May 1, 2008

Things I have learned…

Filed under: Uncategorized — writebrainit @ 3:40 pm

from my year in the Nebraska Writers Workshop. I was very cautious when I first came in because it was a group that seemed fairly established and I learned had been around since the 80’s. How I never had found or even heard of them, I do not know because I had looked for writing/critique groups in the past and believed they only came from different writing classes.

Anyways I attended my first meeting and was caught. The moderator was very enthusiastic and welcoming. The night which was my first meeting was also one of the last for another member who was moving away and he was going away with a bang – he read a very controversial part of his stage play that provoked all sorts of emotion and response.

The next week I read one of my stories, it was one which had been published in Fine Lines – a literary journal here in Nebraska (although there was the whole middle portion of this story which was very jumbled – I should have probably contacted the editors about it, but never did). Anyhow, I was met with very positive responses, it was a good start.

I have not read as often as I am prodded even though I have a large variety of stuff that I am working on. It seems that every meeting I attend, I learn something new. Then I feel obligated to apply what I have learned to the story before I present it. Almost nothing bothers me more than when someone presents a portion of their work that and they new adjustments needed to be made, but have not taken the time to make them and then want to comment on that each time someone critiques it. I have frustrated a couple of people because I have presented a portion of a short story, only to never have read it to the group again.

I walk away from the meetings when one of my items has been critiqued and I put it away for several weeks. I am very right-brained when working on my stories, so sometimes I need to let it settle before I pull out the story, re-write or edit it and then I look at the critiques to see if I was able to meet any of the suggestions. It is a very good tool for me. However, often, it fixes a portion of the story that works and I have to work it into the whole story. If I focus too much on the editing and re-writing, I am left with no time to write the new stuff.

I am still trying to set up a writing schedule that allows for a portion of time to be focused on editing, a portion on researching, and a larger portion on the writing.

The main things that I have learned:

1. I could have learned a lot by attending at least 3 or 4 meetings to learn the process and what was being addressed in the reading before presenting my own story. I now look at is as more respectful – instead I looked like the guy, who wanted to come in and show off his stuff – when in reality, I know I was thinking, I better show my stuff so they can decided if my critiques are credible or not.

2. I learned to truly look at the voice and which person the story is in. This took me awhile and I really had to pay attention to people critiquing before I finally got it and it was huge ‘OHHHHHH!!!’ (I’ve learned that I have a tendency to write in the first person and have challenged myself to write in the third.)

3. I learned to watch for the passive works – simple tricks that work are doing searches for words like ‘was,’ ‘s/he,’ and other repetitive words.

4. I learned that I often need the other writer/listener to help identify when I am repeating myself.

5. I learned that while I may believe a portion of the story needs to be in there, or a tool I am using to get a point across is necessary, sometimes it isn’t.

6. I’ve learned the art of critiquing – just sitting back and listening to the praise and concerns – no one has to make the changes which are suggested.

7. I’ve learned the importance of developing routines for my writing.

8. I’ve learned some of the aspects of screen writing (even though I have never written one, I do hope to someday).

9. I’ve learned to prepare my readers in the group when it is a short story – the majority of them seem to be novelists, so when presenting a short story there is the potential of frustration that there wasn’t more to the story. (This can be a benefit, following my break from the critiquing, it allows me to consider making the story longer or shorter.)

10. I’ve learned that as ready as I believed I was to be published (well, I am), but my work wasn’t. I’ve also learned that I am getting a lot closer.


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