Wednesday Meeting: 13th July

Meeting 13th July 2016

Just three stories for us to get through this week. But we had a fab turnout and some great critiques. Thanks to all those who attended.

Eric:

Eric presented the second part of a military horror called ‘No Man’s Land’.

Everyone enjoyed this playful horror romp. Quite a few members felt the plot lent itself better to a film rather than a short story given the emphasis on visual descriptions. Some felt the glasshouse recruits were an odd choice given the sensitive nature of the mission. Would it not make sense to have such a sensitive operation staffed by specialist forces rather than unskilled grunts? A couple of the more militarily minded members questioned whether a dog (even one covered in armour) could withstand heavy machine gun fire. There were times that the POV slipped from limited into omniscient and there were calls for a tightening up. Do we need a character cull? Lots of positive comments on the fantastic imagery, and the Romeroesque ending.

Sir Pooch

Tammie:

Tammie presented a short piece entitled ‘Getting it Together’.

I think everyone enjoyed the zaniness of this piece. The idea of a blind date with a Lego person was hugely original and there was consensus across the group that the story hit the right humorous notes. There were big questions for some readers whether the ending works. We go quickly from a very light-hearted piece into something that seems to take a serious literary edge. The two sections either side of the two characters leaving the bar seemed too incongruous for some.

Lego Bar

Angela:

Angela presented a short piece called ‘New Gladys’.

I think everyone was intrigued by this YA piece. There were some questions over the size of the characters. It seems a bit odd that they are big enough to ride bats and squirrels, yet small enough to ride bumblebees. Given that the protagonist’s primary motivation for achieving her new rank is helping her terminally ill mother, it might make more sense for her to have a bigger role in the story. Some members commented that actually getting to know the mother might give the melancholic ending more oomph.  Is letting an elderly woman with dementia leave the community a good idea? Some comparisons with Avatar and Fern Gully. But lots of nice comments about the quality of the imagery, world building, and readable prose.

A might steed

I know there was no Chewbacca in the story. But a picture of him riding a squirrel was too much to resist!

As usual, we nipped across to common for a few swift ones. A few interesting developments for all you fiction scribblers. Algorithms have been crunched and equations computed, the Computer God has awoken from its power down and hungers for fresh spec fic. Keep an eye on his/her electronic shrine for more news.

See you all next time!

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Tuesday 28th June

Another great meeting last week with 11 members and five pieces critted (that must be some sort of record!

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Arthur presented a witty short story called ‘RTS’ that many members felt was reminiscent of a Douglas Adams like jaunt into space. There was much praise for the ideas in this piece: hoovering up zombies to put them on the moon was a clear hit, though members were split on the final pun. Some felt the piece was telling, not showing too much at the moment. There were also some questions about the general logic of the piece and motives of the characters; however, given the humourous nature and length, most were agreed that these points didn’t hamper the piece.

 

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Eliza presented the first half of a short story called ‘More than one zodiac in highschool

There was a great deal of praise for the writing and characterisation here, especially the writing of Amy’s mum. Members also enjoyed the foreshadowing with Tegan’s drawings, Amy’s relationship with Long, and the dark tone of the piece. Some members were worried that the piece was a little too reminiscent of Phillip Pullman. The general consensus, though, was that the story could be made different enough not for this to be a problem, provided the spirit animal concept was made clearer.

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Kate presented the first part of a short story called ‘The Sad Bird’, which turned out to be a Russian folk-law meets noir detective story, with some definite cosmic horror vibes.

There was much to praise here amongst both the writing style and the very original ideas. Members had some questions over just how much under the protagonist was  under the creature’s spell and that they would be more shocked to discover such a creature exists. Some members also felt that the reveal that the client is a magical creature could be held back longer for effect. Also, a different profession for the protagonist than a Private Eye might be better. Some further calls to convert the narrative summary into dialogue. But so far everyone is enjoying this.

Graeme presented a short piece called ‘She’s Behind You’. Some members found this reminiscent of Donnie Darko, and all were in agreement that this was a very disturbing and creepy read, and in that respect entirely successful. Much praise for the ambiguity, clipped style, and use of the second person in this piece, and especially for the cold and distant voice of the POV. Some questions raised over why not every character has a ‘shadow’, and what goes on in the woods. Is our POV disturbed, or does he go through with the act? Again, though, the ambiguity was generally enjoyed by most members.

 

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Finally James presented a short piece called ‘Surfing Zombies’, which turned out to be a punchy read about a mysterious trashy video from the early 90s. All members agreed that the thought of zombies in speedos is utterly horrifying Praise for the hook and intriguing plot and the nods to 80s and 90s culture. Some members found the piece reminiscent of ‘the Ring’. Others raised questions about the rather sudden ending: Is he going to watch it again? Is it a curse? Will it affect our POV? Could the watching of the tape come parallel to other events in our POV’s life perhaps (we watched this crazy movie at a house party and…)? Calls for a bit more of a twist and a bit more showing rather than telling. Cowabunga!

