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“Hi,” he said, emerging from the shadows after almost a month of utter silence. “It’s nice to be back…” And so it is. I have just spent the entire month of March here in the Coachella Valley of southern California, “vegging out” as people used to say, and enjoying some much needed R&R. I’ve been playing golf, soaking up sunshine, reading for pleasure and even doing a little bit of pressure-free writing now that the Deadline monkey is safely off my back.
Deadlines are necessary, of course, but, Lord, they can be enervating. I mentioned the cause of the particular pressures applying on this one in an earlier entry here, when I discovered, with four months to go, that the trilogy I thought I was writing had, unbeknownst to me, become a quartet somewhere along the line. That caused a small tsunami of consequences, not the least of which was that I had to rewrite, almost from scratch, the manuscript on which I had been labouring, transferring great chunks of it from one novel to the newly-discovered “next” one and sorting out and reconfiguring what was left into the current, newly finished Book Two, “Renegade”… Thank God I did it, though, because the final version is so much more satisfying, logically sound and convincing than the original would have been.
That’s the trouble with dealing with huge themes of the kind I find myself falling into all the time—the subject matter is so engrossing and the research so massive and so unpredictable in its outcomes that too often you find yourself being simply swept along with the tide of discovery… Take a look at my Arthurian saga, for example, which started as a single novel (I fondly believed) and exploded into nine big books.
Anyway, thinking along those lines and lurking here in the site occasionally, I’ve been fascinated and delighted with the way the Forum has heated up recently, and with the calibre of the discussions that are going on, and that led me to a thought that I discussed with Webmaster Mark. He liked the idea and so we’ve decided to put it out to our readers and members for your initial input and thoughts…
What’s your opinion about setting up a new section here within the site for Works In Progress? I’m not talking about mine, but yours. We seem to have a number of budding authors/writers out there who might enjoy and benefit from a Workshop of their own and the peer opinions and feedback that might be gained from the exercise. That’s how Diana Gabaldon’s first novel, OUTLANDER, came into being… She started submitting chapters to the old Compuserve Literary Forum many years ago and the positive feedback she got from the other members resulted in her phenomenal success. The old Lit Forum, as it existed then, is long gone, but it left a huge hole in the writing firmament. Might it be hubris for me to wonder if you, our members, might be able to fill that hole yourselves? If it is, I think it might be a gentle hubris; a very minor form.
The whole point is that this new section of the site would be your own stomping grounds as writers. We’d have to put a limit on the maximum length of submissions, of course, purely out of self-defence, because this is not a publishing venue we’re talking about but a workshop in its best sense. And NOBODY, believe me, wants to start their day with an unpublished (and perhaps unpublishable) 200,000-word manuscript in their Inbox. As we see it, you’d submit a chunk from something you’re working on, probably up to 3,000 words, and it would be open to discussion and critique from other member-users. If it’s good enough, readers will ask for more and things can develop as they will from there. We’d put no limits on the kind of stuff submissible, either; poetry, short fiction, whatever. As long as it’s a Work In Progress and you think you could benefit from an empathic audience, that’s good enough. The feedback you receive, or the lack of it, should serve its own purpose, so think about the idea and let us know if you’d be interested in getting involved.
Let me be very clear here, though, that my own participation would NOT be an ongoing feature of that Workshop. I’d supervise it and ride herd on it, and I certainly would step in and stomp on anyone I believe is being abusive purely for effect, but I simply don’t have the time to be greatly involved in it and what little time I do have is being eclipsed by other things going on in Europe and particularly in the UK where my books, for a variety of complex and frustrating reasons, have never really seen the light of day in what would appear to be their most natural marketplace.
So there it is; a room of your own, if you’re up for it. I look forward to your comments.