York Writers 2012: good news for novelists?

Posted on January 5, 2012 at 4:15 AM

The first of the new-look York Writers meetings took place yesterday at our superb new venue. Brigantes Bar and Brasserie on Micklegate has a cosy, secluded upstairs room with big picture windows and a table that's just right for a group of aspiring writers to sit around.


The first of our Local Writers' Nights was a great success, with members bringing along short stories, poems and extracts from novels. The material covered ranged from a snapshot of early-20th-century China to Egyptian mummies and shipwrecked mariners, by way of an imaginative modern take on the story of Rapunzel. Participants enjoyed the relaxed and friendly atmosphere and many commented what a pleasure it was to be able to sit together and talk about writing-related issues as well as listen to great new creative work.


A number of participants owned up to being closet novelists and we spent some time exploring the additional challenges presented by writing a novel, compared to a shorter piece of fiction. The challenges included how to shape and control the plot, how to develop characters and portray them consistently as they journey through the novel, how to redraft and edit a completed first draft, and how to write the dreaded synopsis.


We came to the conclusion it was more difficult to critique an extract from a novel than it is to analyse a piece of short prose. The problem with taking 1000 words in isolation from a novel is that whoever is critiquing the 1000 words is looking at them out of context. The prose might be beautifully crafted but there are bigger issues of plot and characterisation that aren't easily tackled through the traditional route of critiquing a small isolated passage.


York Writers are going to be thinking carefully about how to respond to this challenge in the coming year. The framework provided by the critique groups could be the starting point for a "novelists' support group" to bring members together to look at the "big picture" aspects of novel writing. The hope is that the novelists within the group will be able to pool their expertise and find support and encouragement from one another.


Watch this space for further developments!

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