Sunday, 29 April 2012

Writers Bureau Assignment Feedback

Being a writer can be a very solitary pursuit. It's what draws me to it. However, being left alone with the thoughts inside my head with no feedback from publishers other than standard rejection letters, can lead to some very negative thoughts and self doubt.

Years back I gave up writing because of self doubt and the very next day I received my first acceptance letter. I wasn't paid for the work, but it was enough to make me feel like my writing was worth something. Writing has always been very important to me personally, but there's nothing like external recognition.

The feedback from a professional tutor is what appeals to me most about the Writers Bureau.

So although my first feedback in some years was hard to hear on my last assignment, it was valuable and I tried to improve based on my tutor's observations.

For my next assignment I had a list of options and decided to opt for a short story that was a modern day retelling of a fairy tale. I decided to use Pinocchio as my fairy tale because I've always been fascinated by the wonderfully dark adaptation that is the Disney feature length cartoon.

Having studied on an Open University course, I found myself experiencing similar feelings sending this piece off that I had experienced when sending essays off to be marked. I felt fresh at the beginning like I could write the best story the world has ever seen. I then set about planning it and found myself wondering whether it was any good or not. I wrote the story from the plan I made and by the time I pressed send, I thought it was average at best.

This was my feedback from my tutor:

Hello Michael - this was awesome.  it really was an inspiring assignment with some very clever writing.  maybe the idea for your short story was not new, your version of it was however and I think it is excellent.

His comments on the marked assignment read:

Now, your short story for the Bureau competition.  As you can imagine, I have read a number of stories destined for that competition as students try them out on me.  I can honestly say that I think yours is the best one I have read so far.  It really is very good. Emotionally I am a little delicate just now because of family issues that I will not bore you with, but this story moved me to tears because of its harshness to this poor little boy who would not tell a lie.  In the end he cracked, and lied and that was terribly depressing but exceptionally well written.  This is very good – so enter it.

Needless to say I was stoked to receive this feedback. While I appreciate that allowing others to have such control over your confidence in your ability can be very destructive, as a writer I hope for my work to be read, so audience feedback is all important. This feedback from my tutor has given me a push to continue and enter my story into the Writers Bureau Short Story Competition.

The closing date is late May so I'll report back when I know more. In the meantime I will keep everything crossed and hope for the best.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Finding Time to Write

It seems to me that the people who become successful writers are the people who make the time to write. This sounds obvious of course, but it seems to be one thing that most writers talk about. Write every day and make the time to write. I have had many conversations with people who have expressed a desire to write, but have cited lack of time as a reason not to do it.

A previous associate editor for Marvel Comics, Andy Schmidt, who now owns Comics Experience (, a company that teaches people how to create comics, gave the advice that you must find time. When talking on iFanboy's Make Comics Podcast ( he said that you must work out what is important to you and what can be sacrificed. If watching two hours of television each evening is more important than writing, then maybe you're not meant to be a writer.

Another piece of advice that I usually hear, and try to stick to, is that you must write every day. The brain, like any muscle, needs to be trained through repetition. Having a daily scheduled time forces me to sit down and write. Sometimes my inspiration needs a bit of encouragement and this time is perfect for doing just that.

Speaking to Author Barry Nugent ( at the London Super Comic Convention in February of this year, I asked him where he finds the time. Like myself, Barry has had to write his novel, Fallen Heroes, around full time work commitments. Andy Schmidt gave the advice of talking to people who were a step or two ahead of yourself because the experience that they have had, which is relevant to you, is much more fresh in their mind. With Fallen Heroes being Barry's first novel, I found his response very helpful. He explained that he would get up in the early hours of the morning and write then. That way, when his girlfriend was awake, they could spend time together without him being locked away.

Taking this advice on board, I have started getting up at five in the morning, and strangely enough, feeling excited when my alarm goes off. That is definitely a first for me. Previously, I was writing at my least productive time of day, the evening. As a result, I find I am much more prolific with my output, and an hour in the morning is worth several in the evening. For some, the evening is the best time to write and finding the time that suits you best is important.

However, with the demands of having a twenty-month old son, a full time job that goes through both sociable and unsociable hours, and trying to be a good partner to my girlfriend, I still feel that until I can earn enough money from writing to cut back on my work, some aspect of my life will bear the brunt of me chasing my dreams.

I remember a story about Stephen King working long days and then sitting at a typewriter in his utility room in the evening. He would hammer out work until the early hours of the morning, using his tumble drier for a desk. I cling onto this story when I feel like stopping. It gives me hope.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Writers Bureau

Creative courses can destroy your passion for the subject you've chosen to study. Or so I've been told many times and even heard it said by Stephen King. However, with a strong desire to become a published author and an education that consisted of getting high and trying to do as little as possible, it seemed like a logical step for me to increase my writing ability. 

Having originally stared a Writers Bureau course several years ago, with their promise that you'll get your money back if you don't earn what the course cost you from your writing, I decided to resume where I left off. If I'm honest, I don't care about the money back guarantee, it's more about getting valuable, or what I hope is valuable, feedback from experienced tutors, and learning the methods that will hopefully allow me to see my name in print.

My tutor seems like a nice chap, if a little stuffy, and his feedback on my first assignment has helped. I was tasked to write a short story for a market. The idea was to select a market and then write the story. This is lesson one on how to get published - Know your market before you write the piece. So this is what i did. Unfortunately, I write on a Mac and I'm guessing my tutor doesn't. So when I labelled my proposed market and contact details in a header, compatibility issues between the two systems meant that this wasn't visible on the other end. This was unfortunate as most of my feedback was about selecting a market and how I MUST put my contact details on each assignment. 

What was left was a critique on character development that was very helpful. I was asked to make the piece more human. To describe the mannerisms of my characters to give them depth. An example was to show how meticulous a character was by making them roll a cigarette with machine like precision, evenly laying the tobacco. I was also advised, once the market was confirmed, that aiming for The Writers Bureau Short Story Competition probably wasn't the best market. I think I may have been aiming too high!

As a result I lengthened my story and added characterisation that the previous word limit restricted. I have now entered my story into the Fylde Brighter Writers Circle Competition, with a closing date of the twenty-eighth of April 2012. Watch this space. 

My feelings on the Writers Bureau so far is that they are efficient at replying, have easy to understand resources, and offer valuable feedback. Passion still in tact.