The Writing Workshop

by Katie Paul on December 12, 2012

Mary Magdalene Writing

This is a follow-up to this post.

Writing workshops are best suited for the discussion and dissection of short stories, not novels. While some noble teachers attempt novel writing workshops, the workshops could be harmful if not handled correctly. Novels are fragile things, and many fledging novels have been nipped in the bud by a writing workshop.

If you turn in the first thirty pages of your novel before you’ve written the next three hundred, your peers will inevitably treat it like a short story. What might seem like a fault in a short story (uncertainty about the direction of the story, lack of closure, unexplained happenings) can hardly be avoided in the beginning of a novel. Maybe your peers can praise the quality of your writing, but they can’t give you direction. You’re the one with the overall conception of the novel. Your classmates are clueless.

The other pitfall of this approach is rewriting your first chapter over and over again to your classmates’ delight but your own frustration. What you’ll wind up with is a perfect first chapter with closure, direction and explained happenings – in other words, a short story!

~ Robin Hemley from Turning Life into Fiction

Art: Mary Magdalene Writing

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