Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How to Do a Writing Workshop

10 easy steps to a writers workshop
Photo Modified from Greg Turner, Flickr
A few months ago, my writing buddies and I started the Berea Writers Circle. At our most recent meeting, we studied "The Art of Critiquing," focusing on peer-critiques. Some people call these "critique groups," others call them "writing workshops," I consider those terms interchangeable.

Many chapters and articles are written on the subject of how to do a writing workshop. For our Writers Circle, my husband John and I made this 10-point guide based on material from Ursula K. Le Guin’s Steering the Craft and Susan Bell’s The Artful Edit (along with other articles and our own experience).

Before the Workshop

  1. Submit a short section of writing a few days before the meeting so that everyone has adequate time to consider and comment. 
  2. When critiquing another’s work, read straight through before marking corrections. You may want to note first impressions. 
  3. Go back through the text. 
    • Mark spelling and grammar. 
    • Point out what doesn’t work—confusing language, misunderstandings.
    • Write down questions you have.  
    • Include praise for the good parts—saying what works can sometimes be more helpful than saying what doesn’t work. 

    During the Workshop

    1. Meet with the group and take turns sharing your impressions. Be mindful of the amount of time you spend talking. 
    2. Listen quietly to others’ critiques. 
    3. Be honest and respectful. Treat other's work as you would like your own treated. 
    4. Avoid comments such as “I love it,” or “I don’t like this,” without explaining why. Include a suggestion with every criticism. 
    5. Focus on major issues. (The writer can read your minor comments later.) 
    6. Keep the comments about the work, not about the writer nor what you would have written. 
    7. After a piece has been workshopped, the writer may briefly respond. 
    Members of critique groups should commit to a regular meeting time (be it monthly, weekly, etc.), and communicate with each other regarding absences. You can send your section of writing via email a few days before. Some people mark the document using their word processor's comments and track changes functions and send it back via email. Others like to print it out and bring handwritten comments to the workshop. Do whatever feels comfortable. 


      1. Great advice - I shared with my group, the Doha Writers' Workshop - especially for first time work shoppers!

      2. My writing group - www.wfscsherwoodpark.com - have two evening meetings and two afternoon meetings a month. We also host workshops throughout the year so I am well aware of the benefits of workshops/meetings. Several years ago a few members decided to challenge themselves in NaNoWriMo. This has led to a specific workshop run Jan - Aug each year to assist those authors with their NaNo novels. It has worked extremely well.
        Good luck with your group and if you need encouragement or ideas please take a look at this offer - http://www.dreamwritepublishing.ca/products/get-set-boost-your-writing-journey