Friday, 4 August 2017

Going public together – David Thorpe

Last month my writing class launched a collection of their work. For many of them it was the first time they'd seen their writing in print and the first time they had to read in public. In other words – quite terrifying, a rite of passage and a source of personal pride!

Cover of book Life: 10 tales from the cutting edge

Over forty people came to the launch party, which surprised all the authors. The room was packed. It made some of them excited and some even more nervous! If you've never read your work out to an unsuspecting public, doing it for the first time can feel extremely daunting.

I made the process of producing the collection a collective enterprise as there is much that students can learn from it. Each writer was invited to submit either a complete short story or an extract from a novel they're working on – no more than 2000 words.

Everyone then read each piece and offered feedback. We would sit around the table and read each one out loud, commenting line by line and word by word, to seek to remove cliches, improve flow, spot howlers, sprinkle or destroy commas, and all the other things you do when close editing to sculpt the work into shape.

Sometimes we'd spend ten minutes on one paragraph, wrestling with the choice of words, the implied meaning, what should remain hidden and what revealed. But it was worth it. I don't think it had really hit many of them before what hard work editing can be.

Each writer benefitted not only from the feedback they received from others, but also from experiencing this close editing, so they could go away and apply it to the rest of their work. (I recommend collective editing groups, if you can find fellow writers willing to share their time! It certainly makes editing more sociable and fun.)

The title was also developed between us from several candidates.

Life: Ten Slices from the Cutting Edge contains three stories for children: Jacquie Hyde's Trials follows the path of a boy from a Welsh hill farm wanting to be a footballer and is an extract from her middle-grade novel in progress which already has interest from agents.

If you've ever wondered what diarist Samuel Pepys might have got up to in the English Civil War as a child, then you might get a clue from Julian Dutton's amusing extract from The Secret Diary of Samuel Pepys aged 10 3/4. Julian is a very successful scriptwriter and comedian, and this is his first attempt at writing a novel – again, it's aimed at middle-grade and it already has an agent interested.

Finally Primrose by Stella Starnes gets inside the head of a young teenager growing up in a local village under the thumb of her mother and is quite harrowing.
You can download it for free here! More info here.

David Thorpe is the writer of the young adult novels Hybrids and Stormteller.

1 comment:

Sue Purkiss said...

Found this very interesting, David - am in the process of putting together a second anthology from my writing class. We haven't done this kind of rigorous group editing, but I can see a lot of advantages to it. Maybe next time!