Chapter Five: Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: The Myth of Workshops

Series Note: I am now working on updating each chapter and putting together this book, finally, after over 100,000 words that started back in 2009. So I am updating each chapter and putting it up here now for those who have not seen them.  One new updated chapter every few days will still take me all summer to finish. Feel free to make comments and talk about each topic.

And again, anyone who has donated over the years will get a free electronic version of the book when it is all done. Thanks again for the support!

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I believe writers’ workshops, when used correctly, are a good tool for a writer.

When used for the wrong reason, they are destructive beyond all measure.

Big Workshop Myth

A WORKSHOP WILL HELP YOU FIX A MANUSCRIPT

Of course, that’s total hogwash, but many writers go into a workshop thinking just that. And not just thinking it. Believing it!

Workshops, in the form that we know them today, have been around since the early part of the last century. There are lots of thoughts about how these workshops started, the most repeated being that Iowa Writers Workshops started it all. Of course, peer reading of manuscripts for writers has been around for far longer, but for this chapter, there is no reason to argue history.

Somewhere back in the baby boom, the structure of a round-robin workshop came about. A group of writers sit around a table or a room and take turns critiquing the story.

That form has become the standard form for most workshops. When sponsored by a university program of some sort, there is an instructor running the workshop, but in many cases workshops fall into a few standard forms.

—University Program Workshops. A group of students, all at the same basic level, take turns tearing apart manuscripts without any understanding of how anything works while an instructor keeps the fighting down to a certain level and sometimes adds in an opinion. The idea is that if a student is forced to actually look at a manuscript and tear it apart for a grade, and have their own work torn apart, they will learn how to write creatively. This method fails for the same reason that giving a person a hammer and telling them to tear apart a house will turn that person into a fine wood craftsman. It creates good critics, but seldom good writers.

—Peer Group Workshops. These are everywhere and run in a number of different ways, the two most used being:

1) Round robin style where a person submits a story and the group, going around the room one-at-a-time takes apart the manuscript.

2) Read aloud workshops. A person reads his story aloud and then the group makes comments in some form or another. (This method has nothing to do with selling writing, since you can’t go into an editor’s office and read your work to them, thus a person who is a good reader can slide by with awful stuff, while a poor reader gets trashed no matter what he writes.)

Of course, the biggest problem with peer group workshops is that the knowledge level is often about the same, so learning is slow and painful and requires members of the workshop to constantly go outside the workshop for new knowledge to bring back to the group. Many workshops never have this outside input and thus just swirl in place, with its members making no real progress.

— Leader Driven Workshops. This type of workshop usually has an experienced professional leading a group of not-as-experienced writers. Sometimes these are round robin, sometimes only the instructor talks. Either way they work or don’t work depending on the experience of the person running the workshop.

Denise Little, John Helfer, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and I do a workshop sort of in this form almost every year. Everyone writes stories to order for an anthology assignment, and then everyone reads everyone else’s stories, but only Denise, John, Kris and I talk about each story coming from an editor’s slant and if we would buy the story or not.

I pretend I am buying for Pulphouse Magazine, Kris pretends she is buying for F&SF, John and Denise are anthology editors. This helps everyone understand why a story is bought or not, and can help them match their own reading experience with four professional editor’s reading of the same story. This form would never work as a regular workshop, but it works great for one weekend a year.

(Also note, I call all the classes we do here on the Oregon Coast “Workshops” but none of them are really workshops like what I am talking about here. They are basically advanced writing classes here, taught by advanced professionals to other professional level writers, but the word workshop seems to be used for such things these days, so I figured no point in fighting that.)

So back to the myth.

Young writers think that taking a manuscript into a peer round-robin style workshop will help them “fix” that manuscript and make it sell.

Let me list a number of reasons why this myth does not work past helping you fix a few missed details, the same thing a good first reader would do.

1) See my last chapter about rewriting. The best way to take your voice, the quality of your writing out of your story is to pound it like you are pounding a steak to make it tender. All rewriting does is make sameness, seldom quality. And editors buy for unique voice and unique story, never the same-old-thing written blandly.

2) Doing anything by committee never turns out much quality work. If you take your manuscript and try to fix everything everyone says is wrong with it, your remaining story won’t even look as good as a Frankenstein monster. It won’t walk or even crawl. And it sure won’t be like anything you wanted to write.

