Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Why Every Writer Should Join a Writing Group

(Sorry for the Twilight pic, it just made me laugh, and is vaguely related to groups...)

Three weeks ago, I joined my university's Creative Writing group. Most people went to the Fresher's fair for the free pizza, Lucozade, and of course, the free pens (as in the ones that work for two days and then die just when you need them). I went to the Fresher's fair with my eye on the prize - to find a writers' group.

At home, the only writers' group met at my local library and consisted of two retired ladies, a man who went off on long science-fiction rants, and one of said ladies' bored husbands.
I was the only one under 55, and I only lasted one meeting. Now here, at university, everyone's my age - and it's awesome!

But aside from that, I think every writer should join a writing group because of...well, a lot of reasons. Here are a few brief ones:

1) We are a solitary bunch.

Writing means that when I'm not at lectures, discussing WHO PUT THE SIX-WEEK-OLD-BACON IN OUR FRIDGE (we haven't even been here six weeks!), or occasionally going clubbing, I'm spending the other 90% of my time alone with imaginary people.
Therefore it is always good to get out and talk to real people, or the characters you talk to will become your only friends.

2) Non-writers find your book boring.

It might just be me, but most writers I've spoken to agree that if someone makes the grave mistake of asking "What's it about, then?" , they spend the next ten minutes in glazed-eyes silence, their only words "I'll read it when it's published" before they escape.

In your writers' group, you can talk animatedly about your book where everyone murders everyone, and someone goes insane and someone kills a dog (no, I haven't written that, but whatevs). They won't edge away like you are clearly a psychopath who likes killing vicariously, and best of all, they might actually be interested. Either that or they can feign it until they get to talk about their book.

3) You get really helpful advice!

Nothing beats for advice, but there is something to be said for in-group critique and encouragement. That tricky scene you've all but given up on, that scene you LOVE but is actually a darling-you-must-kill - all will be seen and mentioned/improved by your fellow group members.

4) You get to hear snippets of great books from great writers

In my writing group, everyone's writing something different, has a different style, genre, etc. And there's not a single weak link (unless it's me!) - everyone has an interesting story to tell. We have a comedy writer, a couple of fantasy writers, two literary writers and a poetry writer, and that's just half of them.

5) And at the end of it, you get food...

There is an ice-cream parlour that does amazing cookie sundaes, and is now our official unofficial after-meeting place. I therefore have an excuse to stuff my face - nuff said.

So there you have it - why writers' groups are indeed made of awesome. Are any of you in a writing group? Good or bad experiences you'd like to share? And just for fun, what's your favourite flavour of icecream sundae?

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Umbrellas and Fallen Leaves - Fall Cover Love

I am not a summer person. Don't get me wrong, I like holidays and sun and all that, but there's something about autumn/fall (I'm just going to call it autumn, 'kay?) that I love. Watching the sun set through ghostly mist, or kicking up clouds of russet and gold leaves, or walking on the clifftops with the waves crashing below - it makes me feel truly alive.

And when you discount all the girls-in-pretty-dresses/pouty-face-close-ups books, most books left have generic summer covers. So here's my list of gorgeous, October-appropriate, autumn covers...


I love the nice touch of the red hair on the green leaves - and look, she even has green eyeshadow!
I don't know why it's autumnal, what with the girl dressed so innapropriately for the cold, but the beautiful colours make it look haunting and gorgeous.
Ah, that's better. An umbrella, hat, coat, AND a hot boy to keep her warm too. For anyone who wants to know what English weather is nearly always like, the grey sky on this cover captures it perfectly...
Not quite sure how it goes with the book, but I think a lot of people will agree with me when I say that this cover's haunting. And autumnal!
Simple but beautiful. I love the way the dress looks like a wave/the sea under that stormy sky. Plus, it's set in Ireland and Ireland has some stunning countryside. And yay for red hair!

This could be a winter cover, but that red dress and the red hair (the symbol of autumn, apparently) makes this look more of an October book to me. And one of the few 'girls in pretty dresses' book covers I actually like (don't hate me, people).
A UK YA book (yay!), this one has a cover that just screams autumn. The trees, the models' outfits (although I'm not liking the boy in a fleece - fleeces are not sexy), and of course the red leaf outlines. I have this book at home and they're proper shiny red, which looks vair pretty.
So there you have it, folks. My list of gorgeous, autumnal/fall covers - to go with my new-look blog (do you like it?). Which is your favourite cover? Has anyone read one of these books?
And finally, any more gorgeously October-y covers you can recommend me?
p.s. I need one (yes, ONE) more follower to reach the magic fifty - click that button, pleeeeeease!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Let's get using Goodreads, UK!

As a student who wasted valuable assignment time checking out the book review site Goodreads in a sort of link-by-link book trail, I know what I'm talking about when I say that Goodreads is crazy-addictive. So addictive I bought ten books that I wouldn't otherwise have known about had it not been for the 'Readers also enjoyed similar books' sidebar.

                (picture credit)
But the Goodreads phenomenon seems to have passed the UK by. Brilliant, popular British books are getting almost ignored. For example, the excellent What's Up With Jody Barton? by Hayley Long (highly recommended, for the twist alone) is a popular, new, book, in all the big UK bookshops and on Amazon UK, but it only has ten reviews on Goodreads. When you think about how many reviews/ratings it would've got had it been a US book, ten seems a tad unfair. I get that there are a heck of a lot less people in the UK than in America, but I know more than ten people have read this book.

Someone needs to spread the Goodreads message. In the compulsory 'how to use the library' lessons we get aged eleven at school, it would've been so easy for the librarians to be like, "check out this site, kids,". When someone asks you how to find a good book that ISN'T Fifty Shades of Bookshop-Display-Hogging, point them in the Goodreads direction.

And finally, anyone who's read some good UK YA recently, or MG or adult, get onto Goodreads and review the heck out of it!

Who else loves/worships Goodreads (even though their bank manager would disagree)? And what's the best bit of UK YA you read recently?