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.

Coincidence?

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)