3) Writers in peer workshops know less about writing than you do. Why listen to them? (There are reasons, but I will get to that in a moment.) If they could tell you how to “fix” your story, they would be selling work themselves all the time or be a top New York editor. So why listen to what they tell you to do? Just assume they know less than you do.

4) If a manuscript fails, it does not mean your story failed. Your story is still in your head, and having a manuscript beat on only means your tool for relaying the story failed. In other words, if the hammer is broken, don’t try to tape the handle, get a new hammer (write the story again from scratch, called redrafting). A workshop will tell you exactly how to tape the handle together and I hope you know how well that will work on the next swing of the hammer.

5) Writing for your workshop. This starts to happen the longer a workshop has lasted with the same group. You get the member’s voices in your head and as you are creating a story, you make decisions in your story based on what another member of your workshop will think. By this point, you are lost as a writer with a unique voice and need to run from the workshop with all speed, just as you should run from any read-aloud workshop. If the voices of other workshop members are in your head while writing, you are in deep trouble. That simple. You have to write your stories your way, not anyone else’s way.

6) Work-in-progress workshops are death!!!!! This is the worst of all workshops, and often are done with novel workshops. The simple rule is that you should never, ever show anyone a work-in-progress, even your first reader. It is your story, your book, and the only hope of it being unique and original to you will be if you write it alone, with no input along the way at all. Nothing of quality ever comes out of a workshop of this type.

The Good Reasons to Attend a Workshop

So, why go to a workshop at all if the workshop can’t help me “fix” my work of art? Actually, if used correctly, peer workshops can really, really help you learn, but you have to have a thick skin and the ability to keep what is being said in perspective.

And you have to have your reasons for attending very clearly laid out. And kept in focus every week, because the peer pressure to do otherwise will be awful.

Here are a few good reasons to attend a peer workshop.

1) Deadline. Writers must learn to write to deadline and often a workshop is structured so that something needs to be turned in to the workshop, thus giving you structure and a deadline. My first peer workshop didn’t have many rules, other than only one person could talk at a time. So I made my own deadline, deciding to turn in a new story every week.

And not once did a critique bother me. Why? I always mailed the story to an editor before turning the story into the workshop that week, so the deadline of the workshop not only helped me finish a story by a certain time, but mail it. By the way, if you do this, don’t tell your workshop you are doing it. Because they believe they are helping you “fix” your story, they will be insulted.

2) Audience. A workshop gives you a built-in audience to see if a manuscript is actually working for the story you wanted to tell.

But the trick on this reason is that you you have to understand how the audience works. If everyone loves your story, it means it hit everyone right in the middle and the story might sell, it might not. If everyone hated your story, the same thing. The story might sell, it might not, but you will know to expect some ugly rejections before it sells. But if half the workshop hates your story and half love it and they argue about your story, don’t touch a word. You have a winner. Your manuscript worked so well, the readers got arguing about content and thus you know it will sell. Editors love that kind of story.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch tells a story about a workshop where she turned in a wonderful little story that everyone loved. I read it and loved it also, thought it sweet and cute. At the break, she went out into the parking lot, angry as all get out. I asked her what was wrong and it turns out she was furious about the critique. To her the manuscript had completely failed and she was going to toss it. When I asked why, she said simply, “It was supposed to be a horror story.” She had used the workshop as an audience to see how the manuscript worked for what the story in her head was. The audience told her that her manuscript failed, even though they all loved it.

3) Learning from other writers’ skills. Taking another writer’s story apart as a critique seldom helps anyone, including the reader. It’s often why the best reviewers are failed writers. They can tear apart, but they can’t build.

However, instead of going at a story to tear it apart, if you are using a workshop correctly, you are reading to see what the writer did correctly.

That’s right, I said look for what the writer did right. Ignore the mistakes.

So say the writer of a manuscript used a nifty way of introducing a villain that really worked for you. Study how the writer did that, complement the writer about it in the workshop and try to say what you mean out loud, and guess what, that same trick will now be in your tool box for later use on a new story. That’s one of the many ways writers learn new writing skills.

For example, without using a workshop, if I finish a book by an author that I loved (I always read for pleasure first) and really think some trick the writer did was nifty, I go back and look at that section, often reading it and rereading it up to a dozen times so I can get past the story and see the words. Then if I really like the trick, I will take those few pages of the book and type them into my manuscript format.

