I know what you’re thinking and I’m telling you now, it’s a bad idea.
You’re thinking that you’re going to send that manuscript to an agent or a lit mag and that you don’t need another living soul to read it because it’s perfect.
Your eyes are lying to you. Lies! All of it!
Your beautiful work of art isn’t done yet. It needs another pair of eyes. In fact, it needs several pairs of eyes. You need to workshop. Badly.
Workshopping or joining a critique group is a chance to see if all the words, plot devices, character development, etc. work correctly. As the person who wrote the piece, you’re in the weeds, meaning you can’t see the flaws in your copy. You may know every period, every comma, and every character flaw but because you know your story so well, you can’t see it what’s really on the page.
That’s why workshopping a piece and getting feedback is so important. The info from a group of good critique can mean the difference between a well written piece that other people will want to read or a piece that will end your career before it starts.
In addition to that, there are four other reasons why writers need to workshop their pieces.
They’re the first readers
Your workshop folks will be the first people, beside you and your family, to read through your creation. You can ask them to focus on some things over others. For example, you can ask the group to focus on content rather than grammar and mechanics. You can ask them to read for continuity. You can ask them for a deep read where everything that seems out of place is questioned.
Since they are the first readers, you can usually gauge whether that funny chapter is actually funny or fall flat. Is that steamy scene doing the trick or does it fizzle? That’s important because …
They won’t lie to you if it sucks
Yeah, workshopping can be brutal. I’ve heard some pretty viscous stuff but you’ll soon find out who is being helpful and who is just trying to show off.
I suggest growing a tough skin because even the hardest stuff to listen to has a kernel of truth. You have to figure out what is helpful and what isn’t. I have a 10/90 rule depending on the group. Usually 10 percent of the notes given is usually spot on. The 90 percent left is typically unhelpful and can be discarded. But if you have a good helpful and open group that are good at what they do, that ratio increases.
They are the storm in brainstorm
So that action scene you loved is actually kind of boring. A good workshop or critique group will help you brainstorm how to fix things. You don’t have to take all their suggestions but there will usually be one idea that is helpful or can be re-imagined into a solution for that awesome action scene.
They just get it
These folks are your peers. They get the late nights and early mornings. They get longing for more time to write. They get it. They are your tribe. And there are maybe some in your tribe who have been where you have been and they give you all the info you need to continue with your writing career. Learn from them!
What’s your favorite workshop or critique group? Do you have one that really helps you out? Let me know about your experiences in the comments below.