Why workshopping (before its time) is evil

Writing is a labor of love. It really is. Writers toil and labor and think and read. It’s what we do on our path to become master storytellers.

But sometimes we don’t know what the story is. Seriously. When we start telling our stories we may know a couple of scenes, maybe we know the ending, but that’s it. Some of us (points to self) work it out on the page. That’s why it’s important to do one REALLY important thing…

DO NOT SHOW YOUR STORY TO ANYONE BEFORE YOU’VE WORKED IT OUT.

I’m not kidding. I workshopped something that wasn’t ready and it was not good times. The day I violated this rule, I was blocked for like a week and it took lots of coming to Jesus talks to get out of it. Then I had to change the direction of my story because what I thought would be the story had been tainted.

But I do enjoy workshopping. I think it’s important. So often writers are so in their heads that they need a second or third pair of eyes on something.

So how do you know its time to workshop something? When you know the characters and the story enough to take the heat from it. People’s opinions are wrong about 90 percent of the time. So if during a workshopping of a piece a jealous fellow writer gives you “suggestions” about where the story should go or what you should do, you need to know your character well enough to say, “they wouldn’t do that” or “that’s not what the story is about.”

That leads me to my next point. Don’t workshop, EVER, NEVER, with people you don’t trust. Good workshop participants know how to give criticism.  It’s an art form really because its about building a relationship of trust. They’ll need to start off by giving the criticism with gentle suggestions (real ones) asking questions, and listening.  Eventually, a good group will be able to give you comments directly in one sentence and you’ll know what you need to work on.  They’ll know your patterns and would have known how the story evolved. Your critique/workshop group will know the story as good as you and will see sentences and words that don’t go with it.

So, that’s my two cents on it. I’m coming back from the brink myself from a non-productive workshopping experience. If I can save you from the grief I went through, than this post has done its job.

Write on!

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