By running the author’s words through my own fingers and mind, I will learn the trick. I might not use it for three or four novels, and then suddenly, without thinking, I will use it when it needs to be used.

Workshops, if you go at the reading correctly, can teach you the same kind of things.

But you have to be focused on what works in a manuscript, and why. Not just a ripping and shredding critique. Those kind of critiques do nothing for you, or the author.

4) WRITE DOWN THE GOOD STUFF. When all of us are being critiqued, the tendency is to only write down what people didn’t like. Kris and I fight to get our students to write down the good stuff we say about their work. It is a constant fight.

Asimov’s Rule: When someone says 9 good things and one bad, the writer will only remember the bad thing.

Fight that rule, only write down the good stuff. Ignore the bad stuff AND NEVER WRITE IT DOWN.

Let me repeat that. ONLY WRITE DOWN THE GOOD STUF.  NEVER WRITE DOWN THE BAD STUFF.

Of course, few of you will do that since Asimov’s Rule is strong human nature, but I figured I might as well put that in.

5) Listen carefully to other critiques of other writer’s stories. You will be amazed that another writer in the room will see something in a manuscript that you have read that you didn’t see. Often something good or well-done, sometimes a problem you didn’t see. Since it is not your manuscript, you have no emotional attachment to it, and thus can learn from the comment. Go back into the manuscript to see why you missed it and if you agree. If you do agree, you will have just learned another trick for a future story. In fact, you will learn more by listening to other people critique other writer’s stories than from ever having your own story critiqued.

So, besides those reasons to go to a peer workshop, what is the biggest reason? Put simply:

You are attending the workshop to help make your next story better.

That’s right, there’s nothing a workshop can do to help you fix a story without killing it. Nothing.

But you can learn stuff from a workshop that will help you make your next story better. Your focus always has to be forward, toward learning and writing the next story. (Again, why I mailed my stories before turning them into a workshop. I never cared about that manuscript, it was finished. I did care to learn nifty new stuff that I could use for future manuscripts.)

So, get your mindset away from the myth that a workshop will help you “fix” a manuscript and focus forward.

Try to learn everything you can learn to help your next story be better written.

And if you can’t do that, RUN AWAY FROM ALL CRITIQUE PEER WORKSHOPS.

If you can’t use a workshop correctly, they are too dangerous to you as an artist to get near.

Besides, letting people beat up on your work is just no fun. If you aren’t learning how to write the next story better, what’s the point, anyway?

Have fun with your writing. And always work toward the next story.

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Copyright © 2011 Dean Wesley Smith
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Because of the new world and technology, my magic bakery got a lot more valuable lately. This is now part of my inventory in my bakery. I’m giving you this small slice as a sample. I’m giving you a taste, but not selling any of the pie.

If you feel this helped you in any way, toss a tip into the tip jar on the way out of the Magic Bakery.

And I would like to thank all the fine folks who have donated. Once this book is done, I will send you a copy. The donations and the comments both after the posts and privately really kept me going on this. Thanks!

If you can’t afford to donate, please feel free to pass this chapter along to others who might get some help from it.

Thanks, Dean


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31 Responses to Chapter Five: Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: The Myth of Workshops

  1. Suzan Harden says:

    Just wanted to say thanks! I wish I’d known about the audience thing years ago. I was told (and unfortunately believed for way too long) that the writing wasn’t any good unless every person in the room loved the piece. It took me a long time to get over that hunk of brainwashing.

    • dwsmith says:

      Yeah, Suzan, that’s a killer all right. Actually, if you think of everyone around the room as an editor. You get two people out of twelve liking it, that means somewhere in twelve mailings you would sell the story.

      Just another way to look at audience in a workshop. (grin)

      • dwsmith says:

        By the way, I think I said this in the post, but the workshops here are not peer critique workshops in any way. Kris and I both think that’s pretty much a waste of our time and your time if you come here. We call these things workshops, but they are from from workshops in the traditional sense. These are classes in professional writing.

  2. Steve Lewis says:

    I’ve never been part of a writer’s workshop, and don’t really plan to be, but I think that a good first reader is worth their weight in gold. A big part of that is they see things from a different angle than you do.

    For example: I’ve done things like mention a grimoire or an ansible and had my first reader go “What’s that?” I just assumed that everyone knew but after he asked, I realized, um, not always.

