For all those wondering how it went, here is a wrap of the inaugral 5DI. The week ran from the 10th – 16th July and participants were divided into three pods according to genre (category, historical/mainstream, suspense/paranormal). Below three participants, one from each pod, give their perspective:
Pod: The Lara’s (Paranormal/Suspense) Mentor: Fiona Brand Manuscript genre: Paranormal
Why you entered 5DI: I have come close in comps and have had partials and whole ms requests from editors, but just haven’t been able to take that final step. I figured I was missing something or wasn’t understanding some crucial thing they are looking for and thought that if I got into the 5DI, my mentor might be able to help me with this and help me take a bigger step down the path.
The highlight of your week: I loved the whole week, but there are three things that really stand out.
1)Spending time each day with Fiona was fantastic. I actually had one of those ‘light bulb’ moments in regards to the whole first section of my ms – I’d written it in a passive voice because my main character was quite young, but just by making her a little older and changing the prologue into an inciting incident, it changed everything that came after and turned the writing from passive into active. I really began to understand this concept that I’ve struggled with and learning how to cut for pace, something Fiona is really very good at. She’s a great book doctor. I feel like I can take what I learned and apply it to other things I’ve written and will write in the future.
2) Having actual time to write every day was pretty special too. Usually I’m trying to squeeze it around kids and work and time with the hubby and family and housework (although that very often only gets a quick going over! LOL). Actually having whole days to spend on something I love was just invigorating. I feel rejuvenated and enthused about everything now, not just my writing. Really must carve out some time for myself!
3) I also just loved the whole atmosphere of being among like-minded people and being able to walk down the hall and have a chat or a brainstorm with someone, either on my work or on someone else’s. It was an incredibly positive creative experience and I’d love to do it all again.
The toughest thing about the week: I didn’t really have a tough thing. I suppose, waiting to be given the report was pretty nerve-wracking. Everyone disappeared pretty quickly after that and I have to say, I didn’t sleep much the first night. My brain was going into overdrive thinking over what had been said and ways I could try to embrace Fiona’s suggestions without losing what I feel is integral to the book. It was all good though. Even with lack of sleep, I was enthused and ready to go and give the new stuff a try and see if I could make it all work. And it did! It was pretty cool.
Where to from here: Fiona told me my novel was ready to send out and encouraged me to approach agents with it. I’ve been busy writing a query letter and synopsis and compiling lists of agents I want to submit to (with my wonderful husbands help). It’s pretty nerve-wracking, trying to express my 100,000 word novel, my voice, my characters’ GMC’s, my major plot themes etc etc etc into a few pages. But I’ve got some great crit partners from a writing group and Sue, who was also in the paranormal pod, has been fantastic, looking over this stuff and giving me feedback. So, I’m pretty lucky really.
Other: I just want to say that if anyone is toying with the idea of entering the 5DI next year, just go for it. What have you got to lose? – you could have a whole lot to gain. I know I had a really positive experience that doesn’t represent everyone’s experience, but if you want to learn, to improve, to gain fresh and new insights, and to spend time with other writers in an informal atmosphere where writing and talking writing and being with others who are the same as you in trying to fit writing into their everyday life with all its ups and downs (in other words, people who have great insight into what your life is like and not only sympathise, but empathise) then this is for you. I loved it. I would do it again tomorrow if I could. And now I know for certain that my writing is good enough to get published and that has given me the impetus I needed to keep charging ahead toward that goal despite all the difficulties and road blocks that are put up in a very challenging industry.
Pod: The Bon Ton (Historical/Mainstream) Mentor: Sophia James Manuscript genre: Historical/Mainstream
Why you entered 5DI: Due to my on-going studies in writing at university, I decided that 2009 I would have a year off from all writing. Having given myself this time out, I found that at the beginning of 2010 I was ready to re-connect with my writing, and to give myself time to explore a variety of opportunities that might be out there for an emerging writer. Initally, I was accepted into a 6 week Writer’s course with the South Australian Writer’s Centre which commenced in Feruary, and during this time I was able to have the beginnings of my attempt at historical writing critiqued by group members. As a result of the feedback received, I re-wrote my first chapter. At about this time I received the RWA Newsletter advising of the 5DI. I had always thought attending a residential writing program would be a great way to challenge myself as a writer, and challenge whether I thought I had any ability in this field as well. I only submitted the chapter at about 11.00 pm (ish) the night of the 5DI closing date.
