Yes, I Was in a Marathon and I Survived with Gandalf's Help

Last summer, I was ambitious enough (and totally naive) to join the Summer Chapter Post and Critique Marathon over at the Speculative Fiction Group of AQC (Agent Query Connect). Each week, participants got to post a chapter of their work up for other writers to poke, prod, comment on, analyze, peer at with a humongous magnifying glass, tear apart with their teeth...oh wait, that was Jaws. Actually, my fellow writers over there were beyond awesome. Really guys, you were! At the end of the week, you had to tally up the votes--yeses for getting to post the next chapter; no's for 'um, this is ok but not good enough...revise and repost and we'll vote again'.

I learned so much from that experience. True, I was pumping out words every week to meet the posting deadline, but it helped push my word count. I mean, I had a WIP, but everytime I'd go and review the feedback I would immediately revise my chapters before posting them. It really was a marathon--you know that feeling when you're running and your legs turn jelly on you, and  you're oh so tempted to curl up on the path (oh nice rocky path), or if you're on the treadmill your inner self is yelling Just push that STOP button, for the love of.... Yep, you know what I'm talking about.  True, I was drowning in my sweat everytime I would open my email to see if there were any new critiques, (Hey, it was summer. And I have hyperhidrosis.) but it was all fun.

And of course, when you're taking, you have to give as well. It's the rule of the universe...only, there's not many people who've actually looked this up in the Great Manual of the Cosmic Universe. It's right next to Do unto others what you want others to do unto you. Geez, I'm a babbling mouth today. Sorry! But my point is, in order to get crits, we had to give crits to every other participant in the marathon.

Let's do the math now. If in a week, there were 10 chapters up for critique, then we would have to read 10 chapters and offer crit on each one. No Wow, this is great. The End. We're talking in-depth crits, baby! Show us what you've got! Assuming every chapter averages 10 pages, in five days you would have ended up reading 10 x 10=100 pages. Not including your own, which you would be furiously polishing, waxing, and shining for next week's posting. AND those are just AVERAGE numbers. Some chapters ran the gamut from 5 pages to 25 pages long. Anyone can join in at any week, so I think at one point, we had 18 participants.

Wow, you say? Yes, wow indeed. And I had an incredible Gandalf moment.

What do you mean you've never heard of Gandalf? Go watch the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and come back when you're done. That probably takes a whole day...9 hours? 10?

Okay people, eyes here now. So Gandalf the Grey theoretically died but came back as Gandalf the White. He picked up more awesome powers after his fight with the Balrog (and his demise), so he turned into this White Shining Dude. My WIP was essentially the gray version of Gandalf until I went and did the marathon, had a 6-month writing hiatus, and came back with a stronger, whiter, version of my story.


So, if you think critique groups are scary, you are absolutely right. But you'll need one. Plus, I hear they pass out virtual cookies every now and then. Don't be afraid. You are guaranteed to make friends along the way, and tighten your prose at the same time. How cool is that.

You can thank me later...by er, following my blog? Okay, okay, I'll leave it to karma. BTW, there's another Summer Chapter Posting and Critique Marathon coming your way over at AQC. Check it out, if you've a mind to! Maybe a picture of Gandalf the White will inspire you-->

Image is from a poster.


Anita said...

How did you know I was a LOTR geek??? Amazing.

I loved this post! And you're so right, critique groups are the only way to make yourself pub worthy. I LURV mine. :)

Anonymous said...

Hello! *waves* Its a little sad but I can't remember how I came across your blog. (I blame age)

Anywho, great post, very entertaining and informative. Maybe someday I will give the whole critique grp a go.

Feel free to swing by http://www.thewordsmithapprentice.com/ to say hi! ^.^

cherie said...

@Anita: I can't wait for The Hobbit movie to come out!

@Sophie: Hello to you too! Glad to have you pop over my little haven, even if you don't remember how you got here *grin* everybody's welcome to join the fun ;)

Angie Sandro said...

LOL, I think I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from that marathon, I broke out in a sweat and started hyperventilating and relived the, OMG I have seven more chapters to finish editing before tomorrow, moment. Yikes.

I do have to agree. It was an awesome experience. I met a lot of fantastic writers and gained long term critique partners from this experience. Can't say though that I'm up to participating in this years marathon. I'm a little out of shape--too much writing and too little exercise. I'm spending my summer outside this year.

Great post:)

cherie said...

LOL Angie. It's exactly why I went on the 6-month writing hiatus. I got sick of staring at the PC. I don't think I'm doing it this year either. I really want to finish my WIP and do lots of editing before I show it to a crit group. I was so embarrassed last year when some obvious errors escaped me, from not having enough time to do a thorough look-over. But it was a valuable experience for me--one that I needed at that point in my writing. And you guys were just super awesome. Plus I liked your stories. ;)

Huntress said...

I read LOTR in my college days back in the (eek) seventies. My copies are fragile from much handling but I can't trade them in for new ones.
Every page holds a memory of those days when I first traveled with the Fellowship and heard the words, "Fly, you fools."
My goodness, I still get chills.

Crit buddies are the American Express of our writing community -- priceless.

Thankx for the AQ tip :)

sarah said...

I'm ready for the marathon this year! I can't wait to read some cool new authors.

rivercat said...

Great Post and comments,very true
little breaks are needed from Writing
& i think they help prevent writer's
block and afford us the time to clean the house and empty the litter boxes (4)
Crying With A Sense Of Human

cherie said...

@Sarah: Yes, go for it!

@rivercat: hi and thanks for stopping by. Yes, nothing gets done when the writing muse is working. I checked out your blog--you have beautiful poetry. :)

cherie said...

Oh and @Huntress, you're welcome. ;) cool name, btw. I too love LOTR.

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