Participating in a writing workshop can be one of the most rewarding, and frightening, experiences of your writing career. A writer’s workshop is a chance for authors to learn from each other through receiving and giving critiques. A successful writer’s workshop will provide a supportive environment for developing one’s skills. This article explores how to run a writing workshop and make it a success.
What is a writing workshop?
A writer’s workshop is a collaborative environment where participants have a chance to create one or several pieces of work on a theme. The participants then get to critique others on their work and have their writing critiqued, too. One of the challenges of a writer’s workshop is that writers are told not to take the comments personally, but that is a difficult challenge for many because we are always intimately connected to the work we produce. A good writer’s workshop facilitator will make sure that all criticism is taken in the right way and in a way that encourages growth in the craft.
Why should I hold a workshop?
Writer’s workshops help create an environment where writers can see their work through a reader’s eyes. The reason for holding one might seem to be to help others, but the facilitator will often gain as much as everyone else when it comes to practical ways to improve their work. Usually, one thinks about creative writing when they think about a workshop, but you can hold a workshop for any other type of writers, such as bloggers, copywriters, nonfiction writers, or any other niche.
One of the challenges that almost any writer faces is that we tend to work in a vacuum. We create our work, publish it, and then wait to see if anyone buys it, clicks on it, or shares it. If our pieces are not performing the way we would like, or if we simply want to get better at what we do, we often lack insight into why our piece worked or did not work.
A writer’s workshop gives you a rare chance to get to see your work as your audience does. What’s more, they are a tool for fostering community among writers of the same type of work. You can share secrets, tips, challenges, and a few laughs. Receiving this type of honest criticism and feedback of your work can be intimidating, but knowing that everyone else in the room has the same feeling can help to ease the process a bit. After a few times, it becomes easy.
Components and Frameworks
Most writing workshops seem to follow a similar framework and structure. Here are some examples of how to run a writing workshop. The first thing you need is a list of good prompts that will challenge participants and help them grow. Some workshops for authors have participants submit something they are already working on, such as a short story or chapter of a book. In the latter case, you need to give participants lead time to prepare the work.
When it comes time for the workshop to begin, you can open by letting your audience know why you have something valuable to contribute. You do not have to be a best-selling author or anything of the sort. All you need to do is simply state your credentials, such as the number of years you have been writing or how many works you have written. It is not necessary to rattle off a long list of degrees and certifications because, in the writing business, it is your work that counts.
The second tip for your workshop is to make sure you establish clear goals and have some type of introduction that lets your audience know what to expect. Of course, you will want to start out with the information that you have learned from your writing career, but be sure to break it up with visuals and short activities. Your audience wants to do more than hear you talk or look at a wall of words in front of them. Make it engaging, and get to the meat of the workshop, which is the writing and feedback.
Participating and Engaging
The most important component of the workshop is the ability of participants to ask questions and engage with each other. It is not a lecture, so you should encourage interaction with you and with other participants. When it comes time for critique, it should be obvious that people should be nice and provide helpful advice, but this is not always a skill that everyone has mastered. One pro tip is that if you hear someone stating something in a way that is not helpful or that might be hurtful, you can try to rephrase the key points of what they have to say and restate it in a way that is positive and affirming.
As a facilitator, you should also participate as much as possible by sharing your own work and inviting critique. Also remember to keep sharing tips, from how to find a literary agent to how a thesaurus can improve your writing. Another tip: if it seems like the person giving the critique missed the point, don’t be afraid to break in and ask the author what his or her intent was in the piece. This can clear up quite a bit of confusion on everyone’s part.
One of the most common challenges new writers face is a lack of variety in their work. Our speech patterns are developed from early childhood, and our old habits can be our worst pitfall as a writer. If you feel like you are just rehashing the same ideas and structure, a writing workshop can help break you out of your daily grind.
You might be thinking, is it possible to have an online writing workshop? If you know how to run a writing workshop, the answer to this is absolutely. People do it all the time. In today’s world, it is entirely possible to have a successful writing workshop online using web conferencing software. Webinar software can help you create an experience that is just as engaging, if not more so, than holding it in a physical location.
Participants can join from the comfort of their own homes, and this can encourage participation. This takes away the element of reading your work in an unfamiliar environment to a room full of strangers. Also, you can screen share and add visuals that might take more technical skill when you are using standard audio-visual equipment. A webinar workshop can add depth to the experience that face-to-face workshops might not be able to do. You still get peer feedback, only participants can work from the space where they do most of their work, which means they are more likely to transfer the skills learned into their daily writing practice.
Wrapping it Up
Now, you know how to run a writing workshop and make it a success. Writing workshops can be a lot of fun if you approach them with the right attitude. Learning to take helpful criticism is humbling, but it also offers the greatest opportunity for growth and mentorship. If you have been writing for some time, there is no reason why you should not plan to hold a writing workshop, either in person or as a webinar.