Posted in Blog

Here’s to 2021

Around this time last year I wrote this post, little knowing what 2020 would bring. While many of us may have gone into 2020 full of hope, maintaining that hope throughout the year was a mammoth task. And yet, we’ve made it. You may be bruised and battered. You may have experienced loss and grief. Even if you personally escaped the worst that 2020 had to bring, none of us could avoid been touched by the effects of Covid-19, of civil and political unrest, of economic crisis.

But, here we are.

So, how are you? What are you hoping to get from this new year? What would you like see happen or change in the world?

My writing goal this year is to find my writing-joy. Somewhere over the last few years writing became a race I couldn’t win, and I want to get back to the pleasure that escaping into new worlds and building new characters used to bring me. I want to write for the sake of writing. Because I have ideas swirling around inside my head that have to be released.

My first step? To write for just half-an-hour every morning, and to focus for a while on short stories so I can get some (relatively) instant gratification.

I encourage us all to find some healing in the power of writing. You may never share what your write with others, but I don’t think there’s anything quite like getting your thoughts and feelings down on paper in whatever way they want to come.

So, here’s to 2021. No one can know what the future will bring, but whatever it is we can meet it and survive it. We might even learn to thrive in it.

Posted in Blog

Merry Christmas, and Goodbye 2020

I haven’t really been there for you all this year. To be honest, I haven’t done a lot of writing myself. It’s hard to be creative when the world is in upheaval.

As I take my leave until 2021 I want to thank all of you who kept reading my sporadic thoughts and advice. I want to wish you good health and safety and a brighter year to come. If you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah then please enjoy your celebrations with your family and friends, and I hope you find comfort and peace in your faith. If you don’t celebrate these religious occasions, then I hope that you can wave goodbye to this year with a smile (a perhaps a tear) and step confidently into the coming year.

I really am grateful for everyone who finds thier way, one way or another, to Pieces of String.

Until next year!

Wendy

Posted in Tips for Young Writers, Writing

An Opportunity for Teen Writers

Just popping in to share an amazing writing opportunity for teenage writers that’s happening in 2021.

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Writers Victoria and Melbourne Young Writers Studio are collaborating to bring writers between the ages of 14 and 18 a two-day writing workshop. It sounds like an amazing opportunity to meet other young writers and hone your writing skills – definitely something I would have loved to do when I was a teenager.

Fine all the details here and be sure to share with all the young writers you know.

I’m hoping to be back on board soon, but in the meantime continue to take care of yourself and your families, be patient and kind and keep safe.

Posted in Blog

Farewell for Now

Oh dear! On Wednesday my darling children will again be learning at home. For me this is something of a mixed blessing – on the one hand they’re disappointed that they won’t be at school with their friends and teachers, and I’m sorry that my writing and creating time will be curtailed. But on the other hand, at least when they’re home I know that they are absolutely safe and sound.

In regards to my writing in general, and this blog in particular, it’s time for me to take an indefinite break. I was hopeful when the kids went back to school a few weeks ago things were beginning to return to normal and I’d be able to devote more time to Pieces of String. Clearly, in my part of the world anyway, that’s not the case. Eventually things will settle down, but right now I need to devote the time to my family.

So, there may be the occasional Two Sentence Tuesday but, in the short term, know that there won’t be any new posts. I haven’t dropped off the map, I’m just taking a break. Don’t give up on me. And above all, don’t give up on your own writing endeavours. More than ever, the world needs writers and creators.

Talks soon. Take Care. Stay Safe.

Love, Wendy

Posted in Tips for Young Writers

Critique Group Dos and Don’ts

I waited way to long to dip my toes into the world of critique groups. When I did, I joined an online crit group but it’s format just didn’t suit me and it was quite a few years before I tried again, this time joining a Facebook group where members would ask each other for critiques. This worked better, it was great for getting a range of feedback, but you couldn’t guarantee getting the same crit partner every time. I was really beginning to wonder, is it worth the hassle?

