It's that time of the year again. The AllWriters' writing retreat starts a week from tomorrow. I had to miss it last year, but will be there this year. It's basically a 4 day immersion into writing. While there is a significant amount of time devoted to critiques and lecture, a significant amount time is devoted to writing as well. The event is held on the grounds of a monastery and for most of the mornings, we are told to go to our rooms, or go outside and just write. For some people this would be punishment, for me it's music to my ears. You don't have to tell me twice.
As part of it though, we are required to read about 13 other peoples' work ahead of time and then critique them so they are ready for the evening critique sessions. Because we're allowed to submit up to 13 pages it is a lot of reading. Furthermore, we can't just read it quickly, we must look at it with a critical eye and then form a summary of our thoughts that the people can take with them when their piece is done being critiqued.
While it's a lot of reading, in a way it's really unique. It gives you a one-chapter glimpse into 13 different stories. It's more than a back-cover insight into the story, but not enough to satisfy you. I have to tell you that frankly some of them make me thirst for more and make me wish I could read the whole book, and others I am kind of glad there's only one chapter's worth. This is not necessarily because the writing is bad, but maybe the book isn't a genre I'm keen on, or maybe the subject matter doesn't interest me.
On top of these 13 I am going through at the moment, I have 5 others for my Thursday night class. Again, the subjects vary, but they are all about 13 pages in length. What I have found is that it is exposing me to not only new subjects and characters (especially the Fantasy writers, whose characters I find fascinating), but it is also, perhaps, making me a better writer. My writing instructor always touts that if you want to be a good writer, you've got to be a reader.
Through these stories, I am getting snippets into fantastical lands, warped personalities, shocking situations, emotional chaos and disturbing plots. It's like going to the movies and watching trailers all night. I come away after each one wondering how people think like this. My fiction skills are just not there yet. I think if maybe I hang around fiction writers enough, maybe some of it will rub off.
I guess, for now, just stay posted here. I may be writing about a half-human half dragon that eats spiders and goat entrails in milk to gain his spell breaking powers, before long.