Writing Tips: How to Have a Productive Workshop

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Workshops and Editors are Necessary to Grow as a Writer


Everyone who writes—especially those who intend to sell and make a living at writing—need to workshop their work or, at the very least, have other eyeballs look at their work. Eyeballs who have an interest only in your writing and have no emotional or personal attachment to it. No matter how much you proofread, rewrite and edit, you’re going to miss something. Whether what you miss is a typo, a grammatical error or clarity within the piece, it still affects your credibility as a writer.

And, let's face it. Even good writer's are guilty sometimes of bad writing. but bad writing is not hopeless writing (unless your name is Stephanie Meyer).

I cannot tell you how many times I have edited and reedited a piece and published it, only later to find a huge grammar error, spelling error or typo. It happens to everyone and everyone, from the novice to the expert, needs critical feedback. Odds, are, after I publish this, I will find items that need to be clarified or edited (I’m the king of typos).

There’s a several ways to go about this, and I offer the same advice for dealing with them regardless. You could join a writing group or class at school (almost all community colleges offer writing courses for credit and noncredit) and participate in a workshop or you could hire a professional editor. I’m going to focus on using a workshop, since that is what most of us have easiest access too. While it can be very scary to submit your work to someone else for their advice and critique, it’s also necessary. Here’s some advice for surviving these critiques.

1. Put your Ego aside. It's not about you! You're not being critiqued, your work is.

While I never condone submitting work anonymously (that’s the coward’s way), you need to remember that a work shop has a moderator and, while the moderator’s primary job is to keep the workshop focused, it is also their job to ensure that the writing is treated as separate from the writer. If someone were to say “I think you were lazy with your rhyme scheme,” that would be a personal attack. The proper way to say this, without making it personal would be to say “I think some of the rhyme schemes are lazy and the poem would be improved if this and this and this were changed.” Concrete examples help and are more constructive then blanket statements.

More than this, good writing is good writing but, tastes are subjective. I do not like the poetry, or any writing really, of William Shakespeare. I find his work to be trite and overly dramatic. But, I recognize that William Shakespeare is a good writer and I do not dislike him personally—I obviously never met the man—I just don’t care for his body of work.

In a workshop, the goal is to show writer’s how their work may be improved; to show them what works, what doesn’t and why, to increase clarity, to offer helpful suggestions. Your work is being critiqued, not you. Take notes and have an open mind. If you’re not willing to fix, change, delete or add things in a classroom setting, you will never be able to work with an editor.

Also remember, if the majority of the group is confused by something or doesn’t like something in the piece and your intention is for people to understand it and enjoy it, you should probably change it. More than that, the life of a professional writer is a life of rejection and constant critique.

2. Don’t speak until your critique is over

Most workshops have a time limit for each piece being critiqued. This time can range from 10 minutes to several hours. If, upon reading your manuscript prior to critique (as you should) you notice a significant spelling error or typo, you may address it before the critique begins. But during the critique, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT! Take notes and save your comments/questions for the end. If someone says something that you don’t understand, write it down and ask for clarification at the end, but, moreover don’t defend your work. It’s your work and ultimatrely, you make the decisions on how it’s presented. Be proud of it, but not hard headed and stubborn about changing it. Anyone who follows my work knows that I often post work and then post drastically different revisions later on, after work shopping and revising. If you don’t like someone’s advice, don’t take it. Defending your work or contradicting advice you’ve been given during the workshop is not only a waste of time, it can lead to a muddied discourse during future critiques. People need to have a free flow of ideas where they can safely speak their mind. It is okay for critiquers to argue with critiquers—and even beneficial—but, for the writer to get involved is counterproductive.

3. Own your words

Remember, if you are being critiqued, you will also get your chance to critique. Most times, a physical copy of the writing is distributed for the members of the workshop to read and comment on, prior to the workshop. Don’t write something on the hard copy that you would not say during a workshop, especially if it’s nasty and/or unconstructive.

As an example, I was in a workshop and there was a particular young lady who would not say a word during the workshops—she wouldn’t even read her own work aloud before the workshop—but, when I would get my paper back from her, it would have the most trite and hurtful comments on them. One such critique simply had the words “You're writing is so boring.” On another work, “I feel like you’re trying to sound too much like a poet and I don’t like it.” Now, I’m a big boy and I understand that people have different tastes in work and I understand that work often needs to be revised so, I’m fine with that. But, she offered no advice. She didn’t tell me what would make the work more enjoyable for her. But, what offended me was that she made the critiques personal attacks on me and offered no feedback during the workshops. I cannot accept or respect someone’s personal critiques (attacks, in this case) if they’re not willing to say them out loud to my face. It’s cowardly and unproductive. Don’t be like this!

Closing Thought

I wish you all the best in you’re writing and hope you found this helpful. Also, as a shameless plug, I do offer critiques and edits. Hubbers get 10% off. My contact information is in my profile.

Thanks for Reading.

