Work in Progress

By Dan Brotzel, Martin Jenkins, Alex Woolf

A farcical novel-in-emails about an eccentric writers group. They've all got a book in them, unfortunately.

Monday, 11 November 2019

How NOT to run a successful writers’ group

To mark Kitten on a Fatberg hitting the 70% funding mark, our characters have got together to offer a few tips for how to run the perfect writer’s group. (Please note that the following views are entirely their own, and do not necessarily represent those of their creators.) 

Julia: I have five essentials for the perfect group evening. First, comfort: make sure your cushions have been restuffed and the sofa covers dry-cleaned. Second, smells! I suggest aromatising the room with a classic reed diffuser — current olfactory pash is Fig, Fern and Moss from Fellowstead, but anything from Urban Apothecary will also do nicely. Third: a little light music. I use my Soft Literary Background Melodies playlist, with lots of lovely Billie, Ella and Frank (instrumental only, of course!). Fourth, snacks. This is a subjective thing, but as long as you stick to the appropriate aisles of Waitrose or M&S, you can’t go too far wrong. And last but not least, the wine! One can’t serve a Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 every time, of course, but something with chewy tannins that’s not overly flamboyant usually goes down well, such as a Barolo or an Argentinian Malbec (pre 2015 obvs).  

Blue: As writers every tremor and stirring of our inner life is of interest to other writers so share, share, share! When setting up a group be aware of everyone's trigger words and situations; create a safe space in which they can expose the raw, quivering meat of their soul. Writing is merely a window into our tortured psyches so a successful meeting will be a therapeutic purging that may leave people drained, disoriented and distressed but will be a vital step towards your collective healing. Let it all out, let it all flow!

Keith: Charge everyone a reasonable fee for the privilege of attending. Suggest a ratecard beginning at £100 per head, with a better-value ‘season ticket’ deal for regular attendees. Read very very fast: 500 words per minute is a good stretch target. 

Jon: Keep a low profile in the first few meetings, this will give you a chance to get the measure of other members and their agendas. There will be the obvious sheeple of course but are there any Deep State operatives? Look for discrepancies in their cover stories. Ask yourself of each of the group members - would they take the blue pill or the red pill? Also, bring your own real ale otherwise you'll be stuck drinking poncy wine.

Alice: I have so many thoughts on this! I’ve done a quick pre-plan, which I hope to work up into an outline, from which I can start to think about preparing an early draft. Nearly there! 

Peter: Good lighting is essential. Also hidden cameras. Arrange the chairs for candid angles and optimum audio pickup. Do not under any circumstances tell people that you intend to film them; you will ruin the purity of their discomfort. Instead, introduce an irrelevant distraction eg invite everyone to bring along a favourite vegetable. On the night, be awkward, be erratic, be infuriating. Record everything, then transmute into artistic gold in the edit suite. 

Mavinder: Don’t turn up. Absence = mystique = power.  

Tom: Seating must be boy-girl-boy-girl: a little frisson of romantic chemistry will always stir up the creative juices. Don’t forget the Monster Munch. And if you’re stuck for some finished work to read, just type up an early poem by Emily Dickinson or a little-known short story by Norman Mailer, and read that out instead. Then you can enjoy a quiet smile to yourself when the others suggest their tips for improving your work.    

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