Moment of truth

down-the-road

Silk’s Post #90 — Tomorrow (Tuesday) the 5Writers will get together to talk about where we go from here as a writers group. Over the four years that our current membership has been together, I think it’s fair to say we’ve all learned a lot about writing. But we’ve learned even more about ourselves, and about the value, challenges and rewards of collective creative effort and mutual support.

It has been an incredible experience – one that I would encourage other writers to seek.

What have we actually accomplished? I can only testify to our progress since I was invited by colleagues I first met at the Surrey International Writers Conference to join the group in 2010 – after our founder moved on to bigger and better things as bestselling crime thriller author, Sean Slater. I missed those first, inspiring days. But since 2010, here’s a brief recap of our evolution:

For two years, under the optimistic banner “Future Bestsellers”, our focus was a regimen of critiquing each other’s first drafts at a rate of 30 pages per month. We were all roughly in comparable stages of our projects. We put a lot of work into each critique, typically providing margin notes, summary comments (usually anywhere from 3 to 6 pages), and a face-to-face presentation/discussion. Thus were 10 books fully or partially critiqued. And we weren’t shy about it.

This feedback was critical to me. You might say it tore the veils from my eyes and forced me to look at my own work in a different way. Some sessions I would leave with soaring spirits, others with a heavy heart. But because of the caring and supportive environment our group has cultivated, and the honesty and intelligence of its members, I always left a meeting feeling that I’d learned something of great value that would help me become a better writer.

In retrospect, I believe that the even more important lessons were learned when critiquing the writing of others. It’s so much easier to see what works and what doesn’t work in someone else’s manuscript than it is to see it in your own. But if you have an open mind and are honest with yourself, you’ll recognize those same characteristics – both flaws and successes – in your own work. It’s a revelatory process.

But routine can be an enemy of creativity. So, two years ago, we decided to re-invent the group through the 5writers5novels5months challenge, which we launched on September 5, 2012.  This began with the wild idea – dreamed up virtually on the spot – to each write a novel in five months, and blog about the process. If you’ve been following us for a while, you know how it went. The mission to complete five novels on deadline was partially accomplished. The mission to start a blog that might be interesting to writers and others has been a whole education in itself, and, I think, a pretty successful venture. The mission to create a learning experience was absolutely accomplished, culminating in a fantastic, week-long writers’ retreat in Whistler, BC in June 2013, where we delivered full-book critiques (and ate a lot of candy bars).

But the publication mission is still to be accomplished for the 5Writers.

Over the past year, we’ve each pursued our own writing agendas and kept blogging, while a number of other priorities have kept the 5Writers extraordinarily busy. But now, the break’s over. We’ve come up with a number of ideas for again re-invigorating our group and challenging ourselves as writers. We’re ready for a new phase. We’re getting fired up. We all want to go that final mile on the road to publication.

And that new plan starts tomorrow. A meeting of the minds. A celebration of how far we’ve come, and a re-commitment to how far we still need to go. A new jolt to our comfort zones. And hopefully … a moment of truth.

Stay tuned!

7 thoughts on “Moment of truth

  1. two years ago, Silk, you inspired me to find a writers critique group.. I am now having the experience of writing better, learning more, and making a commitment to the group that has been a wonderful personal experience. I appreciated your example, said in kindness and heard what you were saying.I wish you each a new and fulfilling bend in the journey

  2. I love opening my wordpress reader to new posts from your blog. You all inspire me to get writing! Happy brainstorming today! I look forward to seeing what the future has in store for 5W5N5M!

  3. Lovely summation, Silk. I’m wondering about something as I read your historical reflections and various posts on this now 90+-posts blog. How much fumbling and how many self-imposed revisions (revulsions?) are necessary not only to the writing process, but to the process of finding one’s voice? Of course, as the Iowa and other writer’s workshops have said forever, feedback helps almost any writer. 5Writers have made a unique contribution to this process of involving the other in a speed test focused on what has been traditionally held to be mostly a solitary endeavor. So what do you think? In the Age of Collaboration is the solitary writer an outmoded myth? Or does a group process work sometimes, but not always? I.e., one (wo)man’s meat is another’s poisson? Do you find yourselves fighting the commentary as often as you heed it? Are you always better off having four other writers look over your shoulder—or do you sometimes lose your way trying to adjust to their commentaries?

    I’d be interested in an insider baseball perspective: what goes on inside of each of you as you weave through this process?

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