    Also, and I don’t know if this happens to everyone, but there tends to be stuff that’s in my head that doesn’t always make it onto the page that the reader NEEDS to make sense of the story. I have it up here (taps skull) but for some reason-in the flow of writing-it doesn’t get there. But it’s usually an easy fix once it’s pointed out.

    • dwsmith says:

      I agree completely, Steve. More than gold. And sometimes in a workshop you can find a first reader who matches your likes and tastes and approach to a manuscript.

  3. Steve Lewis says:

    Good point, Dean. I hadn’t thought of that. Still probably won’t be joining a writer’s group anytime soon, though. =)

  4. Diane says:

    I agree with Steve that good first readers, who know nothing about the craft of writing, are worth their weight in gold.

    I also learn more rereading published books I love, to understand the build up of tension, character’s voice, etc., then I ever learnt attending local workshops.

  5. Carradee says:

    With my many friends who make good critics, I quickly learned that folks will contradict each other. I remind myself of that when I look at 2 sets of notes for a story, and find someone saying a line’s “redundant” when another person said the line was necessary for clarity.

    If I go to a workshop, I’ll be sure to take a story that isn’t working, anyway. :)

    • dwsmith says:

      And Carradee, a simple question: How do you know the story isn’t working? Why not just mail it or publish it and write something new. Writers are the worst judges of their own work remember.

  6. Paul Sadler says:

    I agree completely that workshops / writers groups / critiquing group / etc. are all about potentially improving the next story and setting deadlines that FORCE you to write. I was part of one headed by an editor at a short-story magazine, and it was helpful for awhile. However, I also think that the impartial “first reader” / “live feedback” can be equally important to a newbie writer who hasn’t “made it yet”.

    I remember critiquing a story by a woman who was new to the group. She had written (in her third language!) a very intimate story about a woman coming to terms with her heritage — and nobody else in the group understood the story (there was a strong allegorical component). It was obvious personal to her, and I saw the instant recognition/gratitude in her eyes during my critique — because someone had read what she had written and “gotten it”. To use your example of KKR above, it was the equivalent as if someone had said to her, “Hey, this horror story scared the beejesus out of me”. I’m sure lots of people told this woman she wrote wonderful stories but here was a stranger “critiquing” her work and getting it. Treating her as the actual writer she was, not some pipe dream in the future.

    In the end, the group wasn’t really serving me — too many soft critiques, when I prefer blunt — so I moved on. Miss the instant reactions though…

    P.

  7. Lovelyn says:

    I’ve only been to one writers workshop in my life and I just didn’t like it one bit. I have great beta readers and they are invaluable to me.

  8. J. Tanner says:

    This is a really great series. I hadn’t read this one before, and I was sort of dreading it because my personal experience with peer workshops has been so positive. I didn’t really need to learn what I’d been blind to. (grin)

    But once I figured out what you meant in defining the myth, I agreed. On first read I was getting tangled up in the wording, instead of trusting that you will use words simply. Putting it in context, I think you mean “story” where you write “manuscript” and my experience is that’s true. Workshops never helped me fix a story (as far as I can tell–it seems impossible to judge objectively whether a story needs “fixing” or not.) So I mostly discounted that part beyond what I call the “Stephen King rule” though I internalized it so long ago I could be misremembering the source. But here it is:

    If 9 out of 10 readers hate something about your story, but it’s all different things you’re perfectly fine in ignoring them all. If 9 out of 10 readers hate something about your story, and they all hate the same thing, that part of the story (and perhaps the whole story) isn’t working.

    Whether it can be “fixed” or not was always a mystery, but when it happened it was nice to know where I was failing the audience and I could potentially try something else there.

    I’ve been part of 3 workshopping groups and took away positives from them all. In brief, here’s what I got…

    Early on, before I’d sold anything, I joined an online peer review group called the IMPs on CompuServe. Basically all unpublished at roughly the same level. I learned a lot about the craft of writing at that stage. It’s a valuable thing to have beaten into you early, so you just internalize it and then concentrate on story. The comaraderie built through a bunch of people struggling through the same solitary goal was infectious. And in my particular case, I had the opportunity to learn a lot about the business side because Mike Resnick was around in a mentoring position to help with questions on that topic. The IMPs made a lot of valuble but tangential (to fixing a story) stuff that was entirely possible to learn on your own, much much easier and way more fun.

