You’ve heard it over and over, to become a better writer, you should simply write. Everyday. Right?
It’s as simple as that. Well, not simple, but you know what I mean. Basically, it’s much more difficult if you don’t write, eh?
So, write every day, re-write, rinse and repeat.
To become even better at your craft, you should also have readers evaluate your work. I mean, you need to know what readers think of your work, right?
There are a number of ways to do this. One of them is to take part in an online writer’s workshop. What about in-person workshops, you might ask? Yes, those are available as well, but they’re slightly different than their online counterparts, so I’m not focusing on those today.
Is an online writer’s workshop right for you?
For some, an online writer’s workshop is exactly what they need. The environment is flexible, so if you’re not yet writing full-time, most workshops allow you to login and take part at your convenience, as long as you do what’s expected.
Many online workshops are part of a class, so along with sharing your work, you’re reading other students’ work and learning material taught by an instructor that should help with your writing as well.
These are all bonuses, you’re writing, reading and learning, win, win, win.
On the con list, though, often the advice and critiques received through workshops, especially ones in classes where students are graded on giving criticism, (good or bad, sound or stupid), may not be what you’re looking for.
I’ve been in many workshops where writers are downright mean in their critiques of fellow students’ writing. Often, they don’t even know what they’re saying, but they’re very bossy, and condescending.
I’m reading a book series right now that has sold 3.5 million copies and Warner Bros has just purchased the film rights. Yet, in my opinion, if any of the chapters in these books were submitted to workshops like the ones I’m referring to, these writers would rip it to shreds.
That’s right. A New York Times Bestselling author would be ripped to shreds.
My question to this is always, how is that helpful?
I’ve seen a lot of unnecessary negative critiques. Part of me thinks this is because by the simple nature of these workshops, writers think they have to critique something, so they grasp at anything and just go on and on about it. I’ve rarely seen anyone who has said, “That was great. Keep up the good work.”
As creatives, I believe writers are sensitive, especially when it comes to sharing pieces we’ve worked tirelessly to create. I know I am in the sensitive category, for sure. So when I’ve been in workshops and either the instructor or fellow students don’t get or think what I’ve written is basically shit, it’s hard to take.
Many times, writers want to re-write your story how they would write it. Often, I’ve come across writers whose egos are so big when it comes to writing, they truly believe everyone else is horrible compared to them.
When it comes to their critiques, I filter them. First, I ask myself, “Are they my reader?” Usually the answer is no, because my audience is young adults who aren’t taking writing classes.
Next, I go through their critiques and pull out what I think is worthwhile. Most of the time, writers who share a lot of criticism believe they are better writers. So they just spew their “high-brow” comments that are, in my opinion, junk.
In his book On Writing, Stephen King shares he has a core group of readers he sends manuscripts to. These readers are trusted to him, people he knows will give him the good feedback he’s looking for.
Personally, I think developing a core group of readers, like Stephen King, is the way to go. Essentially, it’s up to you how you want to gain feedback. Just so you know you need to get some before submitting to an agent, publisher or self-publishing.
Hope this helps.