 

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That’s all from us for now. Our next meeting is on Wednesday the 13t, 7pm at MadLab. See you there dudes/dudettes!

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Wednesday Meeting: 8th June

It was a scorcher this Wednesday and there was plenty of people making the most of it in the NQ. While everyone else was slurping on craft ale and preening their lumberjack beards, we were cooped  up on the second floor of MadLab getting ready to crit. We only managed to get through three of the four pieces in the end (grumble grumble) so Arthur’s piece will be carried over to the next Tuesday session. On with the Crits!

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Eric:

Eric presented a horror piece called ‘No Man’s Land’.

I think everyone was intrigued by the genre mash-up of horror and military fiction in this piece. Lots of comparisons to The Dirty Dozen were made and a few questions raised over the sheer number of characters in the piece. Is the story simply too short to sustain such a busy roster? No one seemed to get on with the Irish regional dialect and the general consensus was that the story would not suffer without it. A few logic questions were raised over the Artillery being used as a distraction when it could be used to kill the werewolves. A few members are hoping for a twist on the werewolf mythos given the lack of interesting directions the genre has gone down lately (bar Stephen Graham Jones’s excellent Mongrels of course). The highlight of the piece for many was the strong sense of place coupled with Denby’s happy-go-lucky characterization.

We all look forward to reading the second part next time.

Bronwin:

Bronwin presented a chapter from her novel ‘Air’

I think everyone enjoyed the strange and wonderful world in this piece and there were lots of positive comments about the spiders vs fairies theme. A lot of readers found that the descriptions lacked clarity and called for a more perspicuous prose style, especially given the piece is aimed at a young market. The group was split down the middle as to whether the pictures worked or not, some enjoyed the interactivity while others felt they dragged the reader out of the story. Some questions over speaker dialogue. More speaker tags required for clarity? A couple of members picked up on the large info dumping regarding the historical conflict between fairies and spiders.

Everyone is looking forward to finding out where the story is going.

Emma:

Emma presented a chapter from her novel ‘Westralia’.

There was lots of praise for the writing in this piece. The protagonist’s parents were a particular highlight for a lot of people. A common critique seemed to centre on the large info dump in the centre of the piece. All the information about Zeke and his father is delivered in what feels like an unnatural way. Calls to break up the POV? Perhaps Zeke gets his own viewpoint? Lots of nice comments about the hybrid plane and the little witticisms peppered throughout. Some questions over how Suzie knows the protag is going to Westralia and some questions over how a school can issue a visa for a foreign country. Some members didn’t see the logic in the father being held captive, and the expectation that the brother taking his place will solve the problem.

In sad news, Emma will be leaving us for a while as she travels back to her native Australia. Fingers crossed she’ll be back soon, we need to read the rest of her novel!

As usual, we jibbed across for a few swift ones over at Common. We’re looking forward to the next meeting already. Get scribbling all!!

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Tuesday Meeting: 24th May

We had another great meeting last Tuesday, although with a slight change of location. After a mix-up with our usual room in MadLab, we headed over to Tea4/2 on High street (who were kind enough to give us a table for 2 hours). Nice chairs!

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We had 10 members in attendance this Tuesday including one new member. I’m sure everyone will join me in welcoming Claire, we look forward to seeing some work from you very soon.

On to our crits:

Peter presented two pieces: one short story and the first part of a larger work. A lot of praise for both of these, both the writing and the ideas. A few questions raised regarding whether these were standalone or part of something larger (something to make clear in the submission folder methinks). There was a feeling with both pieces that they gave a snapshot of an interesting world and perhaps wanted to be turned into something longer.

  • ‘The Centaurs’ Dream’ put some members in mind of a ‘Little Mermaid’ but with centaurs, which all agreed sounded like a job lot of fun! Some questions about ‘amphora’ in the first line and the difficult to character names possibly presenting a tripping point for flash readers. Calls to make more of the discovery of Chalcedon’s transformation and expand upon the reasons and repercussions for and of this change: is there some irony to this transformation?
  • ‘Enclosure’ received a lot of praise for the writing and descriptions. Some great world building here. Some members worried that the characters were a little bit generic and there were calls for this to be expanded to give the motivations and backstory for both our protagonist and antagonist. Questions over why our protagonist doesn’t put up much of a fight, and how her brother came to be the King’s right hand. Is he really in control? Where is the King anyway? We look forward to learning sometime soon!

Arthur presented the first two chapters from his novel ‘Repospace’, a Douglas Adams-esque foray into the life and adventures of an intergalactic repo man. There was all round praise for the setting and humour throughout this piece. Also praise for the characterization of Larrr. There were some concerns about the number of characters introduced in the second chapter and some calls for more active intros of the main characters. Some members felt that the sub-plot with Larrr needed to be drawn out over several chapters (or perhaps the whole novel!). Calls also for more active showing of the events in the opening. All agreed that there was a lot of great material here with Larrr’s backstory and the initial repo job-gone-wrong, but as this was all told by other characters rather than shown to the reader, we ended up missing out on a great ride! Lets get the narrator front and centre for the repoo job. Some questions over Larrr’s motivations given her situation and the  inclusion of the nagging wife.

