You know how it is. You write a piece of short fiction, a memoir, a creative essay, or even better, a little book of poetry
and you think it’s good but you are nervous about other peoples’ reactions. After all you’ve been staring at the page for hours, racking your brain for ways to make the sentences sing, you’ve almost become part of the literature by now. So by the time you’ve gotten your rough draft done in its entirety you’ve studied it and tweaked it and attempted to perfect the language you’ve scattered onto paper so much that of course you have some sort of affinity to it. You might tell others it sucks but secretly you think it’s kind of good. You just dis it to others so that you can reject it before they do. But regardless of whether the piece is good or not, it’s your baby now which means two things. 1) You know it so so well inside and out and 2) You are no longer an objective judge over the quality of the material. It’s kind of like a mom trying to say whether or not her child is attractive. You can certainly reread it over and over and try to see it as a third person but how could you possibly keep your emotions out of it when you’ve been eating and dreaming this plot and these characters for weeks now. It’s just not practical.
Which is why getting others to critique your work is so crucial to improving the art of your writing skills. A writing buddy is good for this but the ideal situation is a small group about 8-12 people, all there for the same cause to perfect their writing and to help you perfect yours. You can get this out of creative writing course or workshop group.
Depending on where you live there are probably many creative writing courses or workshop groups already in session or, if not, plenty of people eager for someone like you to start one. Craigslist is the perfect place to find like-minded individuals in this area if you live near one of the given cities and I should mention if you are living independent of your parents and settled right now as far as your college life is concerned.
Because, really, the ideal setting is in a college classroom under the advisory of a skilled professor. This is not only because the probably (hopefully) esteemed professor should have very useful things to say but also he or she can be good at keeping discussions productive and in order. Not to mention that for most people when some sort of grading scale is assessed for their performance they tend to try harder which means that their own work will be passionate, lets hope, and the likelihood of them contributing to your critique is more likely.
So it has been established that creative writing courses and workshops where you critique others work and they do the same for you is extremely beneficial. It s now up to you to decide what you will go about creating and participating in a group like this.
No matter what type of creative writing course or workshops you end up in, if you are following me so far and agreeing with my sentiments, what you need to be on the lookout for is a creative writing course or workshop class. The term workshop is extremely key to your experience. You can go to any old creative writing class out there, do assignments at home and then turn it in for teacher feedback, but a workshopping session is that and so much more.
Here’s how a creative writing course and workshop operates. The advisor, teacher, team leader, whoever is designated to make such decisions will give the group something to write about to prepare for next class or meeting. It can be anything from a single statement of genre or a vague topic. Either way the group (8-12) is to go home and produce their own creative twist on the topic. The next time they meet a few people at a time are designated to make twelve copies of their work to hand out to the whole creative writing course or workshop group. Then, that night, after everyone has exchanged papers, each member of the creative writing course or workshop has a few different manuscripts to review and edit and critique. It is appropriate for the reviewer to make notes on the manuscript because the next day, they will be returning it to the author and these notes can be very helpful in their editing process.
The next session of the creative writing course or workshop, everyone brings in the papers they critiqued. Then, one by one, each author’s work is discussed by the whole group. It can be nerve wrecking because here you are with a bunch of people talking for an entire twenty minutes or so solely about your writing and the typical rules of workshopping is that the author being workshopped is not allowed to comment until the very end. So if someone tears apart your opening paragraph because they didn’t understand it, you have to sit there silent. But as torturous as it sounds, it is extremely helpful. Just think, you have eight to twelve people all discussing your very creative words in depth. And with passion that cannot be faked when it comes to giving opinions about things like symbolism and analogies and figures of speech. Not to mention that depending on the creative writing course or workshop you are in, you will be around smart people who have valuable things to say.
Eventually when the discussion is over, meaning people have stopped debating over whether sentence one was trite or ingenious (and this kind of thing, by the way, is a rush to watch), you get your papers back to use when you are doing your own editing. And of course you can do what you wish with each person’s advice but just hearing the creativity flowing about your very own piece of work is not only empowering but it has a way of inspiring you to rush home to perfect the piece even more.
Creative writing courses or workshops are definitely the best way to improve your writing, aside from simply writing writing writing. If you are an aspiring novelist or simply want to write something good to share with your friends and family or community group, I highly suggest finding a creative writing course or workshop group to network with. It will most definitely pay off.