Workshop Tips & Survival
Scriptoria participants submit up to 15 pages of their prose or up to eight poems by June 1. But how do we actually participate in a workshop—or peer critiquing?
Growing our writing depends on our ability to let others speak into our writing. But it ain’t easy. If this is your first time in a workshop, you may be very nervous, perhaps even defensive. This is common. Of course, we’re scared. For heaven’s sake, an entire class is examining our writing.
Remember: You are the writer. You hold the vision. Listen to what people say and consider it. But you do not have to apply their comments or agree with them. You can take the suggestions and use them, ignore them, or try something else.
Often, workshops show us where the bumps are in our writing—bumps that we feel—or don’t feel. In other words, workshops can reveal our blind spots.
If you’re new to workshopping another’s writing, focus on being a reader, not an editor. Where can you see the story clearly? Where not so clearly? To guide your comments, you can use the CIA Method:
· Craft: Name craft issues or strengths, if possible. For example: “Strong dialogue here” or “I can see this scene.”
· Inquiry: Ask questions where you’re unclear. For example: “Was your Mark character named ‘Scott’ on page 3?” or “Where are you
standing in relation to your dad?”
· Affect: Describe what happens to you internally or emotionally as you read. For example: “This moves me” or “I love this exchange.”
Another rule of thumb: try to make at least four comments per page with one or more positive comments. We need to know where we are strong in our writing, too.
Workshops let people into our writing, and by the time a group ends, we can be amazed by the generous help and the new ideas it generates.