Finally, Angela presented the first part of her story ‘Sorell Sharclaw’. Lots of praise here for the descriptions and vocabulary, aggressive main character, use of senses other than just sight, and the sinister foreshadowing of what we might have in store for us. Some members felt the piece was reminiscent of Chronicles of Riddick and Enemy Mine with our protagonist trapped on an apparently barren planet with an unsavoury character. Lots of interest in our POV’s implants and how they work. Some questions over why she has to shave her head to get them working (because they’re solar powered!) and why someone who powers up from sunlight has been imprisoned on a planet with three suns. Calls for more characterization of Dickrot (and some clarification: is his name really Dickrot?!), including bringing out his malevolent side (he’s a big teddy right now). Calls, also, for some more alien flora and fauna, and explanation as to why she has been exiled to this planet: what is the rehabilitation system that she is being put through? We look forward to seeing more soon, and hopefully getting some richer descriptions of this out of body experience.

That’s all for the crits; however, we’ve been getting quite a lot of comments about manuscript formatting recently. As a general reminder be sure to check out the Shunn Formatting guidelines. Basically:

  • Double line spacing in a plain font (Times or Courier)
  • Put ‘Name // Short-Title // Page#’ in your header (starting second page)
  • Keep your paragraphing consistent (if you use a hanging indent for new para, then stick with it!)
  • Use a # to designate a section break to avoid confusion.

Phew! That wasn’t so bad.

Our next meeting is an early one in the month: Wednesday the 8th. We’ll see you there!

Pip pip!

 

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Wednesday Meeting: 11 May

Hi all,

A quick announcement first

Our glorious leader Craig Pay is stepping down from running the group for the foreseeable future. I’m sure everyone will join me in thanking him for his hard work, fantastic crits, and general dedication to the group over the past several years, and in wishing him well with all his future exploits. We look forward to some fleeting visits (and please bring lightsabers for us to play with).

For the time being, the People’s Republic of ManSpecFic will be governed by Graeme Shimmin, Eric Ian Steele, Luke Shelbourn, and Chris Ovenden (hey, that’s me!)

OK, on with the report!


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We had another short meeting this Wednesday with just two pieces to crit, though we made up for this with some slightly longer critiques.

We would also like to extend a very warm welcome to two new group members, Lindy and Arthur, who were attending for the first time. You both gave some great critiques and we look forward to seeing some fiction from you in the very near future!

  • Hans presented the first half of a short story called ‘In the Wash’. This was a piece that I think everyone agreed was full of some very interesting ideas just looking for a bit more direction. There was some debate over whether it was leaning more towards horror or comedy, with some thinking it should perhaps be chopped up into different pieces. A lot of praise for the writing and dialogue, as well as for the transformation from mundane events to horror/absurd. A lot of questions about the hand in the washing machine: How big is it? Is it disembodied? Is it alien? Also, some members felt the two horror events in the story needed a stronger narrative connection (and perhaps that they needed homes in different stories). Calls for more foreshadowing and background to connect up the spooky events. Is this her husband coming back to haunt her, or is there a problem with the water supply?
  • Next, Angela presented a short piece called ‘That Creature Called Sprout’. Lots of praise for the premise of this piece and for the themes of death and rebirth. There were some questions about whether this could be capitalized on further, and whether the tree POV was being over-personified, but general agreement that this was a strong POV to work on. Some members felt the twist ending came too abruptly and needed more foreshadowing, and there were a few mixed feelings about the opening paragraph: some felt it had a nice hook, others that it could be cut. Calls for more world-building and a clearer explanation of Sprout’s actions towards the end: What are her motivations? Could she hear the POV all along? Is she a witch? A spirit? Is our tree POV really a tree? Lots of questions from an engaging story, we hope to get some answers when it makes it into print!

That’s all for this week. Next meeting Tuesday 24th (and we’ll try to get the blog post up a bit more sharpish!)

Keep writing!

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Tuesday Meeting: 26th April

Thanks to Eric for preparing these notes. Apologies that I wasn’t able to attend but I was triple booked with a visit to see my eldest son’s GCSE drama presentation taking precedence.

A short meeting today. Very few pieces in the Dropbox but still enough to hold a meeting. Unseasonal weather may have contributed. We would like to welcome Alice who was attending for the first time.

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Wednesday Meeting: 13th April

Another busy meeting this week with 14 people attending and six submissions to critique. We managed to discuss three submissions so the other three will pass over to the next meeting. Because of this we will have a temporary embargo on new submissions until after the next Tuesday meeting to allow us to clear the backlog.

Wednesday Meeting: 13th April

Before we get started with the critiques I wanted to mention a discussion we had at the end of the meeting about the increasing number of members and submissions. We obviously had another busy month. Do we let this continue? Is this just a temporary spike? Are we OK with the current system? Is a seven submission maximum still acceptable? Should we limit the critiques somehow: a limited amount of time per critique, for example?

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