For the purpose of this post I’m going to break all writing workshops into two groups. In the first group are workshops taken by writers who are learning craft. People in these workshops, whether students in a formal sense or like-minded individuals sharing a passion, are primarily interested in improving their writing skill. In the second group are workshops populated by seasoned writers who already have a solid understanding of craft. These workshops primarily help authors determine whether their fiction is functioning as intended.
To the extent that writers are always learning, and that all writers want their work to be successful, there is obviously some overlap between these two groups. Rather than argue any pure distinction, I will simply note that this post concerns writers who are primarily interested in learning the craft of storytelling, and who are taking workshops that support that objective.
There are a number of factors that can help or hinder the rate at which you learn the craft of storytelling. Here are three aspects of any workshop that are outside your direct control:
If the person running your workshop does not know how to moderate such a group, or if they lack the ability to articulate craft issues, the workshop will necessarily suffer.
The more experience workshop members have at giving feedback, the better the feedback will be. Better feedback — by which I mean more craft-focused feedback — will necessarily improve your understanding of craft.
Every writer learns at their own rate, and that rate is not consistent. (Think fits and starts rather than steady growth.) Other than writing as much as you can and participating in workshops, there’s not much you can do to speed the rate at which you learn. There is no crash course.
At best you might hope to control for two of these variables by asking other writers for recommendations, but in general you simply have to trust the fates to even things out over time. What these inevitable uncertainties should encourage you to do, however, is put a premium on variables you can control. [ Read more ]