PDXKaraokeGuy, also known as Justin W. Price, is the managing editor at efiction horror. Husband to andrea, father to two dogs. writer.poet.baseball fan. tattooed. He is am amateur theologian with a rabid sweet tooth.He resides in a suburb of Portland, Oregon.He has a poetry book available for Amazon Kindle, and also writes on Wizzley and His blog, FirstBlog. Please visit his profile page for more information. Thanks!

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Comments 52 comments

PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 3 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Rasta. That's probably the biggest hindrance to a successful workshop... interjecting when your workshop is still happening.


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 4 years ago from Jamaica

"Do not interrupt the critique" very objective advice.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Rebecca. have you done a work shop? They're incredibly useful!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

This is a good healthy way to look at critiquing or constructive criticism. Thanks!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Audrey, it's always a good idea. Did you read my blog post about a writing buddy?


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

I came back to read this again--maybe the issue is up for me again---I feel I need a group to vet my stuff with before I post--or send materials off to publishers---


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

You're welcome Brina. Writing is a craft where you're constantly learning and evolving. It's important to have eyes other then your own look at your writing... especially if you're hoping to earn a living from it!


Brinafr3sh profile image

Brinafr3sh 4 years ago from West Coast, United States

Although I check my writing with a grammar checker, I wouldn't mind learning more writing tips. I plan to learn more on how to be a better writer. Thanks so much. Voted up.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Melovy... The interesting thing is she was a teacher's pet... the teacher LOVED her poetry... but no one in the class did. I think it was more a case of her feeling superior and not being afraid to leave nasty notes. She was quite the little hose beast. Thanks for reading!


Melovy profile image

Melovy 4 years ago from UK

An interesting hub.

I have attended many writing workshops both as participant and teacher, and I agree that to get the best you need to be able to separate your writing from your self.

I’d say people such as that woman you mentioned who give attacking criticism because they don’t feel very good about their own writing and so try to put others down. It’s worth remembering that this says far more about the person doing the criticising than it does about the person receiving it.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Mona. I'm glad you enjoyed this piece ans thanks for cinluding your comments.


Mona Germain profile image

Mona Germain 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I enjoyed reading this helpful and practical advice. Well ordered and authentic in tone. You speak from experience. It is scarey to await critique because our experiences with critical voices inour life may not have been helpful! LOL We are ready to take it personally. It is not so bad when someone is constructive. And it is amazing how others can find what I missed!

The admonition to Stop Talking til critique is done is a good one. Good training for that ego who wants to impulsively defend or jump in to sabotage the whole process.

and for the critic--a good reminder to keep such unhelpful comments in your head, not aloud. We do have that monkey mind who may indeed be bored by some writing. I keep in mind the purpose--this talented writer actually wrote and did the best he knew ! Giving ideas on how to improve rather than judge is so valid a point!

Voted up!! Thanks for the boost.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Alecia, I'm sure they have them. A good site for poetry is PoemHunter, but, really, you're best off hiring someone or finding a group of your own!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

I hated workshops in school but when I went to Writer's Camp, it made sense because the kids I was with wanted to write and grow into being better writers. If I could set something up like that for adults, I definitely would!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Jeannie, I agree eith you. The least constructive and most cruel are always the ones who have the worst poetry/writing


Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 4 years ago from Baltimore, MD

Oh, writing workshops! They can be so painful! There is always one person in the group that loves to tear everyone else's work apart, yet that person is usually the worst writer when you finally get to read his or her work. Crazy, isn't it? However, writing workshops can be helpful sometimes. Sometimes people catch something or add something you could have never imagined. Great hub and voted up!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

great. I'll have to check it out. I also recently discovered poetryhunter, and I think I discovered it from you.


R9139 profile image

R9139 4 years ago

PDXKaraokeGuy

It's not a pay site, it's one of the services I featured in my getting traffic to your poetry article. Its a forum for poetry lovers and writers. Who want to share their work (you can link back to hubpages) and get honest, open and good feedback on your work :)


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

R9, I'll have to check out poetry forum. Is that a pay site?


R9139 profile image

R9139 4 years ago

Hey PDXKaraokeGuy, I am the same when it comes to feed back. Although I have noticed many of the poems people write on Hubpages are full of emotion or personal experience including my own. Maybe people just don't want to cause upset or offence by replying with bad or constructive feedback. Personally I would prefer to hear about it as I have always learnt better through my mistakes than through being taught out right. Maybe Hubpages should offer something like ThePoetryForum does. Which is a red, yellow, green light system for peoples hubs. Red if they want all feedback, yellow if they want helpful tips and green if they just want their work read and general conversational comments.

As for your offer, if you ever have time for some pointers on grammar ect. Throw me a message on Facebook it would be appreciated. ...Or if you have a time machine I would love to go back to school and actually listen when I was taught about it the first time.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

R9139, you're generally not going to get negative feedback about poems on hubpages. It's actually kind of annoying. If I'm not doing something well, I want to know so i can correct the error and become a better poet. If you ever need help with grammar or punctuation, let me know...


R9139 profile image

R9139 4 years ago

This article was really well put together, I like people to comment and give feedback on my writing the biggest thing I get criticised for is not my topics but my grammar and punctuation. The only thing that never really gets me bad feedback is poetry


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks J.S. Isn't that just terrifically annoying? Spending all that time editing and then finding one little error. Bugs the crap out of me! Thanks for reading and commenting!


