Sweaty palms, racing heart, twisting stomach and pounding head. While participating in a workshop and having your work critiqued for the very first time is absolutely gut wrenching and you might think you need to go to the hospital, creative writing workshops can be one the best things that you can do to propel your writing! To give everyone the most helpful, pleasant experience possible and avoid medical attention, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Come prepared to class. Nothing is worse than printing off 5-6 different stories, giving a thorough critique with great feedback and suggestions and when it comes your turn to hear the critique…only a few people have actually done their homework and you are left wondering if your story was really that boring that everyone saved it for last and thus, didn’t even do it justice. Show the other writers in the group the same respect that you would like shown to you by coming prepared.
Give constructive criticism. Even if the others’ writing isn’t to your taste, read their story without prejudice and jot down constructive criticism. Don’t just say “I didn’t like it” or “Change the ending.” Politely tell the authors why and give suggestions for how they can improve their story.
Remember, the focus of the criticism should be the story and not the grammar and punctuation. However, if you see a consistent and major error, point them in the right direction and keep focusing on the plot.
Get tough and be open. It’s all fun and games until it’s your turn. As one of the youngest writers in my Creative Writing Master’s workshops, I always liked it when I was either first, to get it over with haha, or last because there was a chance I would be skipped until the next week, so I know that it is hard to put yourself out there in the beginning.
A workshop is for working your story. Don’t feel hurt when someone doesn’t like it or thinks you can do better. Remember, they aren’t judging you, they are judging your story. Don’t ever think that your story is above revision and try not to be defensive of your work. Listen to others’ feedback and be open to changing or adding elements to your story.
I don’t know what I would do without my beta readers’ and critique partners’ suggestions. They push me to figure out the why behind some of my hero’s and heroine’s choices and keep pushing until I find not just the better solution, but the best solution.
Remember to give notes and take notes! During the verbal critique, jot down the suggestions given. After the workshop buzz has settled, review the notes from your partners on your submission and the notes you took from the verbal critique. Filter through the critiques and seriously consider each one, but don’t feel like you have to take every little bit of advice. At the end of the day, YOU are the writer and not the workshop class. That’s the wonderful thing about writing fiction. It ends how you want it 🙂
Going to creative writing workshops does get easier! Now that I’ve gone through over a hundred critique sessions, when my critique partners come back with their comments, I go straight for what they disliked and problems they foresee in the story. It’s amazing what fresh eyes can find after you’ve gone over your story a zillion times. Enjoy your time with your workshop and soak in the inspiration!
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