Sunday, February 26, 2012

In Which Doris Gets Her Oats.

Phase one of the Jack Dann workshop at Writers Victoria kicked off yesterday morning.

There was a wide range of experience amongst the attendees, from those who may have scribbled down the occasional paragraph and have a few ideas, to those who have a publication history. It was great to see Gitte Christensen again and to trade tips, ideas and war stories with her.

It took me back to when I was starting out, three or so years ago. I'd written two quick, short stories - just to see if I could write, and then had no idea what to do with them. I signed up for a Sean Williams workshop with no real idea of what to expect. We had to sub 1,000 word sample to Sean, which in my naivety I presumed was only so Sean could see what our writing was like. I had absolutely no idea about manuscript formatting. And, I had absolutely no idea our work would be critiqued.

I was embarrassed by my writing, and very, very reticent to show it to anyone.

Yesterday, it was interesting to see those who are just starting to write. Some of the attendees were unsure of even how to start that first paragraph, and a couple seemed to find 5,000 words over the next month or so a little daunting. Me, I'll knock out something and sub it without too much worry, and look forward to the critiquing.

I must admit after the Sean Williams workshop, it took me a long time to find critters I could trust. I was confused by the range of comments, some from clearly inexperienced writers. I rewrote that story, trying to incorporate all the ideas - only to discover that I'd sucked all the life and soul from it. I threw that out and returned to the previous draft.

It's about discernment. By all means, listen to all critters - realising they are all potential readers, but also understanding that inexperience and enthusiasm may limit their critique value. Select carefully the comments you pay heed to, and then decide whether, and how, to incorporate any changes.

And it's always valuable to have critters who are either at a similar level to yourself, or somewhere you want to be. After all, I have a much better understanding of what makes a good story than I had three years ago.

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