A few things I thought about workshop ...
- Writing is such a lonely endeavour that a writer needs some company to share the passion as well as the angst of writing.
- A writer could get so close and deep into h/her own creation that h/she is unable to see the flaws. There comes a time when you need second opinion.
- To provide critique is a skill: I once sent off a 500 words flash fiction to a writing friend for critique. I thought she would be coming back with a few lines of comments. To my greatest surprise, she wrote me a whole page of comments. It included comments on overall narrative, structure, pacing, characterisation and dialogue etc. For those areas which I was sloppy or not up to it, she provided a few “fixer”.
- But on the same token, the friend who critiqued my work was also an unpublished writer. Though obviously, from her comments, she was a far more competent writer than I was. And I did improve my writing skill and the story to a large extent from her critique. There was no doubt about it. However, the critique could only get me so far, beyond that …
- A Big fish in a small pond and a tiny fish in a Big pond: Back to my uni days, we had a very talented classmate who blew us away every time with her writing. But I observed that she was very frustrated with our critique as we (the mediocre) were unable to offer her any insight which could help her to improve her writing.
When I was doing the year long course at Victorian Writers’ Centre, I was fortunate (unfortunate) to join a group which most of the members had already written at least a full manuscript of their first novel. Not only I haven’t got a manuscript, I was still struggling with the narrative. When came time to critique each other’s work, I was so out of depth that I had nothing to contribute to the group.
- Too soon to have a piece of writing for critique will kill the piece as well as the writer!
- Workshop becomes the crutch of the writer. The writer keeps sending the story for critique and never finished it.
So what am I saying?
The comradeship and support a writer could get from the workshop group is invaluable to the creative journey. Workshop is an important tool for writers to gauge their skill and growth. But a writer should always be aware of the pitfalls of workshop. Also from my personal experience, the right workshop group could make or break a writer.
What do you think?