency about women’s fiction and listened to writers at annual London Book Fairs. I read ‘how-to’ books, started my own blog and joined twitter where I‘ve made friends with writers, book-lovers, agents and publishers. (And even met a few for coffee and cake). I read a lot and enter competitions, some of which give feed-back on my entries - and as my confidence grew I began to win competitions for prose, poetry and novel writing; proudly accepting trophies and a beautiful silver rose bowl.
If I had to choose one thing which has helped my efforts in becoming a writer, it would have to be joining Nottingham Writers’ Studio. The studio not only offers friendships with like-minded people, a peaceful space to work in, social evenings and now an annual literary event called Nottingham Festival of Words, it also offers workshops. I’ve attended several of these varying from learning how to increase my presence as a writer online, novel-building and authentic dialogue. I’m also a member of one of the studio’s fiction critique groups. These are smaller sub-groups who meet monthly to submit a chapter or piece of work to be critiqued by other members. As we keep the groups fairly small, our fiction group has six members, each person’s work regularly receives feedback. Every time I edit my work having listened to my fiction group’s comments, my writing feels more polished and much improved. I don’t change everything suggested because some interpretations are down to personal taste, but generally I agree with their positive criticisms.
The Baz Luhrmann song begins, ‘If I could only offer one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.’
If I could offer one tip to aspiring writers or established authors, joining a writing group would be it!
After all, where else would I find a group of people who understood why I could happily spend a whole day in Waterstones' or browsing amongst notebooks and pens for hours on end!