Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Writing in Gloucester

It never ceases to amaze me how many writers are in this community. In the past couple of years I've gotten more and more requests from writers to read their work and give them a critique. Recently I was contacted by a man who lives here who is working on mystery novel and I finished reading his manuscript this week and sent his critique off to him. He took the critique well and was positive in his reply to it so I am hopeful that his next draft will be even better than this one was.

I'm not quite sure why people want my opinion on their work but, if they write in a genre I feel comfortable commenting on, I do what I can to help. It is sort of interesting that almost every fledgling fiction writer seems to make the same three faux pas in their first draft. I think I give the same three pieces of advice to all of them:

  1. Rewrite the “speeches”. People don't talk that way (unless you are writing about politicians). Break up the flow of information and write dialog, not monologue.

  2. Listen to how people talk. They don't use each others' names with every sentence. In fact they rarely use each others' names at all. And they often do not speak in whole sentences. Train your ear to hear.

  3. Always advance the story. You may find it interesting that Fred the Car Mechanic once climbed Mount Kilimanjaro but if it is not germane to the story, why bring it up?

If a writer can accept those pieces of advice and take them to heart, he will be off to a better start than most beginning fiction writers. But even if they don't it is hard to live in Gloucester and not succumb to the urge to create. This community has long been famous for its art community but if anyone took the time to count up the writers who have emerged from this town I am betting there would be as many. T.S. Eliot and Rudyard Kipling came to Gloucester for inspiration. You can't get much better than that.

For several years we had a writer's group that met monthly at Hovey House. It was a good group but eventually it disbanded for the simple reason that most of us didn't have enough time to write as it was and meeting was just one more time in which we were not writing. Lately I have been thinking about trying to get another writing group together but this time I want to focus on fiction writing. I have respect for all kinds of writing but it is my belief that fiction writers have their own unique needs and imperatives and benefit best from meeting with others struggling with the same things.

In the Hovey House Group we had everything: poets, how-to manuals, memoirists, political writers, playwrites.... it was an interesting group. I don't know how many of those people have actually produced a complete manuscript at this stage. I know Jane Daniel's Bestseller! Is now on Amazon but that is the only one I know of for sure.

I have this growing suspicion that if you live in Gloucester for any length of time you have to eventually write about Gloucester. I know Gloucester has served as the setting for a few of my stories lately. Sailor's Valentine, which is available as an e-story through Heart Throb Books, is one of these. It is the story of a woman who comes to a small fishing town and falls in love with a cranky, difficult but irresistible fisherman. And when I was invited to write a bit of romantica to Ravenous Romance's Green Anthology I couldn't resist writing Gone Fishing about a Gloucester fisherman and his contentious and ultimately erotic encounter with a journalist writing for an environmental magazine. So far the feedback on that one has been fun.

So writing in Gloucester seems unavoidable. Writing well is, of course, the goal and one that many here obviously attain. One of my Writing Rules is “Respect the reader's intelligence.” When you write about Gloucester you have a lot to work with there.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Dear Kat,
    I stumbled across your name on Good Morning Gloucester--"writing" and "knitting" caught my eye and I linked my way through to your blog. And there I was duly impressed with your knitting (beautiful shawls!), not to mention your writing and many talents. Perhaps on one of my Gloucester trips to visit family we shall meet--I write mysteries about four women whose friendship is cemented by knitting in a little seaside knitting shop on Cape Ann. So we have much in common. Good luck with your many wonderful ventures!
    Sally Goldenbaum

  2. Love your "writing rule"! and you write with such style and intelligence. Just got my hands on your e-book "Mermaid Shawls", and am absolutely delighted! Thanks for all the tips, suggestions ~ and heart ~ that are in the book. It is wonderful! KattO

  3. I am so amazed that people have already purchased the book. I was just testing it out last night and a few people found it and bought it!!! I have a little more work to do and then I'll post an announcement here and on knitting blogs.

    Thanks so much for the compliments! I hope everyone enjoys it!!!


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