Mar 31st

Will the last one to leave please turn off the lights?

By RichardB

The Self-editing Your Novel course is a wonderful thing. It will do much more than teach you how to knock your first draft into shape. It  will revolutionise your writing, giving you a set of skills that will stand you in good stead as long as you continue to write. And the exchange of critique and comment with your course-mates will inspire you and impel you upward and onward.


And there's more. The course group remains on the Cloud for ever after, so you can continue with that so-valuable interaction with your old course-mates. From time to time you will see people mentioning this here, saying what a help and a pleasure this continued fellowship has been and what lasting friendships they have made.


Sadly, that has not been my experience.


I did the course five years ago, in January 2013, and it was all it promised to be. I have never enjoyed anything to do with my writing so much before or since, and that was due not just to the brilliant teaching team of Debi 'n' Emma but also to the intense interaction with a tight-knit group of like-minded souls. At least, I thought we were tight-knit, but as soon as the course ended, and despite vows from several of us to keep in touch, about half of its members promptly vanished, never to be heard of again. Others posted less and less frequently until, about eighteen months after the course, there were only three of us left: me, one active Cloudie, and one person who never posted on the main Cloud at all.


Interacting with these two friends (for such I counted them) remained a special part of my Cloud life, but then they began to fade away too, even the once-enthusiastic Cloudie, for whom life rather got in the way. The group has been dead as a dodo now for over two years, and going there I feel like Miss Havisham in Great Expectations: sitting alone in a vast empty space surrounded by cobwebs and brooding futilely on old memories. But at least I change my clothes occasionally.


The relevance of all this to the here-and-now is that I foresee something very similar happening here on the Cloud at large.


Yes, Harry says that the Cloud will stay open just as it is, and nothing will change. But something will change, because there will be no new members, and with no infusions of fresh blood the Cloud will inevitably wither and die a slow, lingering death as people lose interest and drift away to somewhere more vital.


When the news about Jericho Writers first broke, and we assumed that the  Cloud was soon to vanish, it was suggested that another forum to replace it could be started, and the idea was received with some enthusiasm. But that seems much less likely to happen now, because what I didn't know then was that there is already another forum, populated largely, it would appear, by Cloudies and ex-Cloudies. This may well explain the uneasy feeling I've had of late that the Cloud is not as lively as it used to be. More relevantly, it may also mean that, to many, yet another forum for refugee Cloudies would appear to be superfluous.


But that's okay, because there's the solution to my problem, ready and waiting, yes?


Nope. Afraid not.


I had never heard of this place because, unlike some here, I was not invited to join. That doesn't matter to me, because if I had been I would have declined. I can't go into my reasons because I'd have to dredge up history that everyone here would rather forget; but it is not, I must emphasise, a personal grudge, more a matter of moral principle and my personal choices about the company I wish to keep. My feelings are, however, deep and heart-felt, and they are not going to change.


I must add that I'm not rubbishing the place. I have no quarrel with you, dear reader, if you wish to go and sign up, or indeed if you already have. It's just that I won't be joining you there.


I could go looking for another forum to join. But I'd have to leave behind my seven-year history here and start all over again from scratch among strangers, and I very much doubt if any other forum has the wonderful ethos that makes the Cloud so special, and which I've never encountered anywhere else on the net. Indeed, I've heard rumours of bitchery and in-fighting that make anything that's ever happened here look positively sweetness-and-light. No thanks: that doesn't really appeal.


No, from here it looks like I shall end up repeating my Miss Havisham act. Maybe there'll be a few other lost souls wandering through the cobwebs.


So where's the light switch?

Mar 30th

Of Jericho, clouds, and community

By Harry

Hi folks

I just wanted to talk to y'all directly about the Cloud and the (Good Friday themed) death of the Writers' Workshop and its rebirth as Jericho Writers.


The Word Cloud is staying.

Just as it is. No changes. No cost. No nothing.

We WILL close it to new members, simply because the software isn't up to scratch as it is. The system was never really designed to handle as much traffic as it already has, and outages are already too common.

We've looked to upgrade the software with the same supplier, but they can't do that without erasing all the data and starting from scratch. We've looked at shifting to a different supplier, but it's the same story.

And, truth is, that the supplier we picked way back when is basically comatose. They exist only to pick up ongoing subscriptions from people like us, but any active development/support work has long ceased.

