This issue marks the first time in 18 months that DargonZine has distributed two issues within a single calendar month. Great thanks go out to all the people in our writing group who made this possible.
DargonZine 15-8 features the first installment in P. Atchley and Dave Fallon’s “Heir to Castigale” story, which is itself merely the debut story in a brand new Dargon story arc, which you’ll definitely see more of in the future. It’s been a long time coming, and we hope you enjoy the results of our writers’ hard work. Rounding out the issue is the second chapter in “Talisman Nine”, which is, of course, another installment in Dafydd’s very lengthy story arc. After three years and thirty chapters, this storyline has begun catching up with Dargon’s “present-day”, and as it does, it will reach its long-awaited climax.
Dafydd was one of our first ten contributors, having joined the project back in 1986, and is also our most prolific author. One of the reasons why veteran writers like Dafydd stay with the group is because the Dargon Project continues to challenge them. Even after five, ten, or fifteen years with the group, our members are encouraged to improve their craft and grow as writers. Each new writer who joins our group brings a fresh outlook and their own understanding of what “good writing” is, ensuring that even a veteran who knows everything the project has ever done can still learn more about both the art and craft of writing, if they are open to it.
It might not seem intuitive, but being open to growth and learning can be a very difficult and threatening thing, particularly in a group setting. This was a very critical element at the consulting company I used to work for. Left to themselves, employees would do adequate but mediocre work; this was described as everyone’s “comfort zone”. However, as consultants we held ourselves to a higher standard. We put ourselves under intense pressure to do exceptional work in a shorter time frame, even in unfamiliar roles. This was referred to as the “stretch zone”. And, of course, the key to success was keeping your team in that fast-learning, hyper-productive “stretch zone” without pushing so hard that they would snap or be unable to succeed.
Writing for DargonZine is similar. A first draft is usually written from a writer’s “comfort zone”. He is doing something that’s familiar, based on what he already knows, and without taking too many risks. However, when that draft is critiqued, even the best writer will hear from a dozen people who have suggestions for how he could improve the story. Our peer review process pushes the writer into his “stretch zone”, encouraging him to produce something better than he would if he stayed in his complacent “comfort zone”. With each successive draft, new critiques will again challenge the writer to continue to improve his work, until it’s finally ready to give to our readers.
This recurring challenge is critical to learning and growth, because the writer may indeed already be satisfied with his work after the first draft and see no reason to strive for something greater. Working outside your “comfort zone” is both scary (“what if I’m not good enough?”), and arduous (“that’s a lot of work!”). How the writer responds to this challenge often determines his opinion of the group, as well as how long he’ll stay with us.
Ideally, the writer rises to the challenge, learns a lot about “good writing”, and produces a story that is indeed better than he would have written without the group’s support: a work that he will be justifiably proud of. However, a writer who lets his fear or laziness to overcome him will become frustrated and abandon his nascent story and possibly leave the group having neither learned anything nor grown as a writer.
The Dargon Project challenges our every one of our writers. Each of us is forced to do the best work we possibly can, and the willingness to be changed by one’s fellow writers’ ideas is what separates a hobbyist from a successful DargonZine writer. Because of this, even sixteen-year veterans like Dafydd still find the project a challenging and rewarding opportunity for growth and learning.