    My second experience was moving on to a more focussed online group of writers who were neophype professionals with sales. James Hartley (writing now as Jay Caselberg), Devon Monk, Lynn Flewelling, and a few others. Beyond moral support (which I still value) we all sort of came to an understanding we’d hit the wall that is the myth. We’d all passed that early stage where there was tons of non-story related stuff to learn, and there was little else to offer in peer critique. We disbanded it fairly quickly.

    And my third and final workshop experience was attending the Milford conference for a week with a mix of neophite and working pros in a pretty casual peer review setting. I sold two stories to an editor in attendance so it’s hard to see anything but positives, though it doesn’t defy the myth.

  9. I love those Denise Little Workshops for all those good reasons you listed above AND for the spirit and camaraderie you get from hanging out with so many wonderful writers. I really had a great time, learned a lot and can’t wait to go back next year.

    Tom

  10. I think I missed this one first time around. Good stuff. Timely too, I’ve got a workshop meeting Saturday (Ed Bryant’s NCWW – which honestly I’m in as much for the social life as anything else.)

    Amen on your point 6 about works in progress. I’ve been in a couple of groups and got so sick of seeing writers sub the first couple of chapters of a novel then dropping that and subbing something completely different next time. I finally said I wasn’t reading anything that doesn’t have an ending written down somewhere. It’s a horrible tease to the other readers anyway: “This is great, I love the characters, the story — when can I read the rest of it?” “Um, I haven’t written it yet, I’ve been busy revising.” Great, thanks for wasting my time.

  11. camille says:

    My favorite round robin workshopping experience came when one of the participants was told to bring six copies of his story. He misunderstood and brought six different stories. He handed them out but didn’t tell us we were all getting different stories.

    So that discussion session was one of the most interesting workshop discussions I’d ever experienced. What was funny was how long the conversation went on before confusion set in, and he told us we all had different stories. (Although I do think we were on the verge of figuring it out for ourselves.)

    Camille

  12. Jodi says:

    Dean, you wrote “You get two people out of twelve liking it, that means somewhere in twelve mailings you would sell the story.”

    I never thought of that before, and I wish I would have. I’ve been in critique groups, but it’s always a trial. It still feels like a trip to the dentist office, hoping to have a clean bill of health for your teeth after all the work you put in, and still ending up not, no matter how hard you try. That’s how critique groups feel to me, but I still get the urge to have others read my work so that I know if it is good or not. Inevitably, I’ll get critiques that squash all my confidence, make me feel like a hack who can’t see the truth of how bad I am–and then I get a critique from one or two who seem to get it. So then I feel okay, bruised, but okay and the process repeats.

    Also, you mentioned focusing on the good stuff, not the bad. That really hits home. I’ve been trying to do that because a while back I was reading a little in one of Buckingham’s Strengths books about the importance of honing your strengths over pouring a great deal of time into fixing weaknesses. I feel that if you focus on improving what works well in a piece, generally you will also fix whatever the critiquer said was wrong in the process.

    Anyway, great post. Really made me think about things, such as whether or not I wanna renew that critique workshop membership. I’m thinking not.

    Jodi

  13. @Camille

    That’s hilarious!

  14. I think it’s worth pointing out that a writing community is a very different thing than a writing workshop and the former can be invaluable. It’s wonderful to be able to hang out with other writers from time to time because they *get* it. What it’s all about. That said, most of the folks in my community don’t rise to even the beta reader level, much less a critique group…

    • dwsmith says:

      Big Ed, very well said. A writing community is a fantastic thing. All the writers who have attended workshops here have a community of support and business and ideas. It’s a great thing to be a part of. So yes, community is very, very different than a workshop. And no critiques.

  15. This is a really fantastic post, Dean. Wow, I so wish I’d had this information when I was in college. We had those university workshops you mention, though my professors did a little more guidance than that (unfortunately, at least half of that guidance was negative for me, since they wanted us to write “literary fiction”). I have always wanted to be a writer so I pretty much took all the writing classes that I could. They were all basically the same, and all I got out of them was myths and the awareness that not everybody is as well-versed in folklore as me, rather like Steve Lewis’ mention of grimoires and ansibles. They never helped me write better fiction. But now I kind of want to find a writing group to join, just so I can apply some of your ideas! Then again, since I prefer longer fiction I’m probably better off with the at-home techniques anyway.

    Thanks, Dean. I absolutely love what you’re doing for beginning writers like me.

