We have found regular work-shopping to be an invaluable way of improving our writing as well as increasing our understanding of editing and writing techniques.
Here are our top tips for running your own writing workshop:
- Practical stuff. Our writers send their work out to the rest of the group by email well in advance (4 – 5 days) of the workshop so that everyone has plenty of time to read it. We generally submit no more than 3,000 words at a time and look at no more than three people’s work each week. As well as giving verbal feedback in the group we write our comments on hard copy of one another’s work which we also give to the writer.
- Positive feedback first – we treat each other with respect and, as all writers work hard to present quality work, we begin with positive comments.
- The writer does not speak during feedback. This can be difficult but in order to replicate the true reading process (where the author is not on the reader’s shoulder explaining what she or he really meant) the writer sits tight during feedback sessions and is allowed to comment only when everyone else has finished having their say.
- Regular attendance. There is much to be learnt from studying other people’s work as well as listening to feedback on your own.
- A thorough workshop can be a little bruising but writers are encouraged to ask specific questions about feedback before they settle down to the hard task of rewriting.
‘The truth is that every beautiful, exciting and moving work of fiction is last in a line of at least a half-dozen carefully reworked drafts. Good writers are good because they have the right measure of intellect and talent for the hard labour of rewriting. Most writers haven’t the stamina for this exacting work, or are too thin-skinned, defensive or too impatient to face the bad news that they haven’t got it right the first time around.’
M J Hyland