Closing the site to new members is probably the one thing we can do to save it for existing members for the indefinite future.

I hope that is reassuring - or at least as reassuring as we can be, when the words "comatose" and "software supplier" live in such disturbing proximity.

But what about Jericho Writers?

What's with that?

OK, so here's the thing.

Nothing that we used to do as the Writers Workshop is changing.

The Festival will still be the Festival. Editorial crits will still be available to one and all. We're not changing any prices anywhere. (Except people in the US, for example, will see prices in USD, and those prices may not be exactly the same as the GBP equivalent at any particular moment.)

So anyone who wants the same-old same-old can have it, with not a whisker of difference.

Except . . .

We realised that an awful of what we do - or could do - could be delivered online. So yes, there'd be a set up cost to creating something (a video course, say, or a filmed masterclass), but the actual distribution of that thing would be effectively free.

So if we could just find a way to collect a BIT of money from a LOT of people, we could create a genuinely amazing service for gazillions of people.

Better still, if that service was meaningfully profitable, then we could take a chunk of the money that came in every month and just build new stuff.

Another video course. More filmed interviews. Huge extensions to our Agent Hunter database. And more.

So that's what Jericho Writers is all about.

Yes, there will be a community element (more about that in a mo), but that's not quite the centre of the whole idea.

Membership of Jericho Writers will cost £30 a month - but without lockins, so if you want to just buy a month's membership, gorge yourself silly, then cancel, that really is completely fine by us.

And what do you get?

You get this:

  • Our How To Write course that we were selling for as much as £650.
  • Our Getting Published course, that we were selling for as much as £295
  • An excellent Self-Publishing course which will compete directly with, for example, Mark Dawson's $499 Self-pub course.
  • Tons of filmed one-hour masterclasses, which are basically filmed versions of live events. So if you couldn't get to London for our Getting Published day recently, you can get the whole thing on video.
  • A new-look version of Agent Hunter, except that the literary agents database is about to expand from UK only, to worldwide. Once we've got a proper handle on the agents, we'll start adding other things in too - cover designers, proof-readers, and so on and so on.
  • A free advice line, which we'll staff. There'll be no salespeople on the end of that line, just people (like Nikki Holt, for example) whose only brief will be "Help that writer."
  • You get the Townhouse community, which, Deo volens, will have some scrap of the loveliness of the Cloud
  • Discounts on every service (editorial, events, courses, Festival) that we offer.
  • First dibs on York places
  • And so on

The idea is just to offer so much crazy value that the whole thing is a no-brainer. I mean, you might not want to sign up forever, I get that. But if there was stuff you really wanted to learn and get to grips with, you could spend as little as £30, £60 or whatever and just fill your boots.

For me, the win will be if writers come away thinking, "Wow, that's just incredibly helpful. Thanks." It won't mostly be measured by whether we make money or not.

And if the idea basically works, then our mission is just: "Make this good thing even better."

Like: maybe we could offer a live, online slushpile submissions process every month with real, live, engaged, hungry, communicative agents?

Or twice a month, once with London agents, once with New Yorkers?

And what about a "Here's everything you need to know about the world of books" news-type email? So that you're permanently in the know, not peering into the world of books, a puzzled outsider.

And what about regular, regular webinars involving top experts in different areas with the ability to ask questions of them all?

And what about a two hour film that enters the doors of a major publisher and just picks apart in detail how they publish books?

And what about . . .?

Well, everything really. We have plans for many of the items on the above list, and our ambitions are basically limitless.

Again, the core idea is twofold:

Build something so cheap that it's accessible to almost anybody (remember, you can take out membership for just a month or two if you want to)

Build something so amazing, it'll blow people's brains.

Then make it better.

It's sort of easier to show you this than tell you this, and we're not quite ready for the Big Reveal.

But that still leaves a couple of questions.

What about people who are really short of even that £30?

Well, honestly, I think nearly anyone can scrape together that kind of dosh. I think the real issue is more with people thinking, "I don't belong in that community. Those kind of things just aren't for people like me."

