Julian Gough’s Short Story Workshop‏ – part two

Part one can be found here.

So… after the fifteen minutes of writing were up, Julian went around each one of us to ask what we had written. Like I said previously, most writers had described (in great detail) the entire life of one of their characters. When he looked to me, I had to let my slightly embarrassed Mr Conscious do the talking. My subconscious was now sat back in his cave, feet up on a desk, with a smug look on his face.

00:00:00 – Program started.
00:00:01 – Send mail: “Dear [insert customer name], we at the Unprosecutable Bank, wish you a Happy New Year! For your first New Year’s resolution, why not take out another loan at a special low-interest rate of only 24.5%?
00:00:02 – Mail server confirmed message sent.
00:00:03 – Program ends.
00:00:04 – Run generic_new_year_message in three-hundred and sixty-four days, twenty-three hours, fifty-nine minutes, fifty-six seconds.

It got a few laughs – alongside a few puzzled looks – but Julian also laughed and said that there’s always one person who has to… to mess about with the rules (or words to that effect). I guess my subconscious got away with it this time?

Julian then talked some more on numerous topics. One topic that stood out was his metaphor for your unconsciousness being home to a giant compost heap. Everything in your life that you’ve seen/done/said or experienced, gets thrown onto this compost heap. You can then use this compost to grow a seed for a new story, or character, or anything you wish. Some great ideas can come from this compost heap that will keep building up, year on year.

He also mentioned how useful Eustress can be to you as a writer. A beneficial form of light stress that can help light a fire under your backside and get you writing. One example, deadlines! Check out the link to read more on it.

As the Saturday session was coming to a close, Julian mentioned another topic that has greatly improved my writing: The Genius of Scene. In that some of the best writers (he mentioned Mary Shelley) were often in a group with other talented writers. The whole group read and critiqued each other’s work and so further elevated their writing.

I can appreciate how well this works. Over the last year, I’ve attended every monthly meeting that the fantastic writenow.at group has held. One of the best things to happen whilst going to these meetings was to join up with three other writers and create our own little critique group. We now call ourselves the Baked Potatoes™. We meet up once a fortnight and take turns to critique each other’s work.

My writing has improved so much since this group has started. Huge plot holes have been found by my fellow writers that I, as a writer, were too close to the story to spot. One character that I thought was unimportant was in fact loved by one writer, and she wanted to read more about this character.

If you are a writer and you haven’t yet found a group to meet up with, I’d suggest you go and start one right now! Try meetup.com, this is a good place to start. At the minimum, it’ll thicken your skin when it comes to receiving criticism. I’ve perfected how to keep smiling when someone rips your writing to shreds.

In part three I’ll finish up with some more great insights from Julian, and of course more shenanigans from my subconscious.

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