Watching others read aloud with their fingers in their mouths seemed to generate a bit of laughter at our meeting last Sunday, but more on that later …
We welcomed three newcomers to our group: Pam, Bill and Mikhalina. Pam is on the committee at FAWWA and writes short stories, plays and essays. Bill has finished his first novel and is half-way through his second, and came to our meeting to find out more about self-publishing. Mikhalina has been writing her novel intermittently over six years, and has completed a couple of drafts.
Ros recommended ‘Book Baby‘, an American publishing company who help authors self-publish e-books, print-on-demand, and custom-printed books. They’ve published a few of Ros’s books, and she’s had good experiences.
Getting to Know Our Characters
We talked about ways of getting to know our characters to make them more real. I’ve taken my characters out for coffee and asked them questions. They’ve also kept diaries from time-to-time—written by me, of course. They write about how they felt when certain things happened to them, their childhood, their dreams and motivations, their obsessions or fears, their secrets, and the flaws in themselves that they try to hide.
Emily has asked trusted family and friends (who won’t think she’s weird!) to ask her questions, which she’s answered as her character.
I googled questions to ask your character, and there are loads of blog posts and websites that answer this. Marcel Proust has compiled a list of 35 questions, and Gotham Writing School have also developed a good questionnaire.
A Room of One’s Own
We talked, too, about finding quiet spaces in which to write. At home, I sometimes get distracted and lean towards procrastination, especially when other people are in the house. Libraries can be good, some people like coffee shops, and this website, Creative Spaces, lists a number of spaces for hire.
Reading Stories Aloud
A few of us volunteered to read excerpts from our work aloud and Lynne gave us feedback on the way we read (not the content). We read an excerpt, then repeated it with our fingers in our mouth—one of us remained coherent while reading like this, but I won’t name names. We then read our excerpt a third time, during which the words and our voices flowed and sounded stronger.
When reading to pitch or entertain, we need to use a strong voice, and read every word as if it’s important. If we read while our heads are thinking ‘This is boring,’ our listeners will be bored.
Reading work aloud is a valuable exercise for reasons other than entertainment or at pitching fora. It helps pick up clunky phrases that interrupt the flow, or duplicated words, or if a section goes on too long.
Ros records herself reading her story then listens to it back, and Lynne reads hers backwards, sentence-by-sentence (not word-by-word!), for copy editing.
Our next meeting on Sunday, November 15th, will be our last for 2015, so please come along.
As always, writers are welcome to read their work, so bring along an excerpt of up to about 1,500 words. A reminder, too, that I’m happy to read up to 25 pages of a manuscript and give feedback.
Enjoy the rest of October and I hope you write many words. I look forward to seeing you all in a few weeks.