Tag Archives: workshopping

Feedback on Feedback

Two events have coincided: I emailed all the mini-critiques for the Inkspill Magazine Short Story Competition and have been receiving feedback on my feedback, and our last taught term at university has come to an end!

Unfortunately, I was hit with the mother of all viruses the night before our last day, so I missed out. I was very, very annoyed (*shakes fist at fate*) as I missed my private tutorial, which had already been rearranged due to student protests hijacking our building, and I had spent the last couple of weeks preparing a presentation on the graphic novel Watchmen for one of our seminars. Also annoyed that I missed out on the general merriment.

So that’s the end of our ‘taught’ semesters. Next semester we’ll have special guest speakers every week or so. That should be interesting. Hopefully we’ll also continue to meet up to do our own workshops. I’m quite shell-shocked at how fast the year is going. The workshops have been so incredibly useful. It’s a shame to lose them.

As for Inkspill Magazine, part of the reason for offering free mini-critiques with every competition entry (man, that was a task and a half to complete!) was to encourage entries, but also because I’m in the initial stages of setting up a critiquing service through the publication. I wanted to know if people thought my feedback had any value before I started trying to charge for it. Turns out a lot of people were very impressed with the critiques, and I’ve collected some fab quotes from happy writers to help endorse the venture when it goes live.

I’ve been offering feedback on writing for… goodness, nearly nine years, since I first joined online critiquing sites. I did the same thing during writing workshops on my Undergraduate course, and I’ve been doing it again, much more intensely and with lots of academic consideration, with the Master’s. It’s something I enjoy: editing, analysing, picking apart and reconstructing, offering opinion (because let’s face it, all critiques are opinion in the end) and encouragement.

One of my classmates thanked me for my ‘superior editing skills’, which made my head swell, and then I had a really long and wonderful email in my Inkspill inbox about how useful my critiques had been. (My head is now the size of a space-hopper, and I’m typing this while said head is propped up on a pile of books as my neck can no longer support the weight.)

Don’t worry. It won’t last long. The default modesty and self-doubt will kick in again soon.

Anyhoo, I’d love to hear your opinions on critiquing services – what you’d expect to pay, what you’d expect to receive, if you would use them (if not, why not), any past experiences…? etc. Please leave any comments, or feel free to contact me directly.

Creative Writing MA: The Workshop

I can’t believe I’m fast approaching the fifth week of my Creative Writing MA, and it will soon be Reading Week! (The university equivalent of half term… but with lots of reading to do.)

This first term is divided into two units: the workshop, and supplementary discourse.

Both these units are taught on the same day. Three hours for the workshop, a half hour break (across the road to the nice Italian cafe), and then one and a half hours for the supplementary discourse unit. The lessons end at seven o’clock in the evening, and then we usually head to the pub for a quick drink.

The Workshop

This is very much like the workshops I experienced as a third-year undergraduate, though the amount of work we submit is much greater. We take it in turns to submit 10-15 pages of double-spaced work, which we then have a week to read and comment on, before coming into class. The work can be anything we want feedback on.

People’s projects are all at varying stages, depending on how much they have written, and how much they know about their own story. I feel sort of ‘in the middle’, as I haven’t written a great deal, but I feel like I know quite a lot about the world I’m creating and its back story, even if I’m not entirely confident about the plot at the moment.

By now, everyone has had at least one piece workshopped. Things we have discussed have included wider topics such as point of view, how much information to use as ‘hooks’ and how much to withhold, tone, expectations and predictions from what we have first been presented with, and smaller details such as limiting dialogue tags, using layout to its full potential, and where and how to end sentences and paragraphs for the greatest impact.

We discuss the work, one piece per hour, and the writer is encouraged to remain quiet.

After talking to a few people from the other group (there are two Prose MA groups), it seems they have the opposite approach. The writers spend 10-15 minutes introducing their work, explaining what they were trying to achieve etc. However, it seems that the other group would prefer to adopt our workshop structure, as they feel that the introduction too greatly effects the type of feedback they receive.

I have to agree, I think the ‘silent author’ technique is the best way to go about workshopping.

Once the discussion is over, we all hand our annotated manuscripts back to the author.

I’ve found it to be a very constructive experience. Not only is it great to receive feedback, but it’s also great fun discussing everyone’s work, bouncing ideas of each other and looking at things in different ways.