    • dwsmith says:

      Thanks, Clare. You don’t need a workshop. Just have a first reader and then write and mail or write and publish or better yet, do both. And remember to keep having fun.

  16. Brandon Wood says:

    I sent a family member a copy of the first novel I wrote and he said it “had potential” but needed to be rewritten and critiqued in a writing workshop. I told him I appreciated his critiques (I really did: they were spot on and helpful) and that I’d work on the areas he noted in the next novel. I’m young and have a ton of stories to tell; I think it’s utterly pointless to spend my precious time revisiting a novel that I already wrote. I could beat that manuscript to death and try to change it into something that will work, but that would change what the story is; it wouldn’t be that story any more, it’d be something else entirely. So rather than change that story, I just e-published it and made a little bit of pocket change. Assuming I live a long, healthy life, that novel has decades to accumulate sales, and in the meantime I’ll continue to have more stories for people to buy whereas if I had taken the advice of my family member, I’d be stuck with just the one book. Since that book I’ve written a handful of short stories, a novella, and have started two other books. Like you’ve said, I don’t want to be living in the past; I want to be writing in the future. :-)

    Great series; any idea when it will be available for download on Amazon or Smashwords?

    • dwsmith says:

      Brandon, great attitude, and with each new story your storytelling will become better and better. And yup, that first book will just sort of trickle along earning pocket change. But just like tossing change into a jar, over time, that really adds up.

      As for when the series will be out, I’m going to put sections together and get them out, then the entire book, more than likely later this fall after one or two more new posts. Some stuff has changed so much in the almost two years writing this thing, I have to just write new chapters instead of just updating the old ones. Stunning how fast things are moving these days.

      And I might add in a couple of chapters on the myths building around indie publishing, mostly driven by people on the Kindle boards. Stunningly silly myth stuff. So long answer made short. Entire book this fall. Thanks for asking.

  17. John Walters says:

    Thanks again Dean. So many people have different ideas about what makes a good story, but a lot of it is personal opinion and not absolute truth. Years ago I sent a story to one magazine and the editor wrote back and said that a short story should never have flashbacks because there isn’t room. The next editor I sent the story to loved it and bought it and it was my first professional sale. Glad I didn’t listen to the first critique; I would have killed the story. The rule actually is: Anything goes as long as it works.

    • dwsmith says:

      John, I agree completely. And I have no idea as a writer what works and doesn’t work with my own stuff, so I just let editors and readers decide.

  18. Mark says:

    As a new writer you pretty much confirmed what I already suspected. Thanks.

  19. Cyndi says:

    Good grief – the few chapters of yours I’ve read so far have turned upside-down much of what I’ve learned and practiced for the past thirty years or so. Not sure I agree with you much, still processing it all, but your work is certainly thought-provoking.

    We’ll be discussing some of this at my crit group next week…

    • dwsmith says:

      Cyndi, heck, if you have been selling regularly and enjoying the writing process, why would you ever change what you have been doing for thirty years? Each of us are different. If stuff sells, if you have fun writing, no point in changing or even considering changing.

      I’m just trying here, in these blogs, to get writers to think beyond the lock-step-and-salute attitude pounded into all of us by English teachers and myths about rewriting. And have each of us find what is correct, what works for each of us.

      I’m not saying do it my way. I’m not saying that you must rewrite either which is the common myth. I’m saying try different ways until you find the way that allows your voice to remain true and that allows your work to be different enough to sell. Your way.

      Have a fun discussion. It will make the myth-believers very angry. (grin)

  20. I suppose the workshop thing is a good thing for beginning writers and I imagine experienced writers could find them useful too … but personally, I’d rather stick needles in my eyes … maybe it has something to with ADD or dyslexia or both … who knows?

  21. greggarious says:

    Two rules of critiquing I learned somewhere (and saw modeled by professional writer John Morrissey, who critiqued one of my stories) are:

    Focus on what is good and working in a story

    -and-

    Tell How it could be better

    Nothing more or less. The details for how to improve something that is not working is more precious to a new writer than just telling him/her that it is not, and leaving them to squirm around wondering how to make it better, when they have already done their best from what they know. Give them the knowledge for how to improve their work with specific improvements. Then the new writer will glean the basic truth and techniques from the examples, and will be able to make their own improvements in the future.

  22. One more chapter translated to French, on my blog as usual :

    http://belier.interrelie.info/?p=349

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