Thursday, 25 April 2013

Diary of an aspiring writer – Knowing when to move on

As part of my learning process I joined the Telegraph Creative writing group about a year ago. For those of you who have heard me mention them before I apologise for repeating myself and for those of you who have not…
The Telegraph Creative Writing Group is a virtual group which is hosted by The Telegraph MyT website. Each month we have a short story competition whereby we all write a story to a theme set by a previous winner. At the end of the month we then have about ten days to read and vote on the stories. Five points for first place, three points for second place and one point for third place. After the ten days are up the points are tallied and the winner get the honour of setting the competition theme in two months’ time. After the voting has completed we are then invited to offer critique on the other stories. There can be between ten and fifteen stories and usually there are three or four who score very highly, three or four that score very low and the rest happily sit in the middle.
I can honestly say that I have learnt more from this critique than I have from my current Open University course. One of the greatest lessons is that not everyone will enjoy what you write but you need to make sure it is well written. I have also learned greatly from writing my critique on other people’s stories. It is always accepted with good grace and I know I can offer my honest opinion because they all accept that my opinion is just that, my opinion.
Last month mine was the only story to receive no points. Now please do think I am whining and looking for sympathy, there is a point to this story. This is not the first time I have received no points but it is the first time mine has been the only story in a competition to receive no points. The story was a slight detour from my normal ‘chick-litish’ style with a slight wander into fantasy. I had immensely enjoyed writing the story and looked forward to the critique to discover why I had received no votes.
My previous no scoring stories have done so for a reason: the ending was too rushed, the story was too unbelievable or there was too much going on in a short story and the readers have become confused. I have worked hard to take on board the advice and tried to develop my writing to incorporate it whilst not losing my style.  So image my surprise when the feedback from all of those good enough to give it was, ‘they didn’t know why no-one had not given me any points!’ Surely there must be something concrete that someone could give me but there wasn’t. Most people commented on the fact they enjoyed the tale and felt it could be developed into something longer.
Then I had my epiphany. This group of people, no matter how knowledgeable about writing they may be, are not my target audience.
So what next you say. I need to find my target audience and find out if the stories I write work as stories not just as pieces of well written prose. I am going to continue with the Telegraph Creative Writing Group because I enjoy the challenge of writing to theme and writing to deadline. I am going to look for their help to hone my craft, but I shall go forward remembering that their love of my story is not likely and therefore should not be expected.
So I am off to find that target audience and if anyone out there thinks they are it, or are in a writing group that might be it I’d appreciate your help in my quest.

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