Meeting: 10th April

First of all I’d like to welcome Rachel and Paul who attended this month’s meeting for the first time. Your critiques were excellent and we’re looking forward to reading your work at future meetings.

Before we get started with the critiques, I’d like to mention Eastercon, which ran during Easter weekend a couple of weeks ago. James and I both went along, and we had a great time. We attended dozens of panels and met so many other writers–it was great to meet up again with former Manchester Spec Fic member Chris Behrsin who popped over from Poland for the weekend. I think it’s fair to say that we both came away inspired and invigorated, if suffering from mild sleep-deprivation. You can read more about the whole experience via my personal blog. I’d like to organise another trip to next year’s Eastercon to be held in Glasgow. What do you all think? I’ll nag you all nearer the time, but it might be worth popping a reminder in your diary right now.

Next, I have to congratulate Graeme Shimmin on being short-listed as one-of-six for the Terry Pratchett First Novel Award for his novel A Kill in the Morning which we’ve been critiquing during the last year. To say that this is a Big Deal is, of course, a huge understatement. Fingers crossed for the final round. Well deserved!

Finally, next month’s meeting will mark our third anniversary. It’s incredible to think that our group has been running for this long. I know a lot of writing groups struggle to make it past the first or second year. During the last three years our writers have invested so much time and effort in supporting each other. We’ve seen some members achieve their very first publication, with others going on to make second and subsequent publications. Members have embarked upon and completed creative writing degrees, won literary prizes and launched successful publications of their own. And, most importantly, I think we’ve all enjoyed ourselves. I have to thank MadLab for supplying the venue; none of this would have happened without their consistent support. It will be interesting to see what the next year brings. I promise that there will be cake and candles at the next meeting!

So, on with the critiques from Wednesday evening! With seven members attending and four stories being critiqued we only just managed to finish on time. I know I’m one of the worse culprits, but please keep an eye on time. Try to focus on three or four key points; you can always hand over a paper copy with individual notes to the author at the end.

  • Craig presented a short story called Wedlock of Minds. Most members seemed to enjoy the beginning, though a couple of people wondered if it wasn’t a little on the slow side compared with the pace elsewhere. I think everyone liked the experiment scene as well as the characterisation, notably Hannah and Patterson and their conflict, though one or two people wondered whether Brent’s character should be fleshed out a little. A few questions raised about the omniscient viewpoint and twirling moustaches.
  • Graeme presented the 12th chapter from his novel A Kill in the Morning. I think everyone enjoyed the pace and action in this chapter, especially the diving scene towards the end. Fairly unanimous critique this month wondering about the necessity for: the initial second person section, the closing third person section, the list of diving equipment and Molly’s accent. Lots of people enjoyed the rebreather, the research (as ever) and the quality of writing.
  • Luke presented a short story called Blue Runs Red. Pretty much everyone enjoyed the imagery delivered in the narrative. Several members wondered whether the Lord’s dialogue info-dump was too long and could be cut (by two thirds / or even completely). Difference of opinion over the ending: some saw it coming, others didn’t. Lots of suggestions for alternative endings which would introduce a strong conflicter and arc.
  • Eric presented the 7th chapter from his novel Autumn Man. Sudden realisation by myself (and perhaps the author) that none of the other members had seen previous chapters–has it really been that long since we critiqued the first six chapters? Everyone seemed to enjoy the interaction between Amon and Megan. Same goes for Amon’s supernatural senses. Rather resounding criticism for the initial encyclopedic section. Compliments paid regards the rising tension and the use of language.

After the meeting we headed around the corner, as usual, to the Marble Bar for chat/ale/tea (photo above). Inevitable excited discussion about Graeme’s short-listing. Also, our anniversary and the suggestion that the group should publish an anthology (members only? a call for submissions? both?). Early days yet, but it will be interesting to see how this pans out.

Next meeting: Wednesday 8th May. See you all there!

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