So again, I don't have specific news on this yet - we've been rather busy all round, to put it mildly - but we want to work with outreach organisations (folks like Creative Futures) to actually find the excluded voices. People from minority backgrounds. People from working class or ill-educated or underprivileged backgrounds. People in jail, or care, or whatever else. And to those folks, we'll just give our stuff away if we have to. The brilliant thing about digital is that (as long as you have a model that brings in a regular income from regular people) you can just give it away too.

So we will.

And because we are now thinking more globally than we used to, I hope that outreach will start to operate more gloablly too. It'll take us a long time to roll out every last detail, of course, but the intent is certainly there.

OK, and what about the Townhouse Community?

Well, OK, this is and remains a little bit uncertain for us.

There are two alternative options for us.

Option 1:
Make the community free and hope that people feed from the community to proper membership of Jericho Writers itself. That, obviously, was how we conceived the Word Cloud.

Option 2:
Wrap the community into the whole JW offer, so the "you get all this for £30" pitch becomes that little bit more compelling.

I don't actually know which one of those is the way to go, but I DO know that the choice isn't symmetrical. If we make Townhouse a paid service from the start, then we can always go free if we want to. We're not letting down our existing community users, because they still have access as thhey always did.

Conversely if we start with Option 1 - making the Townhouse free from the start - we can never change track, because we can't tell all those free users, oh, by the way, pay us £30 or we're going to delete all your data.

So while I'm genuinely uncertain about the right long term course of action here, I do know that we need to start off with Option 2. Then, I think, we'll need to bed things in, see how they go, and take stock in a few months time.

So? What do you think?

That's it from me.

We've spent well over £100,000 building Jericho Writers, and the basic WW team has gone from 2 permanent employees this time last year, to 7 today, and more joining soon. To say that this is a big move for us is to understate things. It's giant. We've bet the shop, and then some.

I honestly think this has the potential to be the biggest and best thing we've ever done for writers.

I also rather hope that it'll prove itself financially. (For two reasons. One, I haven't had any income for a year. Two, if the things goes well, we can just go nuts making it better.)

But y'all know us.

What do you think? What are your thoughts?

I'm a bit less crazy busy today - although our tech team is still hard at work through the bank holiday - so I'll be around for questions, comments, rotten tomatoes . . .

Let me know!

Mar 30th

A stormy word clouded

By mike

 I have a dozen or so ‘printed’ books by world cloud members and they are all well written.  I would be sorry to see world cloud go as it does give me some idea of what goes on in the literary world.  I have very few friends but I am sure many world clouders share the same interests that I do.   I saw Pinocchio last night at the NT.   I went on my own but many world clouders could have been in the audience.  There seems no other way of keeping in touch than the site.

    I had posted a longer blog but it disappeared.  It was only about a performance of St Matthew’s Passion and that Bach is telling a story.   It is Easter. 

    Few people in England will see this performance as the text is in German and the approach was historic reconstruction.

 There is nothing in my own writing that could offend anybody but my research is a different matter and, although I would be very interested in people’s opinions, I did not post or posted a highly edited version.  

   You see, already the post is too long.  My last big project in which I had posted and asked opinions on was about blindness and memory.  However, anything about the middle east is problematical so best left out.



Mar 28th

To Cloudy Friends

By Tony

As I have, on occasion, been referred to as the Lauriate of the Cloud I thought the present situation should not pass by without alusion in verse.


To Cloudy Friends

(With apologies to William Wordsworth.)


I wandered, lonely in a crowd,

All seeking to be published Now!

When all at once I saw a Cloud,

A host, that let me ask, ‘But how?”

‘Twas free to join, I signed my name

And countless others did the same.


The site continued, growing strong,

It gave support along the way,

It’s members moving it along,

Their numbers growing day by day.

Ten thousand saw I at a glance –

Word Clouders, all, being giv’n a chance!


Critiques and edits, lots to say;

Advice from friends would welcome be.

A writer could not but be gay

In such jocund company.

I played my part, but little thought

What wealth this site to me had brought.


But now, I know that this must cease

Eventually, I fear my mood

Will never let my mind find peace.

I must revert to solitude,

And when the Word Cloud finally ends

Must bid farewell to Cloudy friends.


And on a lighter note:


Word Cloud has been such a splendid creation;

Helped writers through many a tough situation.

But the bright silver lining,

As the Cloud is declining –

We’ll lose the temptation for procrastination!

