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Tales from the Road: Dunfirmline, Day 3

So it’s been a busy two days…
When I left you on Monday, the writers had storyboarded a full plot line, each of those scenes had to be planned out in more detail and then drafted – more to the point, we had to co-ordinate the process so that every writer who had an investment (character in this case) in the scene was okay with how their character appeared in the scene.
This is a fairly complex process, and it’s where a skilled volunteer can make quite a difference to the novel.
So this is a good point to address the line between facilitator and author.  One of the cast-iron rules of our WhiteWaterWriters process is that NO adult touches a key on the keyboard.  We are also extremely careful with how we handle brainstorming – indeed, where we can arrange it we have a succession of different volunteers run the brainstorming sessions – preferably ones who didn’t see the earlier ones. This means that the writers are explaining the plot to the facilitators rather than the facilitators having any ownership over the plot – the result is that the writers understand that this is their novel, and that they are leading it.
On the other hand, the volunteers do all of the workflow arrangements – so they decide, within reason, which writers draft what scenes at what times… they make the call about when to move a writer with a distinctive style away from a chapter so that it blends better, and what scenes are most important to draft and which ones can be left until last in case something has to be cut.  It’s a careful balancing act and I teach the volunteers that it’s like being the conductor of the orchestra – your job is to keep the team working well and get out of their way.  Once you try and put any of your own influence into it you break the surface tension of the group and lose the trust of your charges.
So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last two days. And I’m proud to say that the writers have come though…   They’ve produced 26,000 words of narrative, which is a solid effort for their age group (oddly it doesn’t tend to vary with the ‘ability’ of the writers – age group is the single best predictor for length).  In the process we’ve cut six or seven scenes from the 55 we had on Monday, and we may cut or merge a few more over the next few days.
The next two days are proofreading, in the process we’ll probably simmer the work down to about 21,000 words.  Proofreading is always the hardest part for writers at this age group – they’ve largely never proofread before, and certainly they’ve never proofread anything twice.  But certainly my job gets easier.  :)  Popping out for a nice curry tonight I think.

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