Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Workshop comments

I have run a good few workshops in my time. Commenting on work in workshops where you don't know any of the other people, is a whole other ballgame to commenting on work in an established writers' group where you know each person's quirks/what they can take and who really doesn't take any criticism other than positive. But why go to a workshop or writers' group if all you want to hear is positive praise? surely you should only take Work In Progress that you know can still be improved or you know has a hole in it that you're too close to see.

My most top 12 most frequent workshops comments:

1. Bad punctuation - missing commas change the meaning (see Eats Shoots and Leaves)
2. Bad Grammar - yes it does matter particularly when it affects the meaning. And keep to one tense. Present or past.
3. Spelling. No excuse really with spellchecker.
4. Too many characters in a short story. I have lousy short term memory. Who is who?
5. Characters have similar sounding names: Siobhan, Sinead, Sive and Sorcha should never hang out together.
6. Stilted dialogue. Read it out loud.
7. What's the point? So the man died/is gay/is unhappy. So what?
8. Change of Point Of View in mid story. You need really good reason to change from Siobhan's to Sinead's POV and once you've changed, I'd fight like hell not to change it back again or on to Sive's.
9. Lack of Sense of place. Let the readers experience the bedsit/city park/cowfield.
10. Too much descriptive prose. So the sun set. Why does that deserve 2 1/2 paragraphs?
11. DOn't clear your throat. Start the story right in the middle of it.
12. Too long. Cut and cut again. 10%, 20%, 50% even. Leave the reader some room for their imagination.

Anyway, minor leagure rant over. Read these workshop comments from MacSweeney and try and imagine the piece of writing each comment was on.

1 comment:

disraelite said...

I have yet to attend a workshop of any kind. That's in the pipeline.

But seriously, I can't believe there are people out there who might commit these misdemeanours, never mind often enough to make it into your "most frequent" comments. I find that quite incredible.

I pride myself on spelling, punctuation, grammar and an understanding of narrative voice. Maybe my grave fears of inferiority are misplaced...