Then, at a conference last year, I met an author who’s YA novel had been published and she said that without her crit group she doubted she ever would have got published. That was the push I needed to have another go crit groups and I joined two through SCBWI. I couldn’t recommend being a member of a critique group enough, strongly encourage you to join one, and I have some suggestions to make your foray into crit groups a success.

Crit group dos and don’ts
  1. Do give honest feedback

If you don’t give your honest opinion how can the other people in your group improve? Writers join crit groups to improve their craft, not get a pat on the back and be told how awesome they are (that’s what blogs are for 😉 ). Of course, this is easier when your honest opinion is positive, when it’s not it can be hard to speak your mind. A good tip is to keep your criticism constructive – stuff they can actually work on – and try to find three positives for every negative.

2. Don’t be mean

Being honest is not code for being a nasty-pastie. It’s never OK to use insulting language or put downs and it’s never OK to disparage someone’s race, gender, sex or sexuality. There are plenty of ways to let someone know they need to work on something without being a dick. It’s the difference between,’you’ve got quite a few typos – you might want to fix them up in a later draft’ and ‘did you go to primary school? Your spelling sucks’.

3. Do be open to criticism

Letting other people read and comment on your work can be really difficult. You’re putting a little bit of your soul on show and it can be hard not to take things personally. But, if you really want to improve in your craft, you need to be open to constructive criticism. If a comment really stings, take a breather, go for a walk, give it a few days or even weeks to process. You’ll probably find that you end up agreeing with what your crit partner has said, and then your work can only get better.

4. Don’t shoot the messenger

No one likes being asked for advice, only to have it thrown back in their face. They like it even less when the person they’re advising is rude or defensive. Remember, your crit partners are trying to help you. Everyone leads busy lives, no one has time to give you criticism just to make your feel bad. If you don’t agree with something someone has said about your work just thank them for their opinion, and move on.

5. Do commit to the group

Everyone’s life is busy. Barring exceptional circumstances (illness, death in the family, holiday, etc), if you’re part of a crit group then you need to show up and do the work every time. They’ve gone to the trouble of reading and critiquing your work, you should treat them with the same respect. It’s like any other team you’re a part of – it doesn’t work unless everyone is pulling their weight. If an exceptional circumstance does crop up, let the group know and step back for a bit. If you just can give it the time and effort it needs, then do everyone a favour and step out of the group. Basically, know when to quit.

6. Don’t write a thesis on their work

There’s a balance between too little feedback and too much. Too much feedback is overwhelming. It’s useful for everyone to agree right from the start what level of feedback is expected, whether feedback will be limited to the story itself or include things like spelling and punctuation, and how much feedback is necessary. Track changes is obviously a great tool and allows you to be really specific with your feedback, but in many case a few paragraphs at the end of the work can be all you need to give.

I hope these tips help you enjoy your crit group and get a lot out of it.

Are you part of a critique group? Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Do you think it’s been worthwhile?

Posted in Blog

For the Love of Learning

I’m excited. This week I’m starting an online workshop with Writers Victoria – Writing Children’s Stories with Jane Godwin. Jane is a prolific Australian author and I’m looking forward to getting her, and the other participants, opinion on my work (and, I’ll admit, a little nervous).

Getting feedback is always a little bit confronting. Writing is so a often a solitary pursuit, but eventually you get to a place where you have to share your work with others. I’m a big believer that art, all art whether it’s in the written work, or visual or performance, is only meaningful when an audience can interact with it.

Sometimes, your audience might not interact with it in the way that you hope. Even so, if you want to grow in any artistic medium, you have to be open to that.

I’d love to know, how do you handle feedback of your work? And, how are you at giving it to others?

Posted in Blog

So, How Are You Really?

No, really. Coz I’ve got to say, I’m on edge. I am scanning the news for information, hanging on the words of politicians and medical specialists and generally wondering, “Do I have this?”

Since March the message I’ve been giving my kids is, “Remember the three Cs – calm, cautious, common sense.” Buuuuuuut, sometimes is hard to stay calm, not spiral into full blown paranoia and not to start hoarding toilet paper and spaghetti sauce. And I think I’m probably not alone.

So, not for the first time and probably not for the last time I’m going to say…