Since I started developing this site I have been contacted from time to time by some writers’ workshop facilitators letting me know that they have been using my creative writing exercises in their groups.
Getting feedback from complete strangers from all over the world has been a great boost for me. When I began to write posts for this site I could not predict how they would be received, or even if they would find their way to their intended readers. But as time went on and I began to receive comments, the feedback they gave me was really great and encouraged me to keep going. Feedback is really important for writers and one way to get this is to join a writers workshop or group.
DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME
These groups can be an immense source of support for writers, or they can be a complete waste of time.
I once attended a group whose members merely told each other that their writing was ‘good,’ with ‘good description’ and ‘good characters’ etc.
They weren’t really a writers workshop what they really were was a bunch of friends whose excuse for a social get together was writing. This is okay, but if you are a serious writer you need more considered opinions and much more constructive feedback than this.
Being told continually that your writing is good may well be nice for the ego but it is akin to creative death for writers.
Good writing comes about when a writer is dedicated – always interested in improving and refining their work. If you only interact with those who tell you your work is good then where is the incentive to improve?
If you believe that your writing is perfect and that there is no room for improvement then your motivation for learning and expanding your skills will be low and unless you are very lucky your writing will reflect this.
Thankfully I have met very few writers who feel like this and I am of the opinion that they are best avoided.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD WRITERS’ WORKSHOP?
When you first join a group you might be very anxious to get some feedback, but my advice is not to immediately jump in offering your work. The best way to judge a group is to spend a couple of sessions listening and noting the quality of the feedback before committing yourself.
A great writers’ workshop should be home to a diverse group of people with equally diverse opinions. The groups writing should cover a wide range of genre and if possible, the members themselves should also be a good mix of experienced writers, and less so.
When it comes to getting feedback for your work diversity is the key. Okay you may not find all of the above in one group but you should at least try. Good feedback can elevate your writing as well as stimulate your creativity, so if you are truly serious about your writing then do your best to make sure you get what you need – constructive criticism.
DONT BE A SNOB
I remember one group where some members looked down on the woman who was writing for a Mills and Boon type romance company. However, that woman was a professional writer who was regularly published.
She wrote every day and worked at improving her work all the time. She was also earning much of her living from writing, which was more than most of the snobs could boast.
FEEDBACK THE FEEDBACK
Remember also that everyone is entitled to an opinion as much as you are entitled to disagree. As long as feedback is given in a respectful way you should appreciate it and be thankful to the person contributing it for taking the time and trouble to read your work.
DON’T LET THEM DRAG YOU DOWN
On the other hand, there is no excuse for disparaging comments, or mockery. People who engage in this are frequently either jealous, or insecure, and you should quite happily ignore and disregard any feedback that is deliberately designed to embarrass, or belittle the writer.
Unfortunately, there is usually ‘always one’ in every group, writers or otherwise, so don’t allow them to discourage you. If you feel demotivated by some particularly snarky comments remind yourself that your success will be your revenge – put your head down and write more.
Once you have found a good group don’t immediately submit your entire novel. Wait for your turn and then maybe submit a sample chapter or two. The group might have a routine of only submitting a certain amount – be sure and find out what that amount is.
ABSENT WITHOUT LEAVE
Be considerate of taking up people’s time and remember to give as well as take. When someone else’s work is up for feedback don’t be ‘absent.’
Unfortunately there are a number of writers who will happily submit their own work to a group for feedback time and time again without ever reciprocating.
So, don’t be ‘that writer’ It is bad manners and if you believe in Karma…
Best of luck with your writing and don’t forget your comments are always welcome.
P.S. If any writers workshops, or groups out there would like me to include them in my resources page – please do let me know