A Bond of Brothers (and sisters)

HWS blog is going Guildford this time to meet the Hogs Back Writers. Fellow writer and Winchester Writers’ Fest goer, Richard Fuller is our inspiration, here he tells us what Hogs Back Writers get up to at their meetings:

Hogs Back Writers’ Village Hall

We walk up the unlit, unmade, muddy lane, past mouldering gravestones and uncut grass, a bitter winter wind at our backs, before climbing the steep uneven steps at journeys end.

No, not the beginning of a novel, but the path from the car park to Hogs Back Writers regular meetings in a small village hall, between Farnham and Guildford. Why so remote? The answer is long gone. I’ve been a member for nigh on ten years, and the group was old then. I can give the reason for us staying, the hall is cheap and convenient(ish), though on a January night…

So why belong to a writer’s group, and why Hog’s Back?

I’ll answer those questions in reverse order to explain the benefits of our great little group of seventeen members, which include two published, and another two agented authors. Nearly everyone is writing novels, with a couple of exceptions in non-fiction. There is no poetry and only the occasional short story. Nearly everyone has managed to complete a first draft, we are all in the same metaphoric boat.

Writing, we know, is a solitary business, hours locked away with just a keyboard and spell check for company, but it needn’t be. I look forward to seeing my fellow writers. We share our problems, discuss sticky plot points, get considered feedback on our hard penned words. Not the ‘Lovely, dear,’ from friends and relatives, who think you need to be humoured.

Why Hogs Back? We meet most Mondays for critique of manuscripts. Bring along up to 2500 troublesome words, hand out half a dozen printed copies and read out your worries. The printouts are marked up with whatever anyone feels appropriate, and a ten minute discussion (not hard and fast) follows, in which members describe what they liked and where things might be improved. Of course it doesn’t always work, one person may say they thought the “voice” was perfect for the character, and the next may well suggest the opposite. But at least it gives you, the author, something to think about.

Our biggest benefits though, are not just in the critique. Every third Monday we lock away the manuscripts and meet in a pub, aptly named The Good Intent, to have a themed chat about writerly things, such as character, viewpoint, plotting, book blurbs, or anything else bothering us. These nights are some of the most useful things we do.

Then there are the Jellies.  We hold them a couple of times a year in a local hall. A writing day with quiet distraction-free time and a social buffet lunch. More recently we’ve taken to holding Trifles as well. Oh come on, a trifle is like a Jelly but more complicated- it’s a writing weekend. We have used the same large house in Margate several times, lots of bedrooms and writing spaces, sea views, and the companionship of fellow writers, oh yes and wine, lots of wine.

We also offer each other much needed support with such painful topics as synopses, and agent letters. We celebrate member’s successes and awards. We occasionally have guest speakers and of course there is the annual Christmas party with it’s hard fought flash fiction competition, mince pies, and, dare I say, lots of wine.

So that is Hogs Back, a very sociable addition to the solitude of writing. But please don’t rush to contact us, we are not looking for new members right now…

Post by Richard Fuller


Tuesday, 8th May How to Find Your Writing Voice: Sophie King aka Janey Fraser aka Jane Bidder

JaneBidderA report by Carole Hastings from the Hampshire Writers’ Society May 8th meeting

Sophie King took us through the main session of how to create a voice that will have you stand out on the publisher’s pile. Sophie is a successful author who started her writing career under her name of Jane Bidder as a journalist and author of non fiction books for Orion. She has now published five contemporary novels and non fiction books under the name of Sophie King, a name deemed very marketable by her publishers. As Janey Fraser she has a new book called, The Playgroup.

She shared a number of tips and exercises to help us develop our voice or voices:

  • Your first and last sentence are key – these are the two that will make the agent/editor read more …
  • Use photographs to inspire you – try out different scenarios – use them as stepping stones – do it daily
  • Set yourself challenges and meet new people – more book material to help you widen your experience
  • Try writing with a buddy to create a change in tone
  • Use a change of circumstances to help you find a new voice
  • Write in a different place, perhaps at a different time, perhaps with a change of hairstyle
  • Read what you normally don’t read to see if another genre might be for you
  • Write for five minutes each day without thinking – try subjects you’ve never thought of before
  • Think about your characters and their relationships before you start on your plot
  • Use your book framework as a guide and let the characters evolve
  • Revise your work before you move onto your next chapter
  • Make sure there’s an action point or element of conflict in each chapter and aim to keep them of similar lengths
  • Try out different narratives/viewpoints but avoid first person for anything other than a short story as it may become restrictive in a novel
  • Have more than one viewpoint in a novel but don’t muddle them
  • Make sure you have a balance of narrative and dialogue
  • Avoid writing two different books in two different voices at the same time – you’ll lose your voice …
  • Try your hand at competitions – Writing Magazine is a good read for all writers

Check out Sophie’s website.

Stephen Boyce, freelance heritage and arts consultant and published poet talked to us about the developments in Southampton and Winchester on the cultural scene. He’s Chair of Culture Southampton and gave us the heads up the the new arts complex, including studios and a theatre, being developed on Guildhall Square in the heart of Southampton. There will be a public performance on June 16 for those who want a taste of what’s to come. He then read a tender poem about his father photographing his young bride en route for their honeymoon.

It was encouraging to hear from Hermione Wilds [Laake] that going to an English Literature session with Gary Farnell at the Winchester Writers’ Conference was the catalyst in moving her from aspiring writer to published author. Her book Bertha’s Journal is soon to be available on Amazon and from the publishers Strategic who are the joint publishing venture involved. The video link for Bertha’s Journal.