H is for... Writers' Houseparties

Back in 2011, I held a week-long contest to celebrate the fact that I'd reached my 500th post, after nearly four years of blogging.
At the time, I sorted many of my previous posts into groups, which made for easy referencing, especially of story material. (Also because I've never tagged my posts!)

When I celebrated reaching my 1000th post during last year's A to Z Challenge there wasn't time to sort all the posts between 2011 and 2016.

What better time than now?

I’m actually going to go over 1,000, and collate all posts to the end of 2016! And I’m going to link to every single post (except for the A to Z posts, which are mostly summarized), something I didn’t do in my original 500 compilation, or even in my 900th post compilation.

I’ve got lots of fun themes coming up for each day -- and each day will also highlight a fellow blogger or two!

Today is...


Madcap Mansion (as a cure for insecure writers)

Updated description of a writers’ houseparty:
"My favourite bit of advice, which I never tire of talking about, is as follows:

It starts with a shiny new idea. The characters and situation grab you right away and you start drafting madly. Dialogue, action, intrigue all come together.

Sooner or later, though, many of us get bogged down in the middle bits of a novel. Our drive and attention dwindle as fear and self-doubt creep in, especially if we compare our pace with that of others. Insecure writer's syndrome at its worst.

Insecurity hit me hardest a few years ago, not just with one novel but with all of my in-progress stories at the time. Excitement was few and far between, left behind a year or so before when I'd started the first drafts. Researching grew more exciting than editing and it was easy to lose my characters' voices and slip into long stretches of expository omniscient telling. And then something happened...

I sent my characters off to a houseparty.

Writers' houseparties take place on the Compuserve Books and Writers Community, or Forum. There have been over ten such parties to date and I –- or should I say, my characters –- were present at the very first one in June 2007. Each party after that grew in size and complexity, as more writers brought their characters in on the fun.

Party-goers have included (in a mixture of adjectives) an FBI agent, a rock star, soldiers from wars throughout history, ghosts, King Charles II, a talking cat, a married threesome, a selkie, Ottoman citizens, modern yet ancient Egyptian travellers, werewolves, a retired teacher and her adopted daughter, and even a family of bombs with a wee baby bomb!

Chaos is the norm at these parties. We've been at a ceilidh in Scotland, a barbecue in Australia, a mall at the end of time, and more. Houseparties have it all, from magic to skipping between time periods, to anachronistic events and language, to romantic interludes down in the hidden folder on the Forum. No link available for that one -- you have to request access on the Forum if you'd like to see the spicier side of a houseparty.

Parties last anywhere from a long weekend to a week. No one worries about typos and writing mechanics, and there's no need to worry about timing either; if you'd like your character to be involved in something you may have missed you can always tack on an "[earlier]" or "[later]" to the start of your post. Time trousers – where a characters ends up in two places at once at the same time – can be quite fun!

Previous parties are all available on the Forum; some of them are fluent and fluid enough to be read as a novel, even if you haven't met the characters before. One of the more recent ones topped 198,000 words; the length of two long novels -- or one Diana Gabaldon novel! Here are some statistics from that party, which give a rough idea of the madness:

# of participating authors : 17
# of official characters: 44 (including Kedi the non-cat cat and Siri the non-dove dove)
# of unofficial characters: 2 (including Cthulhu)
# of explosions/crashes: 2 (plus 1 volcano and 1 flood)
# of casualties: 1 kick by a kangaroo, 1 koala fed to a dinosaur, and 1 leg stolen from Oscar Pistorius
# of MandMs fed to Cthulhu: unknown

Value of character revelations: priceless

And that's the best part of a houseparty: they're a great way to thrust your characters out of their familiar worlds and learn things about them that you may not have known before. You can always go in with a goal, whether it's characters you're trying to develop, a specific voice you'd like to hone, even a motive you're trying to figure out. It's amazing what you can uncover when your characters -- and their author -- are plunked into a chaotic new setting. Writing for a houseparty is just like writing your first draft –- fast paced and fluid, with no second guessing.

When I was feeling insecure, that anything-goes mayhem brought back the rush and the fun I'd thought I'd lost. I've churned out more words at a houseparty and in my own stories in the weeks after a party than I usually manage to squeeze out all year -- words that don't have me feeling insecure about my writing or the story itself.

If you can't wait for the next Forum houseparty, and you have a trusted group of writing friends -- and you're feeling a little insecure -- why not host one of your own?"

Today’s featured blogger is... Adam Heine!

What was the last group writing-related event you took part in?


Hi Deniz - I've yet to attend a writers' conference of any kind - oh actually I am doing a Memoir class at the moment - it's hit and miss and my approach is somewhat different to everyone else - always be me! I must get over and meet some of your blogger suggestions ...

I know you love your House Parties .. one day perhaps - cheers Hilary

Marcy said…
I attended one writer's conference a few years back and then joined a writer's group that met together once a month for about a year. The Houseparty sounds like a lot of fun and a wonderful source for creativity. Right now blogging and writing to my kids is about the extent of my writing. Maybe someday I'll jump back into the fray.
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks Hilary, and Marcy!
I'm hoping to join a local writers group here next year, so I can start attending some of their workshops!