How to Succeed in an Online Writing Workshop
by Victory Crayne
See also: [
"Career Plan for Fiction Writers" |
"How to Critique Fiction" |
Writing Resources |
||Having difficulty getting someone to review chapters of your novel, someone who will give you professional-level feedback?
Have you ever wondered how to get started in one of those writing
workshops you hear about so much? Are you afraid of being the new
kid on the block and not knowing what to do?
Relax. We were all in your boots at one time. Here's the real
scoop on how to get started and succeed in a new writing workshop
on the Internet. Many of the ideas here also work well in
workshops where writers meet in person.
- Pick a workshop that appears to have other writers who
write the kind of fiction or nonfiction you like to write. But if
such a group is hard to find, join an active group anyway. You
will get valuable feedback even if no one writes the kind of
stuff you do.
- Join a writing workshop that has participation requirements. Such a workshop will have more active and helpful people than one where people can just lurk and make comments without having to work hard, that is, do some actual writing of their own.
- Study any workshop guidelines or FAQ (Frequently Asked
Questions) file. Read the submissions and the critiques of others
for about a week to get a feeling for the culture of the group.
- Critique three pieces submitted by other writers. This
gives you practice in critiquing and will help you become more
aware of weaknesses in your own writing. It will also establish
you as willing to be an active member of the group. Remember: the
best way to GET critiques is to GIVE them.
In addition, you may wish to read some critiques prepared by
others to learn more about how write your own critique. Authors
are interested in your fresh look at what they've written, so I
recommend you write a critique of a piece before you look at any
other critique of that same piece.
- When preparing a critique, remember to focus on the
written words, not the author behind them or the author's
- If you would like some help in learning how to critique,
you may wish to read my article "How to Critique Fiction". If you
write nonfiction, there are some valuable pointers on general
writing in there for you too.
- Take the plunge - write something or polish a previously
written piece of your own.
- Clean it up for grammar, spelling, etc. before you submit
it. Submit in the format the group specifies.
- Try to get one live person near you to review it for such
simple things as: Did they understand it? Do they feel your
paragraphs are too long? Did you miss a word in a sentence or two
(easy to do in the heat of creative writing)? Did they enjoy
- Submit your piece to your critique group; then wait for
feedback. Give the others a few days to read and critique your
submission. We're all busy people. Some folks can only find time
to critique on weekend and others may take a week to respond. If
you need fast feedback in order to meet a deadline, it is best to
mention that in the opening paragraph of your submission.
- Thank all critics via private email for their critiques,
even if you disagree over some points. Send your thanks to them
privately, not to the whole list. Thank them for taking the time
to look at your work. Show some appreciation. Most important:
don't 'critique' their critique. In other words, don't argue.
- The great majority of the critics mean well for you and
try to help by pointing out what they believe are weaknesses.
Occasionally you will receive a critique that tears your piece
apart. You be the final judge. Others may have different
viewpoints and nobody is 'god' here. However, ask yourself: would
you rather have friendly critics find the weaknesses in your
piece or an editor who might reject it because of them?
- Fix up your piece with some of the ideas from the
critiques which you thought were helpful. You don't have to agree
with everything everyone said but it is amazing what a second
look can do. Most good projects were not done perfectly the first
- You may wish to resubmit your revised piece, but I suggest
you do so only if you made a lot of changes. Don't bother if you
just fixed grammar, spelling, or other minor changes.
- Now take the big plunge - send it in to a publisher!
(Query letters, submission formats, etc. are beyond the scope of
- Try to submit something original to your critique group at
least once a month. Don't let your writing skills become rusty.
- Critique the works of other writers occasionally.
- For every person who took the time to critique something
of yours, write a critique of something of theirs in return. As I
said above: the best way to get critiques is to give them.
- Remember that everyone in your workshop is a peer. No one
walks on water.
- The most important step of all - WRITE! You will learn
more by doing than you will by reading and 'getting ready to
write some day'.
- Remember to enjoy yourself while you're writing. Writing
may seem like hard work in the beginning, but if you focus on
enjoying yourself in your writing sessions it will come through
in your choice of ideas and words. Your readers will pick up on
your enjoyment and enjoy themselves also.
- Last of all, keep on writing no matter what obstacles get
in your way. Eventually you will wake up one day and find
yourself writing materials that many people will enjoy. Whether
you sell it or not, it will be such an exciting reward that you
will thank yourself for sticking it out.
People ask me frequently for a recommendation on which online
writing workshop to join. Here are some pointers on finding one
to meet your needs.
- On the Internet, you may visit the
you will find
Writing Resources (general writing
Use the web search engines. Look for [with the quotes]: "critique group", "writing workshop", "writer's workshop".
- Visit the web sites by and for writers. My web page has
dozens of them under Writing Resources.
That's enough reading about them. Now get online and go for
- Victory Crayne
Ms. Victory Crayne lives in California and has
been a very active member of the Internet writing community since
January 1995. Her Victory Page has her articles "Career Plan for Fiction
Writers", "How to Critique Fiction", "Victory's Motivational
Newsletter" (several issues), and many other writing resources.
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