Mar 28th

Beta Testing, Sci Fi RPG

By babblefish2

It began in the cradle, the first world, long ago.
There was no Chimera, no immortals, no Gods.
Only Humans.

On the backs of slaves we ventured out into the
great dark void between worlds
The Second world was brought to life. From glass
and steel we forged worlds of our own amidst the
void. We began plans for a great voyage...

And then we created the gods.



Hey lovely cloudies. I've spent the last couple years working on a tabletop RPG on and off... and am now at the stage of wanting to Beta test it (On people who haven't seen it before).

The setting is full space opera grade Science fiction.

Each character is based on THREE classes- players are expected to mix and match, with such combinations as  "Pilot/gunslinger/conartist" and "Engineer/infiltrarotor/martial artist".  Character classes are simplified (compared to other RPGs) so as to maintain a slightly lower complexity level.

Combat is still a thing, but slightly more emphisis on Social and engineering than most RPGs I've encountered.


If anyone is interested in taking a look, comment here or flick me a PM and I'll send you the PDF.


Thanks heaps,


Mar 27th

The Walls of Jericho

By Tony

There has already been some comment on the front page about the Writers' Workshop's re-branding plans.

The first thing to be said has to be what a tremendous service Harry Bingham and his team have provided over the past years to all of us writers, at whatever stages we may be. I speak as a founder member of this free forum, the WordColud, which quickly took on a self-perpetuating life of its own, but relies, nevertheless upon the generosity of the WW to provide its home and some of the professional writers who give regular input.

It has been a rich source of help to many of us over the years, and, I guess, a usefull recruiting ground for WW to attract paying customers for its courses and other services. But it seems that WW feels it can no longer continue to support the Cloud as a free recruiting pool for itself and a brilliant free resource for all its members.

So be it. We've had a good run for our money - or rather for free! and thank you, Harry, for that.

What happens now, or in April, actually? Everything is supposed to continue the same under the new name of Jericho Writers - the Oxford didtrict where WW's office is located. Except...

Jerico Writers will not be a free site. It will cost £30 a month to be a member and avail ourselves of all we have been enjoying free up to now. That's £360 a year, or about 300 paperback sales of your book if and when you get published, or about 800 sales of your ebook, if and when. A year.

Sadly, I don't think I need say anymore. It's the end of a happy era for me. You know what happened to Jericho in the Bible. I really hope WW don't suffer the same fate but that somehow they will make this new regime work.

Although I and, I suspect, many of us will no longer be a part of it, we really don't want to see the walls come tumbling down.

Mar 27th

Thee, Thou, and Airtah Orlreet?

By Dolly

I suppose this is an indirect response to the recent post concerning the Americanisation of language. My reaction to this was the renaming of shopping centres to malls. (Bloody awful!)

I'm coming up to my 77th year, which means I was born during world war two. After the war my family moved to Croxley, a village near Watford. My childhood was idyllic. We lived in a semi, surrounded by woodland, rivers, fields, and the Grand Union Canal. However, when I was 15, my mother and father bought a pub/hotel and we all moved 200 miles north to Preston in Lancashire.

At that time, Preston was a large, industrial town of engineering and cotton mills. This was a leap in the dark for me. I'd never seen anything like it. Terraced housing, no bathroom, outside toilet, and if you wanted a bath, you either went to a public one, or dragged a metal one in from the yard.

You could buy tripe, cowheels, pigs trotters, and believe it or not, a sheep's head, which I came across once in a pan at a friend's house.

'Its me dad's,' he explained in disgust.

This of course, came from a time of poverty when nothing was wasted. Ironically, I came across some tripe recently in a deli in Manchester, displayed at an exorbitant price!

Then there was the language. Not all, but a large amount of people spoke dialect, now, understanding the accent was bad enough, but the dialect was damn near impossible. I was introduced to it one evening after having a drink with a new friend. The conversation went something along these lines.

'Well, I'm off,' I said, draining my glass.

'Airtah gooin whom, thee?' He said. (Are you going home?')

'Ay?' I replied, trying to fathom out what he had just said.

'Thanors, whom!' (You know, home!)

As you can imagine, I felt as though I had been parachuted into a foreign country. (They still used the words thee and thou in the language.) There were many more of these instances before I managed to get my head around it all.

That's all gone now. A culture, a way of life, the engineering, the mills and the dialect, though there are moves to try and preserve the language before its gone altogether.

