Workshop critiques round 1 round-up

Well, at something like sixty-one hours since I arrived in Lawrence, I feel like I’m finally caught up and into the swing of things.

The short fiction group has done two afternoons of critiquing, which have been pretty interesting sessions – we’ve been taking about an hour per story, plus some side tracks, and I learned a lot about the first story that I had critiqued – especially that I had a promising theme buried in the plot that I hadn’t noticed. Four hours an afternoon doesn’t seem like that much of a time investment, but really, the organized activities part of the day so far seems to have gone something like:

  • noon – gather for lunch and sometimes a lunch lecture
  • 1pm – back from lunch, gather in the lounge for critiquing.
  • 5:15 pm – critiques finish, discussion keeps on going.
  • 5:30 pm – leave the lounge to quickly check email and a few other things online
  • 6 pm – gather for dinner downtown
  • 8:30 pm (approx) – back to campus after dinner.
And when you add the time that I’ve been putting in reading other people’s stories and figuring out what I want to say about them in my critiques… it definitely takes up a lot of the day, not to mention just sitting and talking with other writers.
I’m probably going to blow off the group dinner tonight, just because I’m not a fan of mexican, so probably that’ll mean a bit more time to myself to write this evening. I’ve almost got my critiques ready for today, and it’s only 10am, so that’s great. Aliens on Pern, here I come!
But I’ll tell a bit more about the critiquing process first. Everybody takes turns going clockwise from the person who wrote the story – there’s no reading out loud, since everybody’s had the stories to read by themselves – and can say whatever they like, as long as it’s constructive, though a lot of people have adopted a kind of ‘good news, bad news’ approach, starting with things they like, then the things that they think would improve the story, and maybe finishing off with one more nice compliment. Chris M, who runs the workshop, always goes last, and often takes a tangent to give us all some advice or present a resource like a list of senses to try appealing to in your writing.
The first day, I just came up with some synopses, (which I didn’t share with the group,) and my likes and issues list. Since then, I’ve actually been working off my printouts, mostly because I want some excuse to actually hand them back to the writers and not have to hang onto them, so they’ re mostly more filled with my reader reactions than copy-editing points, and anything that qualifies for the likes and issues list, I retype into a new file.
My second story is up today – I hope it goes pretty well. This one, I have slightly higher hopes in than the first day’s story, so it might be a bit harder to take if the criticisms are serious, but I think I just need to keep in mind that everything is usable, and nobody’s really trying to tell me off or put me down, just to help.

3 Responses to Workshop critiques round 1 round-up

  1. Arlee Bird says:

    This sounds like a valuable experience. You are fortunate to be able to have this opportunity.

    Tossing It Out


  2. Donna Hole says:

    wow, sounds like an exciting experience. Good feedback is invaluable. Good luck with the second story.



  3. Thanks guys. Yeah, Donna, critique session on “The Landing” went well, especially with the obvious-in-retrospect suggestions from most of my fellow workshoppers that I try to make it a funnier story!


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