When I received the email advising that I had been accepted into 5DI, I think you could have heard the screams from Adelaide! However, reality suddenly set in, as I also realised that I need to produce a first draft manuscript in less than 2 months – and at that stage I literally only had 1.5 chapters! That, in itself was very sobering, and I set myself the challenge of meeting the manuscript deadline.
The highlight of your week: It is very hard for me to distinguish one particular highlight during the 5DI week, because when I look back at it – as corny and cliched as it might sound, there were quite a few highlights for me that were very personal. After the first night, I woke up on the Sunday morning, and realised probably for the first time in my life, that I didn’t have to be at work, didn’t have to care for children, didn’t have to clean, cook or look after other people’s needs, and although it might sound incredibly selfish, it was a very liberating experience, as I realised that I had time to just write; to just let thoughts, ideas, etc simmer and that I had the luxury of setting my own agenda for the week.
On that first night, when I first read my report about my manuscript from my mentor, I realised that all of the elements, feedback and recommendations provided by Sophia, where very much what I had realised in my own work. After I had finished my manuscript and submitted it in mid-May, I deliberately did not look at it again until 5DI, as I wanted the time to just let things sit, and to re-visit it during my time away, perhaps looking at it with fresh eyes.
The ultimate highlight for me, was when I was reading Sophia my re-written pieces and she started to cry, and said ‘you’ve just got it!’. That really resonated with me.
The toughest thing about the week: Isolation – when you are just in your little room, writing and working away, it is easy to withdraw and to stay that way. I was the only person from Adelaide, and at times I felt somewhat lonely. I got a bit emotional about the fourth day in, realising that I missed my two sons and my husband. Once I got over that, I was fine and actually made some wonderful friends!
Also, being very new to RWA; the historical genre and to the other genres, I found it difficult, at times to understand all of the acronyms and information that was being discussed. I guess there is an expectation that we are all on the same page (pardon the pun!) and to a ‘newbie’ this wasn’t always the case (but we survived!).
Where to from here: I have come back from 5DI with a renewed passion for my writing. Since my return I have tried to put more concentrated time aside for my writing, as it is so easy to let family, work and other things take over. The historical pod formed a great bond, and we have also set up our own chat group. I also now have a critique partner in one of the members of the pod, and I think we all had a tear or two when 5DI was over. In reflection, I needed 5DI to show me that there is more to life than the regular of 9 to 5 work, so much so, I have now set myself a goal to become published, and to continue to immerse myself in activities and events, that will nurture that goal.
Other: Sophia James was an incredibly generous mentor. Not only did she read all of our manuscripts once, but twice; and she provided us with 2 reports and a fully marked up copy of our manuscripts that we were able to take home with us for further reference. More than all of that she is a genuinely, lovely person, one that cares deeply about her profession, and the craft of writing. I’m sure I speak on behalf of other historical pod members when I say that she had a wonderful way of connecting with each of us, to nurture us along the writing path; whether it was making the significant male character more prominent, weaving more romance into the story, simplifying the plot, or developing character back stories – Sophia knew how to convey it to us in a professional, caring manner, and in all it has helped us all to improve ourselves and our writing abilities, and for that, I believe, we are all truly grateful!
I would urge anyone out there considering 5DI in the future, to action the process. I was literally ‘scared stiff’ – but have now found that the experience has been incredibly liberating both personally and professionally. Just go for it – you might be very surprised!
Pod: The Janes (Category Romance) Mentor: Lilian Darcy Manuscript genre: M&B Sexy
Why you entered 5DI: I jumped at it when I read about it in Hearts Talk – I wanted to be part of it. I saw it was a rare opportunity. An opportunity to get some unbiased feedback on my MS. I wanted to learn first hand from a successful writer what I needed to do to move forward with my MS and to grow as a writer. It isn’t often you get an chance to discuss your MS on a one to one basis with a published author.
The highlight of your week: For me it was the first meeting which was a Q&A session regarding the industry. The answers were heartfelt and honest and it proved to be a very interesting session
The toughest thing about the week: Getting my work ready in time for Lillian each day!!!
Our daily lively discussions regarding character development and plotting meant re-writing either a new chapter or a new scene. It was challenging with long nights of re-plotting and re-writes.
Where to from here: Definitely more writing. I feel a more confident with my writing and with what I have to do to cross that magical line. I’ve learnt a lot, I took plenty of notes and will keep studying and writing – it’s hardly a chore.
Other: It was great week and one I will never forget.
I loved the camaraderie and the fun of being with such an enthusiastic group of people who love not only reading books, but writing them.
5DI 2011 has been confirmed. For 2011 you will be required to submit a completed manuscript as part of the application process. Watch out for full details of 5DI 2011 later this year.