I feel something of value has been lost here, along with renaming shopping centres to malls.

Of course, some nonce will justify it in the name of progress. My reaction to that is: Progress towards what?

Mar 25th

This is my life on the line so to speak.

By gill46

Well I am - was an artist, and in my time successful. "Why don't you just push off then?" I hear you say, well maybe you say. I have also written for a large chunk of my long life.

Here in Italy 'they' have been there, done it etc.- regarding art, you know 'the Renaissance,' who needs to do any more they seem to think?. Unlike the UK, galleries are thin on the ground, some areas don't have any atall. And you gain massive invisibility on the net- good site or not. There are so many ways you can promote a book aren't there? Books on how to promote your book, its just down to application and research, and hence so much more satisfying so far anyway. 

Ok I have only just published on kindle but I have a handfull of people buying and getting freebees. I have read that the keywords are make or break. I am enjoying trying to far. Perhaps I will go away with my tail between my legs but its hard not to hope even expect if you have confidence in what you have written.

I sussed that writing ' how to' books are the best sellers over all, or am I wrong in thinking that.? And no, that is not what I have written, I have probably written my way into obscurity. Yes I enjoyed the book, I loved the characters I created, they became real to me like friends. Its almost like patting someone on the back and encouraging them, I mean the characters. Don't worry everyone will love you. Then they arent loved maybe, and you think 'oh dear poor things'.

Anyway, once I left a portion of the first chapter very tentatively on The Word Cloud, probably in the wrong section knowing me. As one would expect, some said favourable things, some said less favourable things, and some said not good things.

As with editors I was encourage to edit, to change even the character of the book the nature of its subject, might as well have dustbinned it and started afresh with a whole other book. But, I didn't.. at first I felt discouraged, I think its hard not to listen to the negavtives more intensely than the positives. However I would no be stopped, and after a few weeks of wilting, I put my foot down and said no, its going just exactly as is, no more editing not changing characters into someone else, it would be submitted untouched except obvious necessary editing. I did a James Joyce, I felt as determined as he was to be accepted without modification. In fact the idea of editing and cutting that would take place via a publisher was almost depressing.

Well as I said I played the card of art, I was recognised  without effort once, but lets face it, its dead. In any case I don't know why, but now I enjoy writing more.

Because of that, I hope you will feel like going to Amazon, ( am I allowed to say that?) and look up my book,-- Grace, a difficult life, its free until tomorrow  and I am thinking of doing a low price offer if they will let me. It was difficult to put a title to it and I don't know whether to revise it or not. Though the title implies it is essentially about Grace -- which it is, but other characters are just as prominent, and the story is built around homelessness, and the subjects of that life style, and her relationship to them or with them, and the terrible situations she gets into.   What title can a person put to that? Well I hope some of you will have a look maybe get around to the review stage.     Gill Mahoney

Mar 25th

good cop:bad cop

By mike




A trope for a TV cop 

(This trope is at the end of the blog, but I’ve added a few comments about good and bad writing in response to a query about the issue.  Self criticism can be difficult and I believe William Golding’s success had been due - in a significant way - to his editor at Fabers.  I have read a biography of his life but I can barely remember it.  I recall Golding had been a borderline alcoholic, due to his difficulty in repeating the success of ‘Lord of the Rings.‘ 


Good and bad writing.

     A few days ago I wrote in the morning for no apparent purpose.  I think I was trying to put words together in an entertaining way.  I had taken a redundancy package at work a couple of years ago with the intention of writing full time but this was not possible.  However, habits are hard to break.  This blog is to try to be more assertive in my opinions.

     I had typed ‘great success’ and the spell checker reprimanded me for the sentiment.    It told me firmly that my words were a cliche and suggested ‘very successful’ instead. 

     I am usually interrupted by the checker in the matters of spelling or punctuation and am sure the spell checker is correct.  After some thought I deleted ‘very successful’ and restored my words - twice!

        ‘....The first work to be performed was ‘The Iron Foundry‘ by Mosalov.   

       Vladimir Ashkenazy conducted a large orchestra with admirable restraint; less, I believe, for a concern for the ears of the audience than for the foundations of the building.    

        Meatloaf be warned!   

