Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Workshops: What You Get is What You Get

Good afternoon, folks!

As of recently, I’ve been forced to mix and mingle my writing life with my academic life. Attending university is a huge task, especially when one is a writer who’s both in the midst of publishing pieces and working on new ones. In order to keep all of this going in one big nasty blob of stress, I’ve been a part of a workshop on campus. We work from 6-8 on pieces written for the night, pieces that are merely exercises. However, it seems things aren’t so easy.

I’ve been raised in workshops that I feel have been from good to amazing, and that has nothing to do with the quality of the stories or writers. Workshops I’ve been in go from beginning with what’s enjoyed in the piece or what stood out to the readers, and others sometimes go straight to concerns, mingled with positives to keep the writer going. I’ve also been in workshops that had terrible people in them, in which destroying someone’s work is a way for the speaking reader to feel stronger about his or her own work–those workshops weren’t fun.

Something I’ve noticed with my most recent workshop is that these writers lean towards what’s not working and why without stating anything to give the listening writer hope or energy. Being students of literary fiction, they dive in deep and pull at the threads that are tying everything together–or not–based upon what they feel is important.

For me, I enjoy workshops that dabble in both praise and constructive criticism, and as someone who’s been doing short fiction for a while, I know I tend to gravitate more towards those groups. A question, now:

In workshop, what do you think is beneficial and constructive, helpful to you, or something that you feel all workshops should do? Why is it beneficial to you, or why do you think it’s beneficial at all? And if negative criticism is there, why is it bad? Is it still helpful?

Let’s see where this goes!

To answer the questions, first I must know my audience.

If I know the people who I am critiquing well, I’ll tear into the work – in a loving way, of course. I have one friend that I will be straight forward with, who edits for me the same way. If we find a thing, a line maybe, that we like in particular, we will say so. But we edit that way because we are that close.

Now, if I don’t know the author well, I’m going to take it in a much different direction. When I’m with my writing group, I start by saying something I like. A character, the setting. Something positive to show I’m not just trying to tear the work apart. But that is also because I want to show that I am not just a mean person. I can be, unintentionally, but I don’t try to be.

As far as for myself, outside of getting feedback from friends (who I trust to give actual feedback), I’ve only had that happen once. Yes, I had to take some of it with a grain of salt as they were not the target audience (furries), but it made me happy to here there were positive things in my story. Do I need that positive feedback every time? No. But it is nice to hear that people I don’t know well like my stuff enough to comment on it positively.