J.S.Matthew profile image

J.S.Matthew 4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Great article PDX! No matter how many times I edit my work, someone else always finds a typo or some kind of mistake. Having another person who is not personally vested in your work is a great asset!

I like your quote: "good writing is good writing but, tastes are subjective." It is so true! I had never considered a writing workshop/critique but I can see how it can be valuable. Voted up and SHARING!

JSMatthew~


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Good point and well put, Aurelio. Thank you!


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

Seeing your work as a product that can be improved, rather than as an integral part of your persona that can't be critiqued, is a key here. Voting this Up and Useful.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks lyricwriter. feedback is crucial, but it's also crucial that that feedback be constructive. snarky or mean comments help no one.


thelyricwriter profile image

thelyricwriter 4 years ago from West Virginia

These are great tips and advice. Workshops are a great way to learn and help your writing. Constructive criticism is beneficial. Most certainly helpful in more ways then one. Great write PDX.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Greg. All those things help. it can certainly be upsetting to see negative comments about your work, but, they are often necessary if you want to succeed as a writer. Thanks for commenting!


gregoriom profile image

gregoriom 4 years ago from East Elmhurst, NY

It's upsetting to see those unwanted comments when you are a novice. This is due to the desire of doing a very well done job in order to get money or some sort of benefit from it. With time you learn that every comment from your audience helps you one way or another. Love, motivation and lots of work among other characteristics is what you need to be a prolific writer.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks, tammy. I've never actually done a writing conference but I'd love to. It sounds like such an invaluable resource. Thanks for reading, commenting and voting!


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

Great hub! I love writer's conferences. The best thing about them is that really inspire me for months afterwards. If you take a conference with an established writer it is really interesting. I had one with a celebrity writer and he showed up drunk one day and not all the next day. These are great for networking also, especially screen plays. Voting WAY up!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

thanks,htodd. I hope you'll use this information and that it helps you in your writing!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Ruby. I'm glad you found it helpful


htodd profile image

htodd 4 years ago from United States

Thanks for the nice post PDX..This is really interesting


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

Great info. Justin..Thank's..


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

miss Olive, that's a very useful gift you're giving to your students. That will come in handy. Good luck finding a writing group. Maybe start your own, if you can't. Thanks for booking marking and commenting!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

flash, finding out a story or poem is boring you read it is actually helpful, but, if no one offers specific advice on how to help it not be boring, then that's useless. Ask for specific feedback, not generalities. If you ever want a professional critique, get in touch!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Indeed, Vinaya. There are countless ways to help your writing skills. These are just three ways I've found helpful. Thanks for reading!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Indeed, Gypsy. Plus, it's nice to have people really taking the time to evaluate your work


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Sue, thanks. Even writing for pleasure, workshops can be fun and useful. i'm glad you cna see the value!


missolive profile image

missolive 4 years ago from Texas

PDX - This is great info and an excellent resource. I'm going to keep these tips in mind. You are right about errors. I too find errors after several read throughs. It drives me nuts, but it does happen. Having someone else read our work is always a good idea. Especially if they are not emotionally attached to you or the topic. I'm currently working on peer editing and revising with my 7th graders. They are learning how to offer effective critiques that are constructive in nature. Not always an easy task for a 13 - 14 yr old. :)

I'm currently seeking a writing group in my area. Thank you for this informative and useful hub.

Bookmarked and voted up.


flashmakeit profile image

flashmakeit 4 years ago from usa

Interesting facts on writing. I agree you do need someone to proof read your work because if you use spell and grammar check online you will still find errors. What do you do if your story is boring? I am to poor to find out.


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

There can be no numbers regarding writing tips, however, any number that comes can be handy. These three points guide to writing better is very useful and informative. Thanks for sharing your expertise.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Voted up and useful. Will bookmark this. I think everyone needs some help now and then and that critiques are a great way to learn and improve on your writing.


Sueswan 4 years ago

Hi PDX

I write for pleasure but I think you have provided great advice.

Writing is so personal so I can see how some writers might get defensive. That is why it is so important as you pointed out to remember that one's writing is being critiqued and not them.

Voted up and awesome.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

audrey, i do mine at my school but I'm sure you can find writing clubs and groups anywhere using craigslist... and check your local community college. I also offer one on one workshops via the internet (e mail) for a pittance :-)


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

What a great idea! Is this a local gig or can you do it online??


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Angela, thanks for commenting. Certainly workshops benefit those more who want to be commercial writers, but, I think anyone could benefit. I always appreciate your writing and your comments!


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

As I write right off the top of my head, am oldern' dirt and write for pleasure I'll probably not take adavantage of workshops but do know they're tremendously helpful and admire those honing their skills. Totally enjoyed this Hub and the useful information therein. Good read and voted up! Best, Sis


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Linda, I'd give you 30%... just send some business my way!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

Only 10%? How about 30%? I agree about submitting work anonymously...what's the point? Don't hide behind a false persona, be true to you and your readers. Voted UP and awesome!

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