Let the Games Begin

Helga’s Post #39

Image courtesy Mystery Fanfare

Image courtesy Mystery Fanfare

Bags are packed, loins are girded, critiques are printed. We are ready.

Well, not everybody quite at the same level, but we’ll better be by Sunday morning when critiques start in earnest. The morning after we meet for a bonding dinner somewhere in the picturesque village of Whistler. Before the games begin in the heart of the former Olympics site.


Maybe. Or maybe a subliminal choice of venue. A signal of our aplomb and commitment as writers preparing to get published.

To make the process random and fair we drew names from a hat. Paula will be the first in the hot seat starting Sunday après pancakes or whatever. I will be the last. Not sure if that’s in Paula’s favour or not. Or in mine. What we haven’t done yet is determine who is first in the line-up of GIVING their critique. (Think about it. This could be a sticky wicket.)

We allow one day of critique for each of five manuscripts. Not only one-way communication, but dialogue. Opportunity for the writer to ask specific questions that may not have been covered in the critiques.

Genres and writing styles of the five novels are as varied as their authors’ personalities: A colourful palette of suspense, mystery, fantasy, Y-A and some in-betweens that straddle more than one genre. I tried to visualize all the different characters from our novels in one room. A hilarious exercise!

Because of the sheer diversity of our novels, the entire event is incredibly dynamic. In the last month we each had to read and critique four manuscripts. And critique them in an objective manner, regardless of whether these novels are in the genre of our own preferences. Or in a writing style that’s not a favourite. Believe me, it takes an Olympian effort of self-discipline and constraint (Is it surprising that we have chosen Whistler?) and the main ingredient (as Joe said in his latest post), an open mind. Challenging as it sounds, it turned out I have learned more during this process than during writers’ conferences and workshops galore. It never ceases to amaze me how I can spot problems in other people’s writing, but continue to make the same mistakes in my own manuscript.

But it has also been an intense and challenging lifestyle during this last month. Not the healthiest one I admit, because it meant spending most of my non-sleeping hours sitting and staring at the computer screen. Not something I aspire to repeat anytime soon.

That process is behind us now. We are planning for lots of fresh air and outdoor activities in between the hard work. And yes, having fun ranks high on the agenda.

(To be continued from our idyllic retreat in the village of Whistler)

12 thoughts on “Let the Games Begin

  1. Love the photo courtesy of Mystery Fanfare! Don’t you think it looks like me? Sounds like me? Yikes, I don’t know what I think about being first, either, but I do love your visual of all our collective characters crowded into a single room, vying for attention!

    • Well, when I found it, I did sort of think of you, Paula! Aren’t you excited to be first? And how are we going to decide who critiques first? (I am not volunteering). Maybe the writer in the hot seat can decide?

    • Oh, Alison. I love to get caught. More often than not it’s me who does the catching (I guess when English is your second language you’re double and triple vigilant).

      • I would never have known English is your second language. Kudos!
        Have a *fabulous* time at your retreat you guys! Just dive right in there! What an amazing journey you are all on.

    • We will so keep that in mind, Bev. Wished you were there. Look over our shoulders once in a while and give us your good vibes!

  2. It’s Monday when I read this, and the critiques have already started. I hope they’re going well! I’m looking forward to learning more and hearing how you’ll all take the next step of revisions.

    • Thanks for cheering us on, JM. Yes, a big effort, but rewarding for all of us. More as the week progresses.

  3. I’m busy re-editing my own manuscript, so I’m behind in my 555 posts. As of today, 6/20, you may be done, or almost done. I hope you’re all still friends, have learned valuable things, and aren’t calling spouses to come down and post bail. You are all major risk-takers.

    • Jerry, I’m happy to report we are still friends. Very tired but inspired friends. I was last in the hotseat and just got my manuscript critiqued. All good, as you will see in the latest posts. Thanks for your comment and best of luck for re-editing your own writing. H

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