Thursday, October 7, 2010


We start workshopping in my creative writing class two weeks from now and I am STOKED. I've had limited feedback on my writing so far, and while it's been extremely helpful I'm looking forward to a very diverse group of opinions in a concentrated setting.

I'm in a bit of a quandry, however, as to what piece to submit. The class is concentrated on children's literature - picture books through YA - and the WIP I'm currently working on is an adult book. I don't want to pull my attention away from the WIP (I've got a daily word count to fulfill, peoples!), but I know the YA novel I wrote a few months ago isn't ready. I also know what's wrong with it and I don't know how helpful it will be to get feedback on it at this point. I know what I need to fix, I just don't know how to fix it yet.

So I'm left wondering: should I write a new piece and pull my attention away from the current WIP, or should I pull from previous manuscripts, dust them off a bit, and get some feedback on those? I want to do whatever's most helpful to me at this stage, but I'm not sure what that is. Blurg.

I'm also a little worried about giving feedback to others in the class. Based on responses from many of the class members, most people in there aren't at the same technical level as me (thanks to all of you guys and your awesome blogs!). I've addressed many of the issues in my writing they're only just now figuring out, so I'm a little worried about the basics. There seems to be a bevy of overwriting and punctuation issues, and I don't know if I even want to get into mechanical constructs. Plus, there are some hardcore fantasy lovers in that class, and while I would NEVER fault someone for their genre of choice, fantasy on that level is definitely not mine. Not sure how useful my feedback will be for those kids.

For those of you with workshopping experience (which is probably most of you), what are your tips for sharing work both ways? What do you wish someone had told you before you went into your first workshopping experience? How do you decide what criticism to share and what not to share? How do you keep from pissing people off with your critiques?


Julia Karr said...

JEM - I can't find out how to email you - but, you won the Week 14 contest of 16 Weeks to XVI!

Please get in touch with me!

juliakarr at me dot com

Solvang Sherrie said...

I think in any new situation it's best to keep your comments general to begin with. As you get a better feel for the people in the class and the level of criticism they're prepared to deal with, you can adjust your commenting appropriately. And no matter what the genre, you still need to have characters that come alive on the page, that grow through the story, that face conflict, etc. So your critiques will still have value for them. Have fun!

Lola Sharp said...

When critiquing others I try to use the sandwich technique: say something positive (even if you really have to stretch to find something good) then gently give your honest feedback on the BIGGEST problem that needs fixing (don't nitpick all of the issues) and offer a few broad suggestions how it might be fixed (w/out injecting your voice/words/style), then finish off with another good thing.

On receiving critiques, listen with an open mind, take notes, and ONLY say thank you. (even if they're rude or 'wrong' or shoving their own agenda at you, or retaliating for your critique of their work) The worst receivers (in my opinion) are those who argue and justify and tell you that "you don't get it. It's too deep for you." etc. If the author has to explain things, then it isn't written well/clearly. (but not all feedback is worthy feedback. Listen to your instinct later when you have some quiet time to think on it. Your gut will tell you which parts of their feedback needs attention.)

I would probably go ahead and polish up that YA and let them know what you think your problem is and see if they offer you any suggestions/ideas/feedback...maybe it will shake loose something for you and help you fix it.

These are all just my opinions/thoughts. Nothing new or groundbreaking here. Take them with a grain of salt. You're a smart chickadee. :)

Let us know how it goes and your thoughts on it.


Christina Lee said...

I think a mixture of praise and constructive comments are the way to go. Good luck!

Lydia Kang said...

I'm with Lola. Lots of praise with specific constructive feedback in between.
Good luck!