         The Iron Foundry’  was a great success in the years of the Russian Revolution.   A talk before the concert placed the music in its historical context and we were informed that it had been a great success in Basingstoke too.....”

        did a word count and I typed a few thousand words  The aim had been to compare three concerts that, by chance, I had attended on three consequent days.  These concerts were at then same concert hall.


Aesthetic value judgements - sometimes called relative value judgements.  Is this work good or bad.

     I often go out in the evenings. It is the going out that is important to me, rather than any aesthetic judgement. I attended a performance of Shakespeare a few weeks ago and enjoyed my evening out.    

    A few days later, I sat next to an American* at another play.  This was at a different venue. During the interval, we discussed the plays we had recently seen. He saw the same Shakespeare play and enjoyed the evening too, but he told me that, if he had read the reviews, he would not have gone to the play.  Apparently, if you get two stars from the Guardian it is ‘curtains‘  

     I was at the same theatre on Wednesday and someone who worked there, told me that people had walked out in disgust. This is good publicity and might ensure the production’s success.  The NT has got a way with murder?   (This is more of a Globe blurb) I am sure the critic of the ‘Guardian’ made a correct aesthetic judgement. I don’t know?

     Of course, the National Theatre is not to blame.  It is a building.   I have some sympathy for the director, He has quite literally a big problem. The Olivier Theater in the NT complex is based on the structure of a Greek amphitheater.  It has a thrust stage and seats over one thousand people.  The theatre was full to capacity on the day I went; I got one of the few remaining seats.  This was right at the top.  I had binoculars and the actors were not in full frame!   I had the theatre’s headphones and the verse was clearly spoken and not taken at too fast a pace..


 A trope for a TV cop. 

      A trope is a metaphor for a genre but, perhaps, it is more specific. (OED a significant or recurring theme, a literary or cultural context; a motif) 

     A paradox occurs in you break the trope. A new one is then created. This cannot be done as the trope (genre) demands conformity to its pattern.  Think of a poetic form.  If you deviate from this, you create a new poetic form.  A TV cop show or cop book is just the same.

     if you do break the trope you are an artist rather than a writer.

     Michael Morpogo is promoting his new book with a slogan.  It appears on advertisements on station platforms. ‘it is the people who don’t fit who change the world”  I do find this statement open to debate but an artist can fit the bill,

  An artist in the creative sense no longer exists.  There is no art.  It is a redundant concept.  I still think of an artist in the sense that the word was used by earlier generations.   Art ceased in 1956. 


   I’ve described shoots or acts of a first scene.

1)  Feet protrude from shrubbery

  1. An innocent bystander approaches.
  2. There are screams and appropriate shock horror
  3. .  Police cars arrive with  flashing lights.  
  4.   The main cop emerges from a car.
  5.   The subsidiary cop enters from another car with a mobile phone.
  6.   They enter a tent which is surrounded by tapes which display messages instructing ‘do not enter’
  7.   A forensic scientist is always present.  He is the comic relief.
  8.   The main cop inspects the corpse and finds details unseen to other mortal eyes.
  9.   The scene now changes to the main office where comic banter occurs and conflict with any boss. This boss has neither the understanding or wit of the main cop and much is made of this.
  10.   The main cop goes home - usually alone. (End of act)


   This trope is from a 1950’s film staring Jack Hawkins who was playing ‘Dixon of Dock Green’  long before the TV series had begun.  The trope has not changed in any significant detail, only in minor variations.



Mar 19th

Is the story everything?

By John Alty

Stephen King tells us, in his book On Writing, the story is everything. I’m not going to argue with a master storyteller, but does the story transcend the manner in which a book is written? If the story is really, really good can it be told badly? Does the story forgive bad grammar, misused punctuation, too much narrative, too many adverbs, an abundance of cliché?

King doesn’t imply this, of course, he’d be horrified at the thought, I’m sure. But it came to mind recently when I was browsing for a book on Amazon and found, distressingly quickly, an offering that prompted this thought. It seemed to me it might be a very interesting story so I dived in and read the sample few pages. Well, by the third page I realised I was so enthralled by the bizarre punctuation I had no idea what the story was about. I went back and started again. This time it was the undisciplined nature of the writing that distracted me. I abandoned the book then, grateful I’d been able to sample it before wasting time and money.

I’ve decided no matter how engaging the story might